Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
17 January 2012

Miliband hits back at McCluskey

The Labour leader wasn't looking for a fight but he's not prepared to back down now.

By George Eaton

Unlike Tony Blair, Ed Miliband has never sought to define himself by picking fights with his own party. Miliband and Ed Balls’s admission that Labour would have to keep most or even all of the coalition’s cuts was not an attempt to antagonise the trade unions but an acceptance of fiscal reality. As I wrote this morning, George Osborne will leave the next government a deficit of at least £79bn.

But though a conciliatory figure, Miliband has just issued a robust response to Len McCluskey’s fusillade against him in today’s Guardian. Here’s his statement in full:

Len McCluskey is entitled to his views but he is wrong.

I am changing the Labour Party so we can deliver fairness even when there is less money around and that requires tough decisions.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

It requires a tough decision to put the priority on jobs ahead of public sector pay.

Content from our partners
How to create a responsible form of “buy now, pay later”
“Unions are helping improve conditions for drivers like me”
Transport is the core of levelling up

It also requires us to say we do believe the Government is going too far, too fast with their cuts but we are not going to make specific promises to reverse those cuts unless we are absolutely sure that we know where the money is coming from.

That is right, it is responsible and it is the way we are going to proceed.

His language (“we are not going to make specific promises to reverse those cuts”) is noticeably more nuanced than Ed Balls’s (“we are going to have keep all these cuts”) but the message is the same: we accept the public sector pay squeeze and can’t promise to reverse all or any of the cuts.

Those who say that Miliband cannot afford to alienate Unite, by far the party’s biggest donor, should remember that, even at the height of Blairism, the unions continued to pay the bills.