Union Boss Len McCluskey, who some regard as the power behind the Labour throne, has made an extraordinary attack on the opposition leader, saying the leadership of Labour is so unimportant that Miliband could step under a bus tomorrow and there would be no effect on ability of the party to win the next election.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4, the general secretary of the Unite union, which is Labour’s biggest donor and has given tens of millions of pounds in this parliament, said that on his present course Miliband is set to lose the general election. In an apparent thinly-veiled threat, McClusky, who wouldn’t even admit to liking Miliband, said he was set to lose his job as Labour leader, reports the Daily Telegraph.
McCluskey’s words are remarkable as Unite has recently donated £12 million to the Labour party’s election war-chest and reminded Miliband to “bring home the bacon”. The money was given on the understanding that, should Labour win the election, certain pet projects of Unite would be enacted, including sweeping renationalisation, repeal of union laws and tax rises. McCluskey’s old optimism seems to have now faded: “You know Ed, and I hope this doesn’t happen, could get run over by a bus tomorrow, it really wouldn’t matter who takes his place”.
It was these policies that McCluskey was presumably referring to when he dismissed Miliband and said: “No, what matters is the policies. You know we’ve been saying this to Ed since he became elected. Labour have got to show they’re on the side of ordinary, working people. If he does that, he’ll be the next prime minster. If he fails to do that, then of course, he’ll be defeated and he’ll be replaced as the leader”.
While criticising Miliband, ‘Red Len’ had praise for a member of his cabinet, Andy Burnham, the shadow secretary of state for health who he called ‘impressive’. Burnham is a staunch ally of the Unions within the Labour party and may be a favourite to succeed Miliband within that power bloc.
At the time of the last party leadership election, in which Burnham stood, he delivered glowing praise for the Unions that pay for Labour, but have been controversial for the power they can exert over policy decisions. This apparently didn’t concern Burnham who welcomed them with open arms: “[Trade Unions] are at the heart of the Labour movement and, under my leadership, I want them to be at the heart of the Labour Party too”.
Bemoaning Miliband’s propensity for all talk and no action, McCluskey opined: “You know the truth is that Ed speaks about ‘we’re listening and we know we’ve got to change'”, but he remains unhopeful for the party his union bankrolls: “at the moment we see a lot of listening but not a great deal of change”.