Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Conservatives of the world,
Unite! Politics just got more difficult for the Opposition

The Tories, baying  at every mention  like a pantomime audience, lapped it up

A bogeyman is born. In future decades parents may scare their children with the prospect of being eaten up by Len McCluskey, thanks to David Cameron name-checking him on an epic scale. Until today most of the British public would have had trouble picking the general secretary of the inaptly named (given the headaches it has generated for Ed Miliband) Unite trade union in a line up. Today he’s a celebrity villain – the JR Ewing of the Labour movement!

Since the union is having an unseemly row with the Labour Party over allegations that it tried to rig the selection of a candidate for the party in Falkirk, the PM was always likely to have a go.

What wasn’t expected was that he would talk of little else. But the Tories, baying at every mention like a pantomime audience when the wicked sorcerer does his stuff in Aladdin, lapped it up.

Miliband asked a pretty reasonable question about the lack of primary school places. “As ever, his questions are written by Len McCluskey of Unite,” the PM declared. Actually he was speaking for parents, Miliband said, but “it was the Prime Minister who “had dinners for donors in Downing Street… and… brought Andy Coulson into the heart of Downing Street.” “The Right Hon. Gentleman goes up and down the country speaking for Len McCluskey,” retorted Cameron.

And this was only the start. At one point in the pandemonium, Cameron, looking in the general direction of Ed Balls, said: “I know you are paid to shout by Unite, but calm down a bit.” This cast the Shadow Chancellor in an interesting new light, suggesting he is at heart a shy, introverted type seduced only by the McCluskey shilling, paid at piecework rates, into making the sedentary interruptions of which he has become a notorious master.

At times Cameron’s preoccupation was borderline Tourette’s syndrome. He told Stephen Timms, who asked a blameless question on food banks: “I am sure that the Right Hon. Gentleman, as a member of Unite, will want to look very carefully at his own constituency Labour party. Who knows how many people it has bought and put on the register?” You felt that he missed a trick by not adding to his answer to the Tory backbencher, Anne McIntosh, on the Common Agricultural Policy “And I’ll tell you who’s never been on a farm, that Len McCluskey, the scouse git!”

Generally, you felt this might be a foretaste of the coming election. Answering a question about RBS from Labour’s Geoffrey Robinson, he began: “What I would say to the Hon. Gentleman, who I know has great experience of lending money...”

This referred to the 15-year-old story of a loan to Peter Mandelson, a point Cameron did not make, maybe because Lord M has been almost as critical of McCluskey as he has.

Hardly prime ministerial. But at least it all gave his backbenchers a much-needed enemy they can, well, Unite over.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Life and Style
Dale Bolinger arranged to meet the girl via a fetish website
life
Property
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
Life and Style
tech
News
The Commonwealth flag flies outside Westminster Abbey in central London
news
Arts and Entertainment
Struggling actors who scrape a living working in repertory theatres should get paid a 'living wage', Sir Ian McKellen has claimed
theatre
News
Skye McCole Bartusiak's mother said she didn't use drink or drugs
peopleActress was known for role in Mel Gibson film The Patriot
Arts and Entertainment
tvWebsite will allow you to watch all 522 shows on-demand
Arts and Entertainment
filmThe Rock to play DC character in superhero film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# .Net Developer

£23000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: C# .Net Develop re...

Electronics Design Engineer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: My client are l...

Senior BI Engineer (BI/MI, Data Mining)

£60000 - £65000 per annum + Bonus & Benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior BI Enginee...

IT Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are seeking a teacher o...

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor