Labour leader pledges to cut union influence

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UR leader Ed Miliband will today announce a range of measures to curb the influence of trade unions over his party, including the extraordinary decision to end the practice of union members automatically paying affiliation fees to Labour.

Under Miliband’s plans the 3m members of affiliated trade unions will have to individually opt in to the political payment, a move that could threaten one of Labour’s main revenue streams.

The move follows weeks of damaging claims that the Unite union tried to flood local parties with supporters in an attempt to control candidate selections.

If the measures come into effect, they would radically change the historically tight relationship between Labour and the unions since the party was founded at the start of the last century.

At present members have to actively opt out if they wish to avoid paying a levy to the Labour Party.

Miliband will insist that the recent allegations represent the “death-throes of the old politics” and say he hopes to convince members to bypass their unions and join the party directly.

He will also announce that the Labour candidate for the 2016 London mayoral election will be picked using a US-style open primary. Any Londoner registered as a Labour party member or supporter will be able to vote directly for the party’s mayoral candidate. If successful, the primary system could then be extended to some parliamentary constituencies.