What is the right relationship between the Labour Party and the trade unions?
This is a question that has bedevilled the Left for over 40 years, and has surfaced again this week.
It was not an issue in the early days of Labour Party activity.
As the 19th century gave way to the 20th Britain's trade union movement decided it would have a political arm to help it in its industrial campaigns.
There were no problems then. 80% of the population saw itself as working class, and although a large proportion of this group did not look to the trade unions for protection, trade unions were emerging as a legitimate voice for working people.
Trade unions only began to be seen as a problem, rather than the answer, ironically, because of the success of the great 1945 Labour government.
This government in effect nationalised many functions that had previously been carried out by trade unions.
Many younger people today do not understand that we had a welfare state before the Attlee government nationalised the hospitals, and the work of a range of friendly societies and trade unions which provided sickness and health cover.
But in nationalising welfare, trade unions lost the function most valued by the membership.
Stripped of many of its functions, trade unions were seen as fighting only over money as opposed to real wage levels.
Mrs Thatcher took advantage of this change to cut the power of the trade union leadership by insisting that the members had to vote on who their leaders were and when they should take strike action.
We are now in a position where trade unions are not powerful enough to protect their members from rogue employers.
But some trade unions still feel strong enough to strike and put the public and their firms at risk.
Trade unions badly need the restoration of many of their welfare functions so that they can be seen as serving the wider community again. But there's no chance of that happening until we get another Labour government.
That's where Ed Miliband’s failure to get his candidate in as Labour's new general secretary is damaging. Earlier this week the trade unions insisted on appointing their guy.
Ed has been left looking as though he's dancing to the wishes of the trade union leadership.
No Labour leader will win an election if that image takes hold among voters, and yet it is precisely that which trade unions so badly need.
You can expect some pretty rough infighting as Ed seeks to show he is boss when it comes to deciding Labour's future.
That fight will be over trade union votes at the party conference.
It will also no doubt be concerned with the fact that trade unions provide Labour with the vast majority of its income.
Ed needs to be brave. He should reject this money and cut the size of the party’s national staff accordingly.
It will be tough but such a move would show voters that Ed is his own man and that is the first move he needs to make in order to win an election.