Could Miliband’s cosying up to the trade unions prove costly?



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Is Ed Miliband falling into a trap which, his political enemies believe, could well cost Labour the next general election?

The Opposition leader may well be preening himself after hearing that Len McCluskey, the hard-left leader of the Unite union, described him as the best incumbent in the job since Michael Foot.

But, really, what sort of recommendation is that?

In 1983, Foot led Labour to its worst electoral defeat since the Second World War. That same year, he was also responsible for an election manifesto which was damningly described by Labour MP Gerald Kaufman as “the longest suicide note in history”.

Miliband is being feted by the hard-left for removing Blairites from his front-bench team and replacing them with people far to the left of Blair. “Blair” is now almost regarded as a dirty word in Labour circles, yet it was, of course, Tony Blair who led Labour to victory in three general elections – and they can say what they like, but politics is all about winning.

Some of Miliband’s policies, which smack of serious socialism, were outlined in his brilliantly-delivered speech at the Labour Party conference. These included grabbing land from private developers if they are not building on it (“use it or lose it”) and freezing energy prices for the first 20 months of a Labour Government.

But whatever the merits or demerits of these policies, the British electorate has shown it does not like Governments which interfere in private enterprise.

McCluskey’s warm words also give rise to fears of a repetition of what happened when Harold Wilson was Labour Prime Minister. During those years, top and powerful union bosses, like Jack Jones and Hugh Scanlon, were in and out of 10 Downing Street, instructing Wilson over beer and sandwiches what they wanted him to do.

That, I suspect, would go down very badly indeed with today’s British voters.

The Tory-Lib Dem coalition is in such an acrimonious shambles at the moment, Labour has a real chance of overtaking them in the 2015 election. The party’s leadership would be very unwise to act in a way which could dissipate that easy advantage.

n The bid by the maverick Tory MP Adam Afriyie to press the Prime Minister to hold the EU in-or-out referendum next year instead of David Cameron’s planned timing (if he wins the election, that is) to wait until 2017, has landed him in all sorts of trouble.

Cameron was furious that a Tory backbencher should try to derail his plans and Downing Street has uttered some particularly unfriendly remarks. Added to that, Afriyie has received a letter from a group of fellow Conservative MPs saying he should back down because any attempt to tamper with the Prime Minister’s timetable could wreck it completely.

Afriyie has been urged to withdraw his proposal to force a Commons vote next month about the timing of a referendum, but it looks as though he is standing firm.

And why not?

Plenty of people do not necessarily trust the Prime Minister to go ahead with his 2017 referendum pledge. And now we have a new poll which suggests that a majority of voters would like the referendum to take place sooner rather than later.

What is the purpose of hanging about, when every day that passes it seems the European Union eats a little bit more into our national sovereignty? An early referendum might also help Cameron recoup some of the many former Tory supporters who have deserted to the United Kingdom Independence Party.

There is a growing feeling among the electorate that Cameron should get his skates on rather than continuing his pointless waiting game.