One of Britain’s largest unions has slashed its funding of the Labour party following Ed Miliband’s plans to reform its link with trade unions.
The GMB said it would reduce its contribution to Labour by over 90% from £1.2 million to around £150,000 a year.
A spokesperson for the union said the decision was due to Ed Miliband’s failure to understand the relationship between trade unions and the Labour party.
In a statement this morning, the union’s leadership “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”.
They added: “A further source of considerable regret to the [GMB] is that the party that had been formed to represent the interest of working people in this country intends to end collective engagement of trade unions in the party they helped to form.”
Miliband announced earlier this year that trade union members will in future have to “opt in” to allow their union fees to fund the Labour party.
The GMB say they expect just 50,000 of their members to now fund the party, down from over 400,000.
They also announced plans to cut their wider political fund, as well as their contribution to regional Labour party campaigns.
Labour’s former campaign chief Tom Watson warned this morning that GMB’s decision could be “beginning of the end” of Labour’s link with the unions.
He wrote on his blog: “If this is the beginning of the end of that historic link, it is a very serious development that threatens a pillar of our democracy that has endured for over one hundred years.
“Some will scoff but they are fools to do so. That party card stands for something more than confirmation that an annual direct debit has been processed.”
The Labour leadership this morning tried to downplay the move by GMB.
Shadow Treasury minister Rachel Reeves told the Today programme: “Most of the money that the Labour party receives comes from ordinary donations. Of course we welcome the support we get from the trade unions, but this is a decision for the GMB.”
She added: “I’m confident more people will sign up and get involved in the Labour party and get out campaigning.”
Other Labour MPs hit back at the union with Alan Johnson telling the BBC: “I hope this is not a piece of petty retribution. I would hope the GMB are above that.”
Miliband’s decision to alter Labour’s link with the unions followed a row over the alleged rigging of the selection process for the Falkirk by-election.
Other trade unions are still considering their response to the reforms.
Earlier this year the general secretary of Labour’s biggest funder, Unite, warned that the plans could bankrupt the party.
Miliband is due to address the Trade Union Congress about his reforms next week.