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Published on September 13th, 2011 | by Mark Wright
Image © [caption id="attachment_3583" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Ed Miliband at the TUC conference ©tuc.org.uk"][/caption] Labour leader Ed Miliband has been heckled by trade unionists angry over his decision to not back public sector strikes over pension reforms. In his keynote speech at the TUC conference, Miliband, who won the Labour leadership with the help of the trade union movement, told his audience it was a ‘mistake’ to strike while talks with the government were on-going. The Tory-bashing and banker-berating went down well but the ‘mistake’ line drew howls of ‘shame’ from the audience. The Labour leader apparently sees himself as a ‘critical friend’ of the unions. I think you can interpret his stance as an attempt to shake off the ‘Red Ed’ tag used by his detractors and to assert his independence. It makes good political sense, if only to not give the right-wing press more ammunition (in fact the Daily Mail response has been positive: 'the Labour leader's tough message to the unions will be backed by hard working families who are fed up with having their lives disrupted by a self-interested and out of touch union movement'). Some played down the significance of the 'mistake' line. Len McCluskey, the general secretary for the Unite union, Labour's biggest donor, said 'I thought we saw a man there who was demonstrating that he wants to be on our side.'  Others were indignant. Chris Kitchen, of the National Union of Mineworkers, told the BBC: 'Ed Miliband's ... got to come down on one side eventually. He's not giving us anything to work with ... I don't want him to feel beholden to the trade union movement but he's meant to be a Labour leader.'

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‘Red Ed’ heckled by trade unionists

Ed Miliband at the TUC conference ©tuc.org.uk

Labour leader Ed Miliband has been heckled by trade unionists angry over his decision to not back public sector strikes over pension reforms.

In his keynote speech at the TUC conference, Miliband, who won the Labour leadership with the help of the trade union movement, told his audience it was a ‘mistake’ to strike while talks with the government were on-going. The Tory-bashing and banker-berating went down well but the ‘mistake’ line drew howls of ‘shame’ from the audience.

The Labour leader apparently sees himself as a ‘critical friend’ of the unions. I think you can interpret his stance as an attempt to shake off the ‘Red Ed’ tag used by his detractors and to assert his independence. It makes good political sense, if only to not give the right-wing press more ammunition (in fact the Daily Mail response has been positive: ‘the Labour leader’s tough message to the unions will be backed by hard working families who are fed up with having their lives disrupted by a self-interested and out of touch union movement’).

Some played down the significance of the ‘mistake’ line. Len McCluskey, the general secretary for the Unite union, Labour’s biggest donor, said ‘I thought we saw a man there who was demonstrating that he wants to be on our side.’  Others were indignant. Chris Kitchen, of the National Union of Mineworkers, told the BBC: ‘Ed Miliband’s … got to come down on one side eventually. He’s not giving us anything to work with … I don’t want him to feel beholden to the trade union movement but he’s meant to be a Labour leader.’

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