Ed Miliband’s speech at the TUC conference was billed as his defining moment, says Robert Colvile in his blog for The Daily Telegraph. He was supposed to defend his plans for union reform and show the nation that he was “his own man, not the prisoner of the left”. In the event, he “didn’t even address the subject at all”. Instead, says the BBC’s Justin Parkinson, he glided straight through the controversial passage in which he urged the unions to have the ‘courage’ to back his changes to funding, without even pausing for a reaction.
His critics will claim that he has “proved that he cannot stand up to the unions”, says The Independent. Actually, there may be some “tactical virtue in taking things slow”. It was also unrealistic to expect much new policy, given that the Labour conference is in a fortnight. Nevertheless, Miliband “will have to do better than this” if he is to “stymie his opponents”.
Of course, Miliband didn’t pick the fight with the unions, says Rachel Sylvester in The Times. It picked him, following a speech he made about the alleged vote-rigging scandal in Falkirk involving Unite. But “now he’s in it, he needs to win”. The party is “already paying the price” for saying that individual trade union members should actively opt in to paying money to the party, after Paul Kenny of the GMB announced that it was taking its money (£1m) away, says Philip Collins in The Times. But he must stand firm. Having spent three years loudly denouncing the coalition, are union leaders really going to deprive Labour of the funds it needs to win an election?
Miliband’s already wobbling, says the Daily Mail. Behind the scenes at the TUC conference it emerged that he has “quietly shelved the centerpiece of his plan – to dilute the infamous block vote”. The ”farcical upshot” is that if his funding plan goes ahead, Labour will lose a lot of money, while the unions won’t lose their influence. But it’s not Miliband’s style to take a principled stand, says David Aaronovitch in The Times. He’s a “political vulture” whose technique is to creep along behind the leader looking to exploit weaknesses. He did it to his brother. He did it to David Cameron over the Syria vote. He would be a “disaster” as prime minster and I think “the country and his party already know it”.
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