A Black Country MP is on the front line of a battle between Gordon Brown and trade unions for the soul of the Labour Party, which will be played out this weekend at Warwick University.
Pat McFadden, MP for Wolverhampton South East, is chairing Labour’s National Policy Forum, which is meeting for three days at the midland university beginning on Friday.
The aim of the forum, which takes place behind closed doors, is to develop new policy ideas which will be considered by Labour’s annual conference in the autumn, and help shape the party’s next general election manifesto.
But the event is set to be dominated by a row between the Labour leadership and trade unions hoping to take advantage of Mr Brown’s weakened position to demand a massive shift to the left.
Unions provide 90 per cent of Labour’s funding.
Mr McFadden has already met union leaders in Downing Street to hear demands for a series of reforms to employment law, including a return to secondary picketing.
Further pressure has come from the Labour Representation Committee, which is chaired by left-wing London MP John McDonnell and claims to be the largest grassroots organisation of Labour Party members and supporters.
It plans to use the event to demand an end to “New Labour” and all it stands for, calling instead for traditional left-wing policies such as opposing Trident, re-nationalising the railways, scrapping “selection” in education including city academies, and restoring the link between earnings and pensions.
The event will begin just a few hours after the results of the Glasgow East by-election are announced.
Labour is defending a 13,500-vote majority in the Scottish seat, but faces a challenge from the SNP. If Labour loses, Mr Brown’s authority would be seriously damaged.
The Prime Minister is also expected to deliver a key-note address to the forum on Friday.
Mr McFadden, political adviser to Tony Blair before becoming an MP, is working closely with Ed Miliband, the Cabinet minister in charge of drawing up the Labour manifesto and one of Gordon Brown’s closest allies, to try to ensure the event is a success.
The last policy forum, also held at Warwick University, resulted in what became known as the Warwick Agreement, in the run-up to the 2005 general election.
This included promises to reduce the pay gap between men and women, and ensure workers employed by the private sector companies in public services such as the NHS received the same wages as those employed directly by the Government.
It was enough to see off threats from unions to withhold their support for Labour during the general election. But this time, there is concern that unions are making “unrealistic” demands that Mr Brown cannot possibly accept.
The Prime Minister has already publicly insisted there will be no return to secondary picketing.
But Derek Simpson, General Secretary of Unite, made it clear he was unwilling to back down earlier this week.
He said: “I think there is a case to review some of the employment laws. After all, they are anti-union laws that need to be reviewed.’’
Ladbrokes are quoting Labour at 4-11 to win the Glasgow East by-election created by the resignation of Labour’s David Marshall on health grounds.
But Scottish National Party deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon last night claimed: “This is a very close-run election and all of the movement is towards the SNP.”