Britain’s biggest union says it may break with Labour

Unite leader warns of split with party if it elects wrong leader to follow Miliband

Andy Burnham, the frontrunner in the race,  describes himself as the “change candidate”. Photograph:   Jeff Overs/BBC via Getty Images

Andy Burnham, the frontrunner in the race, describes himself as the “change candidate”. Photograph: Jeff Overs/BBC via Getty Images

 

Len McCluskey, the leader of Unite, suggested his union would rethink its relationship with Labour if the party elected the wrong leader to succeed Ed Miliband.

His comments came after a weekend of turmoil for Labour, when the leader of the party in Scotland, Jim Murphy, resigned with a scathing attack on Mr McCluskey, who had orchestrated a campaign against him. Jon Cruddas, Labour’s former policy co-ordinator, called on the next leader to “go to the dark places” and fundamentally review the purpose of the party.

Future direction

Andy BurnhamPeter Mandelson

Mr Burnham called for Labour to carry out an “honest assessment” of the last government, adding that Mr Mandelson was wrong to call for a return to New Labour and that Mr McCluskey was wrong to call for a move to the left.

“Both approaches are wrong,” Mr Burnham told the Andrew Marr Show on BBC TV. “We have got to bring people back together. I am attracting support from all parts of the party.”

Mr Burnham, who has been praised by Mr McCluskey in the past, moved to demonstrate the breadth of his appeal by announcing that the shadow work and pensions secretary, Rachel Reeves, was supporting his campaign. Ms Reeves, who is one of the rising stars of the party’s 2010 intake, joins Michael Dugher, the shadow transport secretary, who is chairing Mr Burnham’s campaign.

The shadow lord chancellor, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, who once shared a flat with Tony Blair, is also supporting Mr Burnham.

In an interview in yesterday’s Observer newspaper, Mr Burnham also threw his weight behind the idea of a referendum on Britain’s EU membership, and said he would demand it took place in 2016 if he becomes party leader. He said the vote was needed in 2016 to clear up uncertainty for British business. – (Guardian service/ Reuters)