Leading trade unionist Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, has said that the Labour Party and the Scottish National Party could work together if Ed Miliband is Prime Minister after the general election.
In doing so he contradicted the Labour leader who on Sunday told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “I want to be clear about this. No coalitions, no tie ins … I’ve said no deals. I am not doing deals with the Scottish National party.”
Speaking to the Guardian during his weekend campaign visit to Scotland, the leader of Britain’s biggest trade union admitted that his Scottish members are “pretty well split” in their support for Labour and the SNP, saying: “It would be wrong of me to launch an attack against the SNP who have a manifesto that is anti austerity, which is Unite’s policy, and many of the issues that they talk about are in line with the policies of my membership.”
Describing both Nicola Sturgeon and Miliband as “impressive” and accepting that the SNP has gained the trust of the Scottish working class, McCluskey said he “would expect [Miliband] to work well with any progressive party who seeks to support the vision that he has of changing Britain for the better.”
The union leader also accepted that the Labour Party is unlikely to win a majority in the general election.
Observers regard McCluskey’s intervention in Scottish politics as significant because of his influence in the Labour movement, described by Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps as a “stranglehold”.
As well as supporting Ed Miliband’s candidacy for leadership and subsequently donating more than £12 million to the party, nearly a third of prospective Labour MPs in the general election are backed by Unite.