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Tensions ease after Miliband vows
Tension over planned reforms of Labour's historic link with the unions have eased slightly after leader Ed Miliband received a better than expected reaction to a major speech to activists.
He made a series of pledges over employment, education and transport at the TUC Congress which pleased union leaders, with one saying Mr Miliband was "beginning to seal the deal" with workers. But some at the Bournemouth conference criticised him for not going far enough on workers' rights, while the simmering row over the links remained unresolved.
Mr Miliband insisted he was "absolutely determined" to drive through the controversial reforms, acknowledging that the changes - which would require union members to opt in to Labour affiliation as individuals rather than being automatically signed up by their unions - represented a "massive challenge".
Unison leader Dave Prentis said the Conservatives would be "rubbing their hands with glee" because of the in-fighting.
The row over the reforms will now switch to Labour's annual conference in Brighton later this month.
Mr Miliband held talks with union leaders after his speech, with little sign of a consensus on his plans. He told delegates that sticking with the current system was a "bigger risk" and he urged them to have the courage to change.
Unions have warned that the reforms could cost Labour millions of pounds a year in affiliation fees, and the GMB has already announced it will cut its payments by around £1.1 million from January. But Mr Miliband said the changes could boost party membership from 200,000 to 500,000 or more and make Labour a true "one nation party".
"Some people ask: what's wrong with the current system?" he said. "Let me tell them: we have three million working men and women affiliated to our party. But the vast majority play no role in our party. They are affiliated in name only. That wasn't the vision of the founders of our party. I don't think it's your vision either. And it's certainly not my vision.
"That's why I want to make each and every affiliated trade union member a real part of their local party. Making a real choice to be a part of our party. So they can have a real voice in it. And why is that such an exciting idea? Because it means we could become a Labour party not of 200,000 people, but 500,000 or many more."
His appearance at the conference was met with polite applause and he addressed delegates as "friends", although there was laughter from some when he said a Labour government would have to stick to strict spending limits.