If Ed Miliband wanted to use this speech – rather than the one he gave two weeks ago to the Trades Union Congress – to set up a confrontation with the trade union barons, then he’s got a funny way of doing confrontation. His section on party reform, which he rather built up by joking ‘here’s the bit you’ve all been looking forward to – party reform’. Everyone laughed, expecting a lengthy section on why the union link needed to change. But it wasn’t particularly lengthy or enlightening. He said:
‘Now let me say to you – change is difficult and uncomfortable. Let me explain to you why it’s so important: with all the forces ranged against us, we can’t just be a party of 200,000 people. We’ve got to be a party of 500,000, 600,000 or more, and I’m optimistic enough, some might say idealistic enough, to believe that’s possible. And I believe that because of the unique link we have with the trade unions. I don’t want to end that link, I want to mend that link, and hear the voices of individual working people louder than ever before.’
Then he asked his party to work with him on the reforms, saying: ‘Friends, let’s make ourselves truly the People’s Party once again’.
He only mentioned the trade unions by name three times in the speech. Clearly he wanted to deal with the party reform issue but – and rightly, I think – leave it for the party’s special conference in the spring.Tags: Ed Miliband, Labour, Labour conference 2013, Trade Unions, UK politics