Ed Miliband is about to radically change Labour, amounting to a “seismic” shift in the way the party is run. Speaking to The Independent, Miliband promised reforms more far reaching than those that propelled the old Labour party on the Eighties and early Nineties to the election winning behemoth under Tony Blair.
The package of reforms, which is scheduled to be voted on at a conference in early March, will aim to cut the marionette-like relationship between the party and trade unions, while allowing for a greater number of people to have a say in the leadership via a subscription.
In an effort to increase public involvement in party politics, the package will offer any registered supporter to vote in future leadership elections for the price of £3. Speaking to the newspaper, Miliband said his proposals outstrip Blair’s abolition of Clause IV, the antiquated adherence to a programme of nationalisation.
"Clause IV was a symbol of what we believed," said Miliband, “but this is bigger than Clause IV in its impact on the way it will change politics."
Despite acknowledging that the party would suffer financially from the move away from the unions, Miliband remained resolute that the shift would open a new opportunity for funding via grassroots party support. "This is about addressing the discontent people feel about politics, and opening ourselves up,” Miliband continued.
"We are not going to be a shrivelled, shrinking band of people. We have got to find new ways of getting people into our party. We are trying to buck the trend of what has been happening to political parties around the world. They are facing declining support.
"There are millions of people from every walk of life and, for the first time, we are saying they can be part of our party without having to go so far as joining it. By anyone's estimation, I think these are pretty seismic changes."
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In a criticism of his predecessors Mr Blair and Gordon Brown, he stressed the importance of grassroots politics. "You are more likely to achieve things and make change happen if you are a real presence on the ground," he said. "Why? Because you are more likely to win arguments door to door, street by street, neighbourhood by neighbourhood. And you are more likely to get ideas filtering up from the ground to government."
He added: "We would have been a better government (under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown) if we had been listening to people on the ground." Insisting he would also like to see a change in the way politics is conducted in the Commons, Miliband criticised the way Prime Minister's Questions was conducted, arguing it was "irrelevant" to people outside Westminster.
Commons Speaker John Bercow has written to the party leaders to find ways to curb the "yobbery and public school twittishness" of their MPs at the weekly session following a Hansard Society study which found that PMQs put people off politics.
Miliband said: "It is actually irrelevant. It's watched by a few hundred people in Westminster but it doesn't travel beyond Westminster and that should make us all pause for thought. I have a simple view. If people think politics will make a difference then they will get engaged. If they think it is just a bunch of blokes shouting at each other then they won't."
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