Labour bosses back Ed Miliband's union changes

Ed Miliband: "What it shows is a Labour Party determined to reform our party"

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Labour's ruling body has backed leader Ed Miliband's plan to change the party's links with unions.

Only two members of the National Executive Committee opposed the "one member, one vote" system for leadership elections, with one abstention.

The package will now be voted on at a special conference on 1 March.

The news comes as a leaked report by Labour says there is "no doubt" the Unite union tried to "manipulate" the selection of its candidate in Falkirk.

At the moment, affiliated unions control a third of the votes in Labour leadership elections as part of an electoral college system, last used in 2010 when Mr Miliband was elected.

If the NEC-backed plans are passed at the special conference, leaders will in future be chosen by a one member, one vote system.

'First hurdle'

Trade unionists would no longer be able to vote as a result of their automatic union affiliation, but would have to agree to pay a £3 affiliation fee to the party to take part.

The key changes

A new method of electing Labour's leader - the electoral college, which gives unions, party members and MPs/MEPs a third of the votes each, abolished in favour of one member, one vote

MPs have sole nomination rights for leadership candidates and those candidates will need a higher level of support than at present - possibly 15% of MPs

All union members will have to 'double opt-in' if they want to take part in a leadership contest. They have to say that they are content to give money to Labour AND that they want to become 'an affiliated supporter'

Only full party members - not trade union 'affiliated supporters' - will choose parliamentary and council candidates

Changes to London mayoral selection - Labour's candidate to be selected in the same way as the party leader

New leadership rules will be put in place this year - but changes to the party's funding will be phased in over five years

The proposed changes would give ordinary Labour supporters - as well as party members - more say over who leads them, with no individual having more than one vote in a future contest.

Party sources said 28 members of the NEC had voted in favour. The two who voted against were the MP Dennis Skinner and a constituency member, Christine Shawcroft.

Mr Miliband said: "I am delighted that these historic reforms have cleared the first hurdle to being agreed.

"For too long politics has been out of touch with working people and people from all walks of life. These changes will help bridge the gap between Westminster and the rest of Britain.

"They are about opening up the Labour Party so that more people from every walk of life can have more say on the issues which matter to them most like the cost-of-living crisis."

He added: "But we are not taking anything for granted. Change is difficult and these are the biggest changes in the way politics is done for generations."

Union leaders have warned of a sharp fall in affiliation fees, with GMB boss Paul Kenny saying the shake-up is not a "done deal".

The changes were approved by the Parliamentary Labour Party on Monday night and the shadow cabinet on Tuesday morning.

'Manipulate'

Mr Miliband's proposals come after allegations last year that Unite - the UK's biggest union - had tried to rig the selection of the party's parliamentary candidate for Falkirk, to replace the outgoing MP Eric Joyce.

The Guardian newspaper has published the full report of Labour's internal inquiry into the claims, which up until now has remained secret,

It says "there can no doubt that members were recruited to manipulate party processes" during the selection of a candidate for the next general election.

It finds some union members were signed up without their knowledge and there were some signs membership forms appeared to have been forged.

The report also says there is "evidence that signatures were forged on either application forms or direct debit mandates or other documents".

Unite has consistently denied breaking any rules and sources say the full report was full of inaccuracies which the union had no opportunity to rebut.

A Labour spokesman said the party had moved on since the row.

The Conservatives have accused Mr Miliband of being "too weak to investigate how Unite applied their 'political strategy' in 40 other contests".

Chairman Grant Shapps said: "Instead, all he has done is give the union barons even more power to buy Labour's policies and pick Labour's leader. Nothing has changed."

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