The irony is almost too much to bear. Ed Miliband, a leader who would not have won the leadership without the support of the unions, is considering a long overdue historic break. It is one that has been forced upon him following Unite’s tactics of signing up additional members in Falkirk to ensure its preferred candidate, Karie Murphy, was selected. The tactics are borrowed directly from the playbook of the Militant Tendency.
The matter has since been referred to the police and this morning the Guardian reports on how Miliband is exploring the idea of breaking the formal link with the unions and the Labour Party in the coming weeks following Tom Watson’s resignation earlier this week.
Miliband, who yesterday denounced Unite boss Len McCluskey for defending “shabby practices” in Falkirk, is reported to have as yet made no decisions, but is said to believe that he must adopt “a consistent approach in tackling unaccountable vested interests”.
The truth appears to be that Miliband is a reluctant hero in this story. Allegations about Falkirk have been widely discussed within in the party for months. Miliband was urged to hold an inquiry back in April, but did not act as other examples of union abuse were made public.
Falkirk is not an isolated incident. Unions have been actively trying to get their candidates selected in a variety of seats and the Guardian reports how in recent weeks one member of the shadow cabinet worked with a trade union leader to try to unseat another frontbencher. That effort failed.
A former cabinet minister told the paper that Miliband will only clear the air if he breaks the links with the trade unions: “We need to have a commission that looks at the union link. All the general secretaries need to sign up to it. We need to get to a place where you simply have one category of Labour party members. There should no longer be a formal union affiliation.
“Of course, if unions want to donate to the party they can. Ed is not there yet. But he will be. He acts in a deliberative way. But when he makes a decision he moves very rapidly.”