GMB slashes Labour funding: a 'slap in face' for Ed Miliband
Union, still furious at Miliband's reforms, sends loud message ahead of next week's TUC conference
ED MILIBAND has taken "a political slap in the face" with the news this morning that the GMB union - the UK's third largest union - is slashing its funding for the Labour Party from £1.2m to £150,000.
The dramatic cut in donations is intended to focus Ed's mind on the importance of the unions ahead of next week's annual TUC conference. The "Bruvvers" are in a less-than-comradely mood because they are beginning to feel betrayed by the man they put in place as Labour leader.
They even refused to go on the Radio 4 Today programme this morning to explain their actions.
Union leaders are still outraged that Miliband, reacting to Tory taunts that he's in the pocket of the unions, announced reforms - without consulting them - to the way unions automatically collect Labour subscriptions from their members. Miliband has said they can still donate if they ask their members first.
The unions are also furious at the shift by Miliband and shadow chancellor Ed Balls to accept some parts of David Cameron and George Osborne's austerity programme. The unions have said individual union members will not want to donate money in cash-strapped times to any political party, especially one that is now not seen as entirely acting in their interests.
As a result, the GMB, which currently affiliates 420,000 of its members to the party, will reduce this number to 50,000 from January, just 12 per cent of its membership, in line with a private estimate of the number who would "opt in" to the political levy. It is also going to cut its political fund by one third.
In a statement, the union said: "GMB Central Executive Council expressed considerable regret about the apparent lack of understanding the proposal mooted by Ed Miliband will have on the collective nature of trade union engagement with the Labour Party."
George Eaton of the New Statesman blogged this morning: "The GMB's decision to slash its funding in advance, rather than seek to recruit members to the party, is a damaging vote of no confidence in Miliband's reforms and Labour's policy stance."
Norman Smith, one of the BBC political team, said Miliband would not just be fighting the next election with a hand tied behind his back, he'd be in "a complete financial straight-jacket". Smith concluded: "It seems to me to be a political slap in the face for Ed Miliband."
Miliband could have expected an easy win against David Cameron today at Prime Minister's Questions after helping to inflict last week's defeat on Cameron's plans to join the US in attacking Syria. But this self-inflicted wound, leading to civil war in the Labour movement, will be a gift to Cameron. ·