Parties unite in outrage at union threat to Games

Unite has donated £4m to the Labour party since Ed Miliband became leader in 2010

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Indy Politics

The leader of Britain's biggest union was isolated last night after politicians of all parties denounced his threat to disrupt the London Olympics.

Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite, faced opprobrium after he warned of industrial action, backed by a campaign of civil disobedience, during the games to protest over cuts to public sector pensions. His comments caused embarrassment for Labour. Unite is the party's biggest financial backer, donating £4m since Ed Miliband became leader in 2010.

As ministers attacked the party's links with Unite, senior Labour figures lined up to condemn the comments.

Mr Miliband said: "It is completely wrong to make any threat to the Olympic Games. I do condemn it. We as a Labour government fought for the Olympic Games to be brought to Britain as part of the cross-party effort."

His deputy, Harriet Harman, rang Mr McCluskey yesterday to tell him his threat was "absolutely wrong". She said: "The Olympics are going to be a fantastically important. It is inconceivable that trade union members would want to disrupt something that they've been very much a part of."

Mr McCluskey said no precise plans had been drawn up, but added that they "absolutely" could include strikes.

The TUC General Secretary, Brendan Barber, reacted coolly to the remarks, saying the unions had been "strong supporters" of the Games and had "engaged constructively" with the Olympic authorities. He said: "Unions want a games of which we can all be proud."

David Cameron's official spokesman said: "It is completely unacceptable and unpatriotic what he is proposing."

In the Commons, the Prime Minister said Unite provided Labour with one-third of its income and challenged Labour to "start turning back the money".

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said said: "All political parties are united in wishing to see the Games as a success and highlighting the very best the UK can offer and I am surprised and disappointed that you believe this is an 'opportunity' for trades unions leaders to cause disruption."

His Labour challenger, Ken Livingstone, said: "My position is unequivocal, there must be no disruption of the games from any quarter."