Green Party leader Natalie Bennett.
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Green Party membership on course to overtake Ukip's

The party's membership has doubled since September to 40,879, just 635 behind Farage's party. 

As the Greens continue to press their case for inclusion in the TV debates (with the self-interested aid of David Cameron), it's worth noting a potential landmark for the party: their membership could soon exceed that of Ukip. The latest figures, compiled by Adam Ramsay of OurKingdom, put the Greens' total membership at 40,879, just 635 behind Ukip (whom the broadcasters have, of course, invited to the debates). He calculates that "at the current rate of growth, the Greens will overtake Ukip within a week, and be ahead of the Lib Dems before polling day ". The party's membership has more than doubled since September when it stood at 20,000.

By contrast, Ukip's growth rate has slowed, with the party gaining just 2,514 members since June. The most recent figure for the Lib Dems puts membership at 44,576, a year-on-year rise but still well down on its 2010 level of 65,038. The greatest success story is the SNP, which now boasts 92,000 members (making it the third-largest party), an increase of 66,358 since the independence referendum. The party will now likely pass the 100,000 mark before the general election. And while the SNP will likely be excluded from any debates on the grounds that it is not a UK-wide party, it's worth noting that it is likely to hold more seats than Ukip after the election (it currently has six and hopes to increase that to at least 20) and possibly even more than the Lib Dems. 

Here are the membership figures in full:

Labour: 190,000 

Conservatives: 149,800 (224,000 including wider party). 

SNP: 92,000

Lib Dems: 44,576

Ukip: 41,514

Greens: 40,879

Plaid Cymru: 8,000

National Health Action Party: 4,691

English Democrats: 2,500

Left Unity: 2,000

Britain First: 800

BNP: 500

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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There's nothing Luddite about banning zero-hours contracts

The TUC general secretary responds to the Taylor Review. 

Unions have been criticised over the past week for our lukewarm response to the Taylor Review. According to the report’s author we were wrong to expect “quick fixes”, when “gradual change” is the order of the day. “Why aren’t you celebrating the new ‘flexibility’ the gig economy has unleashed?” others have complained.

Our response to these arguments is clear. Unions are not Luddites, and we recognise that the world of work is changing. But to understand these changes, we need to recognise that we’ve seen shifts in the balance of power in the workplace that go well beyond the replacement of a paper schedule with an app.

Years of attacks on trade unions have reduced workers’ bargaining power. This is key to understanding today’s world of work. Economic theory says that the near full employment rates should enable workers to ask for higher pay – but we’re still in the middle of the longest pay squeeze for 150 years.

And while fears of mass unemployment didn’t materialise after the economic crisis, we saw working people increasingly forced to accept jobs with less security, be it zero-hours contracts, agency work, or low-paid self-employment.

The key test for us is not whether new laws respond to new technology. It’s whether they harness it to make the world of work better, and give working people the confidence they need to negotiate better rights.

Don’t get me wrong. Matthew Taylor’s review is not without merit. We support his call for the abolishment of the Swedish Derogation – a loophole that has allowed employers to get away with paying agency workers less, even when they are doing the same job as their permanent colleagues.

Guaranteeing all workers the right to sick pay would make a real difference, as would asking employers to pay a higher rate for non-contracted hours. Payment for when shifts are cancelled at the last minute, as is now increasingly the case in the United States, was a key ask in our submission to the review.

But where the report falls short is not taking power seriously. 

The proposed new "dependent contractor status" carries real risks of downgrading people’s ability to receive a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. Here new technology isn’t creating new risks – it’s exacerbating old ones that we have fought to eradicate.

It’s no surprise that we are nervous about the return of "piece rates" or payment for tasks completed, rather than hours worked. Our experience of these has been in sectors like contract cleaning and hotels, where they’re used to set unreasonable targets, and drive down pay. Forgive us for being sceptical about Uber’s record of following the letter of the law.

Taylor’s proposals on zero-hours contracts also miss the point. Those on zero hours contracts – working in low paid sectors like hospitality, caring, and retail - are dependent on their boss for the hours they need to pay their bills. A "right to request" guaranteed hours from an exploitative boss is no right at all for many workers. Those in insecure jobs are in constant fear of having their hours cut if they speak up at work. Will the "right to request" really change this?

Tilting the balance of power back towards workers is what the trade union movement exists for. But it’s also vital to delivering the better productivity and growth Britain so sorely needs.

There is plenty of evidence from across the UK and the wider world that workplaces with good terms and conditions, pay and worker voice are more productive. That’s why the OECD (hardly a left-wing mouth piece) has called for a new debate about how collective bargaining can deliver more equality, more inclusion and better jobs all round.

We know as a union movement that we have to up our game. And part of that thinking must include how trade unions can take advantage of new technologies to organise workers.

We are ready for this challenge. Our role isn’t to stop changes in technology. It’s to make sure technology is used to make working people’s lives better, and to make sure any gains are fairly shared.

Frances O'Grady is the General Secretary of the TUC.