17 Jan 2012

What Ed said about public sector pay when he was running for the leadership

Ed Miliband cleared a chunk of his afternoon diary to make the most of the attacks from the GMB and Unite. He clearly hopes to get some credit from the electorate for standing up to his paymasters. (You can see Jon Snow’s interview on the programme at 7pm.)

Here, courtesy of Craig Woodhouse at the Evening Standard, is the letter GMB General Secretary Paul Kenny has sent to officials in his union, threatening a discussion about disaffiliation.

Dear colleagues

The speech Ed Balls made on Saturday may have a profound impact on our relationship with the Labour Party.

I have turned down dozens of offers to comment on TV, Radio and in the Press.
Unite and Unison have adopted similar positions. I have spoken to Ed Milliband and Ed Balls to ensure they were aware of how wrong I think the policy they are now following is.

It is now time for careful consideration and thought before the wider discussion begin on the long term implications this new stance by the Party has on GMB affiliation.

It will be a fundamental requirement that the CEC and Congress determine our way forward after proper debate.

I will update everyone as events unfold but I have to say this is the most serious mistake they could have made and the Tories must be rubbing their hands with glee.


Here is a flavour of what has made these two unions so angry. It’s a clip from one of the last leadership hustings but it could be from just about any of them. This one was in Leeds on July 2nd 2010, convened by Unison:

QUESTIONER: “What is your view on the Coalition’s public sector pay freeze?”
ED MILIBAND: “… this is an ideological attack on the public sector … the truth is that the public sector pay freeze is absolutely the wrong thing to do because it is making people who can’t afford it bear the burden…”

In his interview on Channel 4 News tonight Ed Miliband says supporting a 1 per cent pay cap now is different from supporting an absolute pay freeze in 2010.

The affiliated general secretaries I approached today were lying low, but Labour MP Austin Mitchell, who was one of the last Labour MPs to swing behind Ed Miliband back in 2010, one of a handful of late converts who pushed Ed Miliband’s vote over the finishing line, said he thought Ed Miliband was showing “weakness.” He said he remained a supporter but the change in policy was “simply an attempt to stop the rot and stop the criticism but it won’t work.”

I hear Michael Meacher was the only Labour MP to strike a critical note in front of Ed Miliband when the Labour leader addressed his parliamentary party last night. But you’ll find plenty now from the Left as well as the Right who’ll mutter against the leader behind the scenes.

Read more from Gary Gibbon on Twitter @GaryGibbonBlog

Tweets by @garygibbonc4