Aug 27 2013
Michael Gove has lead a pre-conference season assault on Labour leader Ed Miliband, accusing him of allowing trade union influence back into the front line of his party.
In a series of attacks, Mr Gove told an audience at the Conservative's headquarters in London that far from reducing union influence over him, Mr Miliband's proposed reforms to the relationship with Labour will increase the problem.
The Education Secretary said Labour is "sinking back into their pre-Blair position of living in the unions' shadow".
Mr Miliband has pledged fundamental reform of the unions' relationship with the party in the wake of the controversy over Unite's involvement in candidate selection in Falkirk. The party's biggest donor was accused of signing up members in the constituency so it could influence the choice of a candidate.
The Labour leader is set for a rough ride over the reforms when he addresses the TUC annual conference next month in what is expected to be his first major speech after a bruising parliamentary recess. Critics, including several senior party figures, have complained that the party has failed to get its case across to the public or to hold the Conservatives to account over the long break.
Mr Gove urged Mr Miliband to go further on his reforms, working with the Government to change the law on third party campaigning in politics and to allow union members to direct the political levy to a party of their choosing.
Mr Gove told the audience: "Tony Blair once argued that the Labour Party should not be the political arm of the trade union movement but the political movement of the British nation as a whole.
"That's what One Nation politics means," he added in a pointed reference to the central theme of Mr Miliband's speech to the Labour Party conference last year.
"But, sadly, Labour are now sinking back into their pre-Blair position of living in the unions' shadow."
A Labour Party spokeswoman said: "Ed Miliband's party reforms are the biggest for a generation, since John Smith introduced One-Member-One-Vote. They will modernise and strengthen Labour's historic relationship with trade unions. Michael Gove should be explaining why the Tories are standing up for the wrong people, why after holding secret Downing Street dinners for big Tory donors David Cameron made policy concessions to the wealthy few, and why the Tories have failed to answer straight questions about the role of Lynton Crosby, who combines his job as a lobbyist for the tobacco industry with being the Prime Minister's chief political strategist."