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UK Politics

Andy McSmith's Diary: Len McCluskey’s a dyed-in-the-wool Union man – Soviet, that is


Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite, has sagely reminded us that they did not have crises like the present Ukraine situation back in the days of the USSR. “When it was the Soviet Union, Russians and Ukrainians mixed happily together and so it is regrettable what’s happened at the moment,” he tells the current edition of The House magazine, the trade journal for parliamentarians.

He went on: “And obviously reactionary forces inside Ukraine at the moment, neo-Nazi forces, are gaining prominence… the West can’t respond to these demands that this poor country has suddenly been invaded. We need to take a much more focused view because you remember the President of the Ukraine was democratically elected and he was turfed out of office, and therefore there are complications that need diplomacy as a way to try and resolve this.”

He is right about one thing. The upheaval in Ukraine since December could never have happened under Soviet rule, when it was straight off to the gulag for anyone who so much as whispered that Ukraine might be better off if it were not under Russian rule. That is why “Russians and Ukrainians mixed happily together”.

Compare and contrast McCluskey’s comments about neo-Nazis with what Ed Miliband said earlier in the week: “One of the most striking sights of this year has been those pictures we have watched of young Ukrainians waving the EU flag. For them Europe is an ideal: a symbol of a better future, of peace and prosperity.”

It is one more subject on which the Labour leader and the man at the head of the biggest union, Labour’s biggest financial backer, will have to agree to differ.

Sour grape fizz, anyone?

Godfrey Bloom, the former Ukip MEP who thinks that women who do not clean behind fridges are sluts, has won a bottle of champagne. He entered a caption competition in The House magazine, in which the picture was of three people all wearing Nigel Farage masks. Bloom’s winning entry was: “Nigel Farage’s idea of a shadow cabinet”.

The runner-up was none other than Katie Bloom, wife of Godfrey, who suggested: “Three faces of Farage? Impossible, he only has two.”

The trolls rise again

Having tweeted about 3,800 times to a grand collection of 43 followers, including several bots, one pseudonymous troll at last found a way to get noticed today – by directing obscene abuse at the Labour MP Stella Creasy, including a threat to kill her. The police have been told.

A load of garbage

Expenses claims by councillors in Sunderland, were pretty reasonable last year, averaging less than £9 per head a week. It would have been below £6 but for one backbench Labour councillor, Neville Padgett, from Washington East, who single-handedly claimed £11,110, including more than £7,000 for mileage. In an email leaked to the Sunderland Echo, he said he drives around every street in his ward every week checking for litter. There is a lot of rubbish where he comes from.

No longer in the Hunt

More than five years have passed since my colleague John Rentoul touted Jeremy Hunt as the next leader of the Tory party, on the sole grounds that he told a funny joke at the expense of Peter Mandelson.

Today, the notion was put to the Health Secretary by Martha Kearney on Radio 4’s World at One programme. “It’s nonsense,” the Health Secretary replied testily. “This is the most important and biggest job I will ever do and I am proud to do it.”