Larry Whitty turned down job of implementing Ed M's reform plan as feared was unworkable & groundwork had not been done
— Nick Robinson (@bbcnickrobinson) July 9, 2013
Jon Lansman is well worth reading on the implications of “opt in”, in this well considered article at Left Futures.
In any negotiations it is important to understand what is of crucial value to you and the people you are negotiating across the table with. What is important to the trade unions is that they keep a mechanism of participation structured into the Labour Party, with a role in regional boards, PPC selections, internal elections and policy forums, etc. That mechanism needs to reflect the representative democracy of the unions, so that unions continue to participate in party based upon their own collective decision making processes, and so that union activists and officials have a direct voice in the party without having to carry a dual burden of trade union and individual party activism.
The control of 50% of votes at Labour Party conference, still the soveriegn rule making body in the party, is necessary for the unions to ensure that, in the final resort, the Labour Party does not transform itself irrevocably into a party in which unions have no influence. Remember that more than once the trade unions have provided the balast that has saved the Labour Party from itself, and provided a link to the aspirations and concerns of millions of working people.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4 this morning, GMB general secretary Paul Kenny was clear that a reasonable expectation, based upon postal vote participation in union internal elections, and on the lack of enthusiasm for the Labour Party from union members, would mean that around 10% of members might opt in. Across all the 15 affiliated unions, then this might mean less than 300000 “opt in” affiliated members, compared to 200000 individual members, buta high proportion of that 200000 are also union members!
The question then is what relationship would those affiliated members have with the party, and whether that is a sufficient foundation for maintaining the unions’ current level of participation in the party. What is more, the level of participation in the Party may drop within the unions to the point, where party membership can no longer plausibly required for participation in the unions’ political committees. The “opt in” reform is likely to set in motion a spiral of decline and further disengagement.
Ed needs to be very careful not to drag the party into an ill thought out row that will overshadow the next election over an issue that voters don’t care about and leave the party organisationally and ideologically weaker.