Despite the fractious relationship of late between Labour and the Unite trade union, the proportion of members who would vote Labour has jumped nine percentage points to 49 per cent since 2010, to the detriment of the Conservatives (down five percentage points to 23 per cent) and the Liberal Democrats (down 13 percentage points to seven per cent).
But this does not mean members would be willing to join the party or contribute to it financially. The poll by former Tory treasurer Lord Ashcroft found that while 57 per cent of members supported a new opt-in system for Labour party funding, just 30 per cent said they would contribute to the political fund through it. Over a third did not know whether they had contributed to Unite’s political fund already.
And perhaps the most interesting statistic is that just 12 per cent of members would pay to join Labour as an individual member if their union membership did not automatically affiliate them – while 73 per cent would not.
Labour leader Ed Miliband has vowed to reform his party’s links with the union, by ending automatic affiliation and to establish a new code of conduct and spending caps for candidates. Commenting on the poll, he pointed out that if 12 per cent of people currently affliated to Labour through their unions signed up to be full members, this would double the size of the party’s membership.