July 22, 2013 10:30 pm

Miliband and unions head for funding showdown

Ed Miliband will set up a confrontation with Labour’s biggest union backers in a special conference that will debate the leader’s proposed changes to party funding and membership.

In a speech on Monday, the Labour leader announced he would put his reforms – that members of affiliated unions will, in future, opt in to party membership rather than opting out – to a vote at a conference in the spring.

Roughly half those attending the conference will be union members, leading to the possibility that Mr Miliband’s reforms, which were announced in the wake of the Falkirk selection scandal, will not be approved.

Mr Miliband said last night: “We need to give all these working people a real choice about joining Labour – and then a real voice inside the party.”

The special conference was a device previously used by Tony Blair when he wanted Labour to agree to his plans to drop Clause IV from Labour’s constitution.

Meanwhile a poll conducted by Lord Ashcroft, former Conservative Treasurer, suggested only 12 per cent of members of Unite, the union accused of manipulating the Falkirk selection, would join Labour as individual members.

A Labour spokesman dismissed the poll as “speculative”.

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