Northern TUC prepares for Ed Miliband speech

Labour leader Ed Miliband is set to speak on Tuesday

Beth Farhat, the new regional secretary at the Northern TUC
Beth Farhat, the new regional secretary at the Northern TUC

Labour leader Ed Miliband is set to speak on Tuesday.

Unions gather for their annual TUC conference this week amid signs the Labour leader is prepared to push ahead with plans to reduce links between the party and the unions.

Mr Miliband moved to end automatic union Labour donations following claims of vote rigging by Unite in the Falkirk by-election, though the union was cleared of any wrong doing over the weekend.

Beth Farhat, head of the Northern TUC, said the unions were eager to hear how Mr Miliband planned to repair the damage caused.

She said: “There’s a lot hanging on Ed’s speech tomorrow. In terms of the appetite of the other Unions in the party, that’s a matter for them, but Ed has made it clear he wants to modernise his links with the unions.

“Any reform is never easy. That bond, that link has been there for 110 years. I don’t think the link will ever be broken, though there will be reforms.

“He needs to acknowledge the relationship, to give clarity over what the reforms are going to be. The majority of people don’t oppose reform if it is justified, if there is a case for it. It’s a matter for the unions affiliated to the Labour party. Obviously we aren’t affiliated.”

She was speaking as Unite leader Len McCluskey said the opposition leader had a challenge ahead of him to convince working people that the Labour Party still had their interests at heart.

Mr McCluskey also offered Mr Miliband some breathing space, suggesting Unite would not immediately follow the GMB path of withdrawing funding to the party. He said, however, that GMB’s decision to cut the donations it gives Labour from £1.2 million to £150,000 from next year meant implications for all trade unions which “will have to examine where they stand in relation to the affiliation”.

The Unite chief, who has consistently said he welcomed Mr Miliband’s suggestions to review Labour’s relationship with the trade unions, added a word of warning, telling him to be careful what he wishes for.

But Mr Miliband is to tell the conference: “We need to build a party truly rooted in the lives of all the working people of Britain once more. That is what my reforms are about. It is the right thing to do. We have to change.

“And I am absolutely determined to make this change happen.”

And he is resisting calls for him to apologise to would-be Falkirk MP Karie Murphy who has been reinstated to the party after an internal investigation cleared her.

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