Britain's Labour leader told to weaken union influence

18th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain's shadow finance minister Thursday criticised the system which brought his colleague Ed Miliband to the head of the Labour party, saying it gave the country's trade unions too much power.

Alan Johnson told the Times newspaper that the opposition Labour party had not gone far enough in modernising the way it elected its leaders, arguing the process had stalled after the party swept to power in 1997.

"The party was half reformed and we need to return to it," the former interior minister urged.

Under the current system, Labour party members have a third of the votes, Labour lawmakers in the British and European parliaments have another third, and trade unionists and affiliated groups have the rest.

It was union support that helped Ed Miliband narrowly defeat his brother David in September's leadership election, despite David winning more support from Labour members and lawmakers.

His union backers saw Ed Miliband as more left-leaning.

Johnson said it was unfair that people who were affiliated to unions had a disproportionate say in the party's running.

He argued for a "one-member one-vote" system for Labour Party members. The current arrangement often resulted in "one-member four-votes", he said.

Former health minister Alan Milburn backed Johnson, telling the Times that the party should no longer have a "structural relationship" with the unions.

Labour leader Miliband is tipped to announce the creation of a commission on party reform when he speaks at their national policy forum on November 27.

© 2010 AFP

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