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GMB leader in threat to withdraw funding for Labour if David Miliband is elected leader

By Jonathan Isaby

David and Ed Miliband The splash on this morning's Times (£) carries the stark headline "Put our man in or we cut off funding, union warns".

The paper has been speaking to GMB General Secretary Paul Kenny - a vocal supporter of Ed Miliband, whose union has also made a contribution to the shadow energy and climate change secretary's leadership campaign.

The underlying message of what he has to say is that Labour would not be guaranteed to continue receiving the millions the union has given it if the bookies' favourite, David Miliband, is installed as leader and takes the party in a direction of which he disapproves:

“If the new leader offers us more of the same, many unions — including our own — would have to consider where we are at. Ed Balls and David Miliband represent where we’ve been. They are not without talent. I would not rubbish them. But if the direction of the party went off chasing some right-of-centre ground...”

He added his concern the shadow foreign secretary would, like Brown and Blair before him, treat the unions with condescension:

“We were smiled at like we were elderly relatives sat in the corner with a party hat on. Access was never a problem — the question was the outcomes.The fundamental difference between Ed and his brother is that when David said ‘Let’s reach out to the middle classes’ he made the same mistake as Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Labour can’t function without its grass roots.”

At the end of the day, the likes of Mr Kenny are far more hostile to the Coalition than they would be to any individual senior Labour figure such as David Miliband, so I am not entirely convinced that he's intending to go ahead with withdrawing funding for the party.

Rather, it is all about positioning in advance of negotiaitons about policy - it's not as if it would be the first time that unions have held Labour to ransom.