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Labour faces criticism over pay freeze support

Unite leader Len McClusky has attacked Ed Miliband for his decision to support the Government pay freeze for public sector workers, and warns that he is leading the party to “destruction”.

Unite is the single biggest funder of the Labour party.

Miliband has argued that Labour needs to demonstrate it can be economically credible as a prospective future government. He said: “Every shadow cabinet will have to show how they can create longer-term wealth, take on vested interest and make different choices.

“It’s a hard choice, but when you are faced with the choice between protecting jobs or saying the money should go into pay rises I think it’s right to protect jobs.”

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls said on Saturday that “given the economy failing as it is... pay restraint is going to have to continue” and added that he could not promise to reverse any of the Coalition’s spending cuts.

McCluskey condemned Labour for emulating the Conservatives on many issues and added that Balls’s “sudden weekend embrace of austerity and the Government’s public-sector pay squeeze represents a victory for discredited Blairism at the expense of the party’s core supporters”.

He added: “It also challenges the whole course Ed Miliband has set for the party, and perhaps his leadership itself.

“It leaves the country with something like a ‘national government’ consensus where, as in 1931, the leaders of the three big parties agree on a common agenda of austerity to get capitalism – be it ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – back on its feet. The real points of differentiation between Labour and the Government on the economy are now very hard to identify.

“Having won on the measures, ‘new Labour’ will likely come for the man sooner or later. And that way lies the destruction of the Labour party as constituted, as well as certain general election defeat in my view.”

A Labour official responded: “Len McCluskey is wrong about our policy now and our policy in the future. He is also wrong about what the last week showed about our party – determined to pursue fairness even in tough times, to make capitalism more responsible and pursue our priorities.”

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