Ed MilibandParty political funding is the reform behemoth that refuses to die.

Several times it’s been through the wringer of inquiry and report to being roundly ignored in the last decade –the 2000 Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act, the 2006 Sir Hayden Phillips inquiry, and most recently Sir Christopher Kelly’s Committee on Standards in Public Life.

The proposed reforms to party funding never secure parliamentary support, as they fail to reach agreement from all three main Westminster Parties.  The Phillips inquiry collapsed over deciding the best way to deal with Labour’s funding from trade unions, while Sir Christopher Kelly’s proposal, of £23m a year in state funding of political parties, met with disapproval from all corners of Westminster, reluctant to commit to such spending of taxpayer’s money during a period of austerity.

Last week Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg called for a revival of the behemoth, writing to Ed Miliband and David Cameron asking them each to nominate party representatives for three-party private talks, aiming to set out some form of political funding agreement by Easter.

According to The Guardian, this agreement would “cover individual and company donor limits, the treatment of union affiliates, spending caps at elections and the distribution of existing state funding between parties, currently estimated at £7m a year.”

Additional state funding has been ruled out from these discussions, and this means the agreement will not include much reduced donation limits – such caps, minus funding from the state, could entail bankruptcy for the parties.

Much reduced donation limits from individuals or an organisation is the most frequent sticking point for the Labour Party in these discussions. Heavily dependent on trade union affiliation fees for income, any moves which limit or alter how these are made threatens Labour’s continued existence, whether it’s severely capping the amount a union can donate or proposing that political levy-payers have to contract in, rather than opt-out, when joining.

So while ruling out additional state funding and thus much lower donor limits means Miliband is likely to be more sympathetic to joining Clegg’s talks, another worry about party funding could be looming for Labour – this time from within.

A quarter of motions to the GMB’s annual conference in June are debating the trade union’s future relationship with Labour. The GMB describes the actions of so many of its branches raising this issue as “unprecedented”.

Giving around £2 million each year to the party, the GMB is Labour’s third largest donor. Of its 600,000 members, around half are either employed by the public sector, or in private companies contracted to the public sector. Comments by the Labour leadership in January regarding public sector pay constraint have ignited the union members’ ire; particularly Ed Balls’ statement in a speech to the Fabian Society that he could not promise to reverse the coalition’s spending cuts if Labour were elected in 2015.

In a statement on Tuesday, the GMB’s executive noted the concerns of its membership and said:

“The executive expressed concern and disappointment with recent statements made by senior party officials and registered their growing frustration at the lack of a cohesive policy to protect working people from the ravages of the Tory-led coalition Government.”

Being attacked by union activists while trying to woo middle-Britain back to Labour may not feel like being in ‘Red Ed’ Miliband’s best interests for positioning himself and his party to win the next election, but only a fool would dismiss these calls by the GMB’s activists.

Labour can’t try and defend the trade union link and its generous funding on one hand, while that crucial link and all its cash is slipping away from the other. Miliband is going to have to choose exactly how he wants his party to have a future; just have to wait and see if it will be a well funded one, with committed union activists campaigning on the ground, rather than skint attempts at triangulation with the Daily Mail reading masses.