Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Revenge of the Red Baron..

Len McCluskey, head of the Unite union, has chucked a hand grenade into the Labour leadership race, threatening to pull his union's funding if the party fails to elect the "correct leader".  His threat makes our front page, as well as that of the Times ("Union holds Labour to ransom over leadership"). 

Why did McCluskey choose to make this threat now? In short, the union baron wants to throw his weight around. Unite donated around £19 million to Labour over the last parliament, just under a third of its entire donation income and more than all its individual donors added together. "Without Unite, Labour would be bankrupt," says Andrew Gilligan. McCluskey wants to remind Labour's leadership candidates of his importance, knowing they would view the idea of Unite's money going elsewhere as an anathema.

More Labour MPs than ever have links to Unite, following a successful drive by the union to secure safe seats for its favoured candidates. McCluskey, whose union has already been signing up affiliate members for the upcoming leadership election, could hold sway over who succeeds Ed Miliband, with Andy Burnham the likely beneficiaryBurnham, who has been praised by McCluskey, is trying to avoid being pigeonholed as "the left-winger", boasting of support from Lord Falconer, Tony Blair's former Solicitor General (and flatmate), as well as shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves. "I am attracting support from all parts of the party," he told the Andrew Marr show over the weekend.

Meanwhile, the Unite chief, known by critics as "Red Len", has suggested he could start backing SNP candidates in Scotland. This warning is targeted at Scottish Labour, which has plunged into a downward spiral after its 40 MPs were reduced by the SNP surge to just one. Outgoing Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy, who was among those to lose their Westminster seats, lashed out at McCluskey's "poison", branding it the "kiss of death" to be supported by him. 

Murphy said: "The siren voice from behind a big desk in Unite's headquarters in London shouldn't be allowed to instruct what the Scottish Labour Party does." This marks the latest twist in Scottish Labour's fight to exert its independence, after Johann Lamont, Murphy's predecessor, warned that her Westminster colleagues treated it as a "branch office". 

Scottish Labour will hope to be rid of its own Murphy's law - anything that can go wrong, will go wrong - as it hunts for his successor. His replacement will be Labour's 8th elected leader in Scotland since 1999, after Donald Dewar, Henry McLeish, Jack McConnell, Wendy Alexander, Iain Gray, Johann Lamont. Whoever emerges to lead in Scotland may be just as important in Labour's rebuilding process as its next Westminster leader.


Thousands more GPs are to be recruited to the National Health Service to ensure patients can be treated seven days a week, David Cameron will announce today. In his first major speech since winning the general election, the Prime Minister will set out his plans to transform how hospitals and doctors' surgeries are run. Chris Hope has more.

This comes as new research showed that doctors at two scandal-hit NHS trusts, Mid Staffordshire and Morecambe Bay, were handed millions of pounds in bonuses for "clinical excellence". Meanwhile, the Independent reports that nurses may call a strike over Cameron's seven-day NHS plans if he cuts pay in order to achieve it. 


Nigel Farage has refused calls to move to the centre ground as tensions with his deputy and only MP grow ahead of meeting this week. The Ukip leader said he would continue to speak out on controversial topics like immigration, despite pressure from his deputy chairman Suzanne Evans and Douglas Carswell, who joked about the upcoming meeting on Twitter last night, writing: "Looking forward to meeting of Ukip Parliamentary party tomorrow. Thinking of pitching to be chief whip." 


Candidates for the Labour leadership have denounced Ed Miliband's manifesto, Matthew Holehouse reports. Opposition to the EU referendum, the mansion tax and a defence of Gordon Brown's deficits were cast aside in what the Tories hailed as a "bonfire of the policies".


Nicola Sturgeon has warned David Cameron he would be personally responsible for a second independence referendum if he blocks her demands for an extra swathe of powers being transferred to Scotland, Simon Johnson reports. Sources close to the First Minister confirmed that she used a private meeting, before their official talks in Edinburgh last Friday, to tell the Prime Minister that his response would determine whether Scots demand another vote on leaving the UK.


Sir Mick Jagger correctly forecast the Conservative victory in the general election weeks before polling day, according to the party's former US adviser, Chris Hope reports. Jim Messina, a former White House deputy chief of staff under President Barack Obama, said the Rolling Stones lead singer was "one of the savviest political observers I've come across".


John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons is poised announce that he is to divorce his wife Sally over her alleged affair with his cousin, John Bingham understands. A friend of the family indicated he is likely make a public statement in the next few days in an effort to draw a veil over the painful chapter which has overshadowed his public role.

Meanwhile, Bercow is set to be installed unopposed as Speaker of the House of Commons, as Tory backbenchers agree not to protest. An MP told the Huffington Post UK that it would be "wrong to kick a man when he's down".


The unexpected Conservative majority earlier this month could jump start the housing market, which suffered an unseasonable slump in May not seen since the last general election five years ago, Lauren Davidson reports. This comes as research out today found that retail investors' appetite for UK assets evaporated this month amid the uncertainty of the election combined with growing demand for other assets such as eurozone shares.


Former Labour leadership candidate Chuka Umunna could be made shadow foreign secretary in the run-up to the 'in/out' referendum on the European Union in two years' time. The former Labour leadership contender is understood to be keen to play a role campaigning to keep Britain in the European Union ahead the vote, currently set for 2017. Here are more details


Nick Clegg, who quit as leader of the Liberal Democrats after the party's disastrous election result, could be rehabilitated politically like former Tory leader William Hague, Tim Farron has said. Farron, a former party president, said he would like to give Mr Clegg a job possibly as the party's foreign affairs spokesman, if he is elected leader in the party's forthcoming election.


The bosses of one of the biggest manufacturing companies in the UK have said Britain should vote to leave the European Union in an in-out referendum because the departure would not make a "blind bit of difference" to trade with Europe. Graeme MacDonald, chief executive of JCB - the third biggest maker of construction equipment in the world - said the impact on business had been overhyped if Britain voted to leave the single market. Read more here


No more on shore wind farm schemes will be given the go ahead unless they have the support of local people, the new Energy secretary has said. Amber Rudd, who was appointed last week in the post-election reshuffle, said the new powers would be in next week's Queen's Speech. Here are more details


@BenRileySmithEvery Labour leadership candidate went to Oxbridge.


From The Telegraph

Boris Johnson - We must save Palmyra or the maniacs will raze civilisation

Michael Heseltine Why England's future is bright

From elsewhere

Chris Deerin - Labour needs two leaders with one vision

Matthew Norman - A politician shouldn't care more about himself than his party


Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond is expected to attend an EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting on how best to tackle the Mediterranean migrant crisis

House of Commons to sit for the first time since the General Election. The process for electing the Speaker of the House of Commons is to begin and could last until Tuesday. 

11:00 Douglas Carswell MP, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett and Liberal Democrat president Sal Brinton hold a photo call in London to promote electoral reform 

12.45: Lord O'Donnell and Baroness Taylor attend an Institute for Government event in London on governing with a small majority 


14.30 - Swearing in of MPs, and election of Commons Speaker

14.30 - 19.30 Swearing in of members of the House of Lords