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
Donald Macintyre writes political sketches for The Independent, having been Jerusalem correspondent since 2004, covering Israel and the Occupied Territories, as well as travelling for the paper to Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Libya and Egypt. As Political Editor and then Chief Political Commentator, he previously covered the John Major and early Tony Blair era. He has written for the Daily Express, Sunday Times, Times and Sunday Telegraph, and Sunday Correspondent. He is the author of Mandelson and the Making of New Labour (2000).
Wednesday 03 July 2013
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.
- 1 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 2 Mother of newborn Baby No 59 trapped in sewer pipe told Chinese police she 'heard crying' when she raised alarm
- 4 Tennis fan suing Australian Open organisers for 'failing to shade spectators' during Murray match
- 5 This crazy skiing video will leave you feeling queasy
Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
AirAsia QZ8501: Black box reveals warning alarms 'screamed' before crash, as more bodies recovered from near fuselage of jet
Rob Lowe hits out at White House decision not to meet Israeli leader
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign
British Muslim leaders outraged after Eric Pickles says followers of Islam should 'prove their identity'
UK terror fears: My jihadist son returned from Syria mentally scarred – now he is being ignored
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
Billy Crystal: 'Stop shoving gay sex scenes in my face'
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...
Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...
£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...