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Cameron brings Len McCluskey before a wider public by using him to beat Miliband

By Andrew Gimson
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AndrewGBigBensketchtwoThe Prime Minister gets more brutal by the week. Untroubled by any sense that he might be demeaning his office, he sets out to beat the living daylights out of Ed Miliband. It is not a pretty sight, but I suppose the Prime Minister could say he is just respecting our adversarial tradition of politics.

Mr Cameron enjoys being adversarial. Every so often he cannot refrain from giving a quick flash of amusement at some particularly cruel remark he has made. Today these were almost entirely devoted to suggesting that Mr Miliband is the helpless prisoner of Len McCluskey, leader of the Unite trade union.

Mr McCluskey got dragged into everything. Here, too, one might say Mr Cameron is demonstrating his respect for tradition. The Tories used to love suggesting that Labour was in the pocket of the trade unions, and here was Mr Cameron perpetuating this accusation thirty years after Margaret Thatcher broke the unions' power.

Miliband managed to defend himself for a minute or two by asking about the troubles in Egypt. In justice to Mr Cameron, it should be recorded that he at least did not blame what is happening in Cairo on Mr McCluskey. The Prime Minister told us the Foreign Office was advising "against all but essential travel" to Egypt "except for the Red Sea resorts", and for a moment we feared he was going to make some tasteless joke about how at home Mr McCluskey would feel in a resort of that political complexion.

But the Prime Minsiter managed to contain himself until Mr Miliband began asking about primary school places, whereupon Mr Cameron asserted: "But as ever his questions are written by Len McCluskey of Unite."

Blows now rained down upon Mr Miliband's head. He found himself clubbed over and over again with the accusation that he has been taken captive by the trade unions: "They want to control everything. They've taken control of the Labour Party."

In vain Mr Miliband observed that Mr Cameron "brought Andy Coulson into the heart of Downing Street" and "takes double standards to a whole new level". Mr Cameron just went on and on about Mr McCluskey: "The Right Honourable Gentleman goes up and down the country speaking for Len McCluskey ... by the way, Len McCluskey also gave him his job."

If I were Mr McCluskey, I would be delighted to be getting all this publicity. Our leading trade unionists are nothing like as well known as they used to be, and it is good to see Mr Cameron trying to reintegrate the tribunes of the workers into our island story.

But for Mr Miliband, the whole thing must be more than a little trying. Mr Cameron has set out with ruthless thoroughness to lower the tone, and the dreadful thing from Labour's point of view is that the attacks seem to be succeeding.


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