Much is being made of the fact that Ed Miliband was heckled by some TUC delegates when he criticised their decision to go on strike in June. “While negotiations were going on, I do believe it was a mistake for strikes to happen. I continue to believe that,” he said in a speech today.
There is nothing new in this — Miliband has stated this position before (see this soundbite disaster). However, reiterating it in person in his first speech to the TUC as Labour leader was an important moment of political theatre. It has triggered headlines in all the newspapers, thus visibly allowing Miliband to distance himself from the more militant section of the unions. He is particularly sensitive about the “Red Ed” tag since he would not have gained the Labour leadership without union support.
Lord McConnell, the Labour former Scottish first minister, may have hit the nail on the head when he told the BBC’s Daily Politics:
It seems to me that sometimes Labour leaders quite like to be heckled at the TUC because it gives them a wider appeal outside that forum.