Monday 20 December 2010

A Len is too red for Ed fact-check

Labour leader Ed Miliband isn't impressed by the tone of Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey's op-ed in The Guardian - "Unions, get set for battle" - in a statement released this morning:

Ed warned about using overblown rhetoric about strikes in his conference speech and this is a case in point. The language and tone of Len McCluskey’s comments are wrong and unhelpful and Ed Miliband will be making that clear when he meets him in the near future.

The Telegraph's Benedict Brogan seems to think the Labour leader shouldn't be able to take that view.

This handily allows him to criticise Miliband for making a statement which Brogan agrees with, when he would surely criticise the Labour leader equally or more for not making it.

He can hardly be surprised by Mr McCluskey’s tone. The head of Unite is not a shrinking violet and his views are well known. In fact, Mr Miliband knew what they were when he spent so much time cosying up to him in pursuit of his votes and money.


The right likes to accuse the unions of being stuck in a timewarp - but there is a rather unfortunate chronological problem with this analysis.

Ed Miliband was elected Labour party leader on September 25th 2010.

Len McCluskey was elected to succeed Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson as General Secretary of Unite almost two months later, on November 21st 2010. (Unite did endorse Ed Miliband, though it was up to individual members to cast their ballots, which is why the new leader did not secure the first preference vote of Charlie Whelan, then Unite's political director).

McCluskey had been Assistant General Secretary, as were two of his rivals in the election for the top post.

So Brogan's argument must be that Ed Miliband and the other leadership candidates should not have sought support from Unite or its members - because a left-wing candidate was the frontrunner to be elected as the union's next leader in an all member ballot.

Or, alternatively, that a Labour party leader can never publicly disagree with a union which supported his candidacy.

That's pretty unconvincing stuff - given that there would appear to be no approach to the trade unions which would not open the Labour leader to criticism from the right.

McCluskey and the TUC executive are to meet the Prime Minister in Downing Street today: a meeting of minds is not anticipated.


Brogan also claims that Ed Miliband "played to the left during the campaign by stressing his support for the issues the brothers hold dear".

Did he? On which issues??

This is another political myth of 2010, as Jim Pickard noted on the FT blog during the campaign.

Another hack told me weeks ago that Ed had tacked wildly to the left with his socialist policy agenda. Such as what, I asked? “Well, I don’t really know,” he admitted. “Does it matter?” Such is the reality of the Westminster village.

Repeated often enough, the hope is to make this work as "narrative" - even if it fails the fact-check challenge.

So I bet Benedict Brogan can not meet Next Left's "Red Ed challenge" and identify three policy positions held by the younger Miliband during the Labour leadership campaign which were not shared either by his brother or one of the parties in the centre-right governing Coalition.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"there would appear to be no approach to the trade unions which would not open the Labour leader to criticism from the right."

And there, I fear, you have hit the nail on the head. The point is not to present a reasoned argument, but to paint the unions as the villains and Labour as in their pay. Which is complete rubbish, of course, but unfortunately that doesn't seem to matter...