There is something very wearisome about that most cynical of all political parties, the Lib Dems; but I was nevertheless surprised by the brass neck of Stephen Tall on Liberal Democrat Voice falsely claiming that union support for Ed Miliband was by a block vote.
It’s official. Ed Miliband has just been announced Labour’s new leader by the narrowest of margins, 50.4% to brother David’s 49.6%. But what’s most fascinating is to see the final breakdown of votes after the re-distribution of preference votes:
- Among party members… David Miliband won 54% to 46%;
- Among MPs/MEPs… David Miliband won 53% to 47%;
- Among trade unions… Ed Miliband won 60% to 40%.
So that narrowest of wins is down to the trade unions delivering their bloc vote to Ed.
Block voting is a system where organisations cast a single vote, proportionate to their membership. So under a block voting system, if the leadership of UNITE cast 1 million votes, and the leadership of GMB cast 555000 votes, UNITE would always win.
Now there are occasions where the block voting system is defensible, but despite the dishonest claims of Stephen Tall, the block vote was not used in the Labour leadership election. Every single member of an affiliated trade union who chooses to pay the political levy, and every single member of an affiliated socialist society got their own personal and private vote.
In fact 2,747,030 ballot papers were sent out. So the insinuation from the Liberal Democrats that the trade union vote was cooked up by a handful of barons in a smoke filled room is dishonest. Extending the leadership ballot to members of affiliated organisations that share the same values as the Labour Party is a massive widening of participatory democracy, not its perversion.
127,331 individual members of the Labour Party voted and 247,339 trade unionists voted, giving a total of 374, 670 votes cast. (I have excluded MPs and MEPs from these totals).
The total first preference vote cast for David Miliband among trade unionists and CLP members combined was 114,094
The total first preference vote cast for Ed Miliband among trade unionists and CLP members combined was 125,625
So if all votes had equal weight, Ed Milband would have had a clear first preference majority on the first round. This is despite the media bias in favour of David, including the Daily Mirror promoting him heavily.
Incidentally, there are a few other things of interest about the trade union votes: firstly that the only large union supporting David Miliband, USDAW, had a very low turnout, despite a major campaign to get their vote out; secondly there were 36105 “spoilt ballots” in the trade union section, this is where members will have accidentally omitted to check the box saying they are eligible to vote (basically that they are not members of a political party opposed to labour); and thirdly that in every union the largest vote went to the candidate that the union was recommending.
This last point is worth looking at in more detail. the recommendations were based upon democratic decision making processes in each union. For example in GMB all candidates attended hustings at annual congress, and then the lay member CEC, which has itself been elected by the GMB membership, voted to support Ed Miliband, and make that recommendation to the members. This was therefore a democratic process. However, in most unions more than half the members voted for different first preference choices against the advice of their union (the exceptions being UCATT and USDAW); this proves that the trade union members’ votes were not in any ones pocket.
The endorsement of Ed Miliband by the trade unions was democratic, and involved the active choices of 87,585 individual members of trade unions who voted for him as their first preference