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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
Sport
football
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
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

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us