Labour Party special conference secures Ed Miliband’s status as one of the great reforming leaders in Labour’s history
Fourteen years ago this week I was at a small gathering in Farringdon Street to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the modern day Labour Party. It’s a treasured memory that has stayed with me, not because every living leader of the party was there that evening – Blair, Beckett, Kinnock, Foot and Callaghan – but mainly because it was the first time I really appreciated the history that surrounds the unique relationship between the Labour Party and the trade union movement.
What was also clear to me that evening was that – apart from John Smith’s introduction of one member, one vote – the formal relationship between the party and its affiliated trade unions had witnessed very little structural change in 100 years, and until Saturday that was still the case.
The reforms agreed at the special conference potentially provide a new way for trade union members to engage in the party and in my view that will only be good for policy and decision-making structures – making them more relevant to issues being faced by working people. This is only the first stage; there is a now a new framework in place but ensuring that trade union members actually become more active is a huge challenge for both individual trade unions and the Labour Party.
While we are now ready to face the political challenges ahead, not least focusing towards returning a Labour government in 2015, Saturday should also provide an opportunity for us in the trade union movement to think about how we adapt to the new economic challenges that workers face.
Those who believe that trade unions are a vital part of a modern economy should welcome anything that causes us to stop and think about how we do our business. Modernisation – either in terms of our relationship with the Labour Party or our approach to industrial relations is fundamental to our future success. Failure to embrace change is not an option. Trade unions have to be relevant to the needs of the modern worker and that means we must look to the future and prepare, not hark back to a golden era that frankly didn’t exist.
The Labour Party special conference secures Ed Miliband’s status as one of the great reforming leaders in Labour’s history. Some will say he finished the job that John Smith started but great reformers never stand still. I hope that under Ed Miliband’s leadership the party and the trade unions will reflect again in the future and continue to change just as society changes and develops.
Posted in: Blog Posts |Tagged with: Labour, politics