As the leader of Britain’s biggest union warns that strikes against government cuts could be timed to disrupt the Olympics, a Downing St spokesman condemns the idea as “unpatriotic”.
The rebuke came in response to the words of the general secretary of the Unite union, Len McCluskey, who has also called for employees to target the Games by staging “all forms of civil disobedience within the law” to protest against George Osborne’s austerity measures.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “It is completely unacceptable and unpatriotic what he is proposing. Most people in this country, including members of that union, think the Olympics is a great occasion for the country and wouldn’t want to see anything happen that would disrupt it in any way.”
There was condemnation too from the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, who said: “Any threat to the Olympics is totally unacceptable and wrong.”
Mr McCluskey said no precise plans have been drawn up for action during the London Games, but added that they “absolutely” could include strikes.
“The purpose of protest is to bring your grievances to the attention of as many people as possible,” he said.
“If the Olympics provide us with an opportunity, then that’s exactly one that we should be looking at.
The purpose of protest is to bring your grievances to the attention of as many people as possible. If the Olympics provide us with an opportunity, then that’s exactly one that we should be looking at. -Len McCluskey, Unite union
“I believe the unions, and the general community, have got every right to be out protesting.”
The union boss added: “The attacks that are being launched on public sector workers at the moment are so deep and ideological that the idea the world should arrive in London and have these wonderful Olympic Games as though everything is nice and rosy in the garden is unthinkable.
“I just think people will be gobsmacked, appalled, that someone thinks that at a time when we are finally hosting one of the greatest events in the world, he is calling for civil disobedience,” Mr Clegg said.
“I know he is the sort of paymaster of the Labour Party but I hope Ed Miliband will rein him in.”
Baroness Warsi also expressed her shock at Mr McCluskey’s comments, saying it was “an appalling display of naked self-interest”.
The London Olympics will be a great occasion for this country. It is disgraceful for a trade union boss to be calling for mass disruption when the eyes of the world will be on Britain. -Baroness Warsi
“The London Olympics will be a great occasion for this country. It is disgraceful for a trade union boss to be calling for mass disruption when the eyes of the world will be on Britain,” she said.
“I am shocked that Unite would sink so low as to spoil this great national event for everyone else. Ed Miliband must urgently order his union cronies to rule out disrupting the Olympics.”