ED Miliband is too weak to run his own party let alone the country, Prime Minister David Cameron said today as he attacked the influence of trade unions over Labour.
Mr Cameron said the Labour leader’s questions in the Commons had been written by Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite.
Turning to the Labour front bench in the Commons, Mr Cameron quipped: “I know you are paid to shout by Unite but calm down a bit.”
The Prime Minister’s comments came after Unite said Labour was “rushing ahead” with the process of choosing a parliamentary candidate in Falkirk amid claims the union was trying to “stitch up” the selection by cramming the constituency with new members.
Mr Cameron told the Labour leader: “You go up and down the country speaking for Len McCluskey.
“I have got the press release here - ‘How Unite plans to change the Labour Party’ - and this is what it says: ‘We give millions of pounds to the party, the relationship has to change. We want a firmly class-based and left-wing General Election campaign’.
“That is what this week shows - (you are) too weak to sack your health secretary (Andy Burnham), too weak to stand up for free schools, too weak to stand up to the Unite union and too weak to run Labour and certainly too weak to run the country.”
Mr Cameron added: “Frankly we have a situation in this country where we’ve got one of our political parties where it’s become apparent votes are being bought, people are being signed up without consent, all done by the man - Len McCluskey - who gave him his job.”
Mr Miliband had tried to attack the Government amid fears it would not be able to meet the 240,000 extra primary school places needed by next year without increasing class sizes.
The Labour leader said class sizes were already rising, adding that one-third of new schools were being built in areas where there were surplus places.
Mr Miliband said: “Isn’t the truth that while you are pouring millions of pounds in to new schools where there are already places, the only way you are going to meet the shortage in other areas is by teaching kids in portacabins and increasing class sizes?”
But Mr Cameron insisted the spending review put in place the funding for 500,000 extra places so primary schools should be be able to meet demand without increasing class sizes. He said that while the Government had cut welfare, education was a priority with more money going in to schools.
The Prime Minister added: “What is so interesting is that you are taking your script from the trade unions, who don’t like choice, don’t like new schools, they don’t like free schools and they want to control everything.
“What we know is one organisation that they have got control of - we see it in black and white, they have taken control of the Labour Party.”
But Mr Miliband hit back, accusing the Prime Minister of double standards.
He said: “Let’s have a debate about ethics. You are a Prime Minister who had dinner for donors in Downing Street. You gave a tax cut to your Christmas card list and you brought Andy Coulson in to the heart of Downing Street. The idea that you are lecturing us about ethics takes double standards to a whole new level.
“In this one policy on schools, we see the hallmark of this Government - they make the wrong choices on tax and spending.” The row over Unite’s influence over Labour came after the union said it had written to the general secretary of the Labour Party Iain McNicol demanding that the process is halted immediately pending a full discussion at the party’s national executive committee.
The vacancy emerged when MP Eric Joyce was kicked out of the party after committing an assault in a House of Commons bar.
A Unite spokesman said: “The decision to rush ahead with the process of selecting a Labour parliamentary candidate in Falkirk, so denying a vote to a mass of members, and an imposed shortlist of candidates is without any justification and is a further breach of democratic procedures and natural justice.
“While the Labour Party has continued to deny Unite a copy of the investigation report into Falkirk CLP, yesterday officials from the union were provided the opportunity to study the report at the party’s head office.
“As a result, Unite is more than ever convinced that the measures that have been taken on the basis of the report, in particular the disenfranchisement of around 150 Party members, and the imposition of a regime of “special measures” on the CLP, are unnecessary and are at best an extreme over-reaction, at worst the product of an anti-union agenda.
“In particular, Unite notes that the allegations regarding membership malpractice affect no more than a handful out of those who have now been excluded from the selection process.
“Even if the allegations of irregularities are proved to be correct in that small number of cases - and that remains highly questionable - then this mass exclusion is utterly disproportionate.”