It may be that the riots of last week are encouraging the British Trade Unions into making a major miscalculation. Len McCluskey, the leader of the largest Union, Unite, writes in the Guardian today suggesting that the Unions should be getting ready to "do battle" with the Coalition government. He praises the "magnificent Students"- in short he falls into just about every elephant trap that the Coalition would wish him to.
Since 1979, Unions have been a declining and often unpopular force in Britain. Anyone who can remember the 1970s, remembers the endless industrial strife, largely led, we have since discovered, by Communist sympathisers who were even KGB agents, and occasionally directly funded by the Kremlin too. The fall of the wall may have put paid to outside meddling in British industry, but did not get rid of the muscular egos of the far left.
That McCluskey is spouting rubbish is obvious even to his own side- the Guardian editorial is a nice line in pained contempt. I will not therefore make too much of what this maverick has to say. However I would point out the insular and hostile political tribalism of the Unite leader is actually fairly common on the Labour benches too. Indeed the hostility to the Liberal Democrats shown by Labour has been frankly appalling. The hatred and vituperation poured on Nick Clegg's head has been extremely unedifying. Ed Miliband too has been quick to judge and condemn- in a way that is going to make it ever more difficult for the Liberal Democrats to ever work with Labour for a very long period into the future.
As I feared, Labour, by failing to embrace the new politics of cooperation, is retreating to a laager of class war and the old and failed nostrums of the 1960s and 1970s. It is a massive mistake to believe that the actions of a few hooligans presages a major radicalisation of politics- as McCluskey clearly hopes that it does. The vast majority hold the ringleaders of the riots in pretty strong contempt- and identifying with them will mark the Labour leadership out as losers. If Mr. Miliband, elected as leader by Union votes, can not put clear water between himself and these Union hotheads, then his political strategy will lead to disaster. Miliband junior is running out of time - if he can not define himself more clearly and more quickly, then he will be defined as the puppet of the these dinosaurs.