Peter Hoskin

Len McCluskey leaves Miliband floating

Len McCluskey leaves Miliband floating
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You can stuff your beer and sandwiches, Prime Minister – the unions want war. That's the broad sentiment of Unite's new leader, Len McCluskey, writing in the Guardian today. The union capo urges his brothers to rally behind the protesting students, and prepare to militate against the coalition. Or as he puts it, with nary a hint of self-awareness: "While it is easy to dismiss 'general strike now' rhetoric from the usual quarters, we have to be preparing for battle." Which, reading on, seems pretty similar to, erm ... general strike now.

Putting aside the prospect of industrial unrest, this will be as nectar for the Tories. Not only is McCluskey's bellicose shtick utterly divorced from responsible, grown-up politics, but it gives them an opportunity to reheat the "Red Ed" tag for the New Year. The Unite boss even does most of their work for them, writing that, "I hope Ed Miliband is going to continue his welcome course of drawing a line under Labour's Blairite past." I mean, you could almost hear the collective wince from Labour HQ at that one. And again, as McCluskey urges Miliband to oppose all and any cuts.

If there is a small benefit for Miliband from all this, it's that the Len McCluskeys of this world give him something to define himself against. And he took the opportunity, this morning, in no uncertain terms. Yet even that approach could leave the Labour leader floating: a darling of neither his party's right, nor its left, with a politics that is yet to be confirmed.