You don’t have to delve far into Labour history to understand what has gone on: you just have to look at the election of Miliband minor to the party leadership in 2010. As you will recall, his older brother got more votes both from MPs and Euro-MPs and from ordinary Labour Party members. David Miliband won on the first ballot, on the second ballot, and even on the third ballot. He only lost on the fourth ballot, by 1.3 per cent, because of thousands of orchestrated votes from the likes of Unite and the GMB – which sent out ballot papers in envelopes marked “Vote Ed”.
The whole procedure was really a bit of a disgrace, and the result is that we have a party that is still financially dependent on the unions – Labour has taken £12 million from Unite since the election – and whose leader bobs pathetically on his strings. Ed Miliband’s handling of Falkirk shows that he cannot operate independently of the union barons – and that is potentially disastrous, since the polls show, even if by an ever-dwindling margin, that it is still technically possible that he could be prime minister.
Let me give an example of the kind of disaster I mean. Just 25 miles from where I sit, they are putting the finishing touches to a stupendous and brilliant project – a new deep-water port for London and the UK. With the help of colossal investment from Dubai, we will next month be opening the DP World port at Thurrock. This will begin to undo the damage that was done in the Sixties and Seventies, when union militancy and government hopelessness brought the London docks to ruin. We failed to invest, we failed to expand and to meet the challenge of containerisation – and we saw our business go to Rotterdam. The population of London plummeted; thousands of jobs were lost; the docks were turned into a wasteland.
Now all that is being reversed, and at breathtaking speed. Canary Wharf is bigger than the whole financial district of Frankfurt; Chinese investors are putting billions towards a third financial district at the Royal Albert Dock. With the DP World port, London will be able once again to handle the very biggest ships, and a huge logistics park is being created at the site. There will be about 27,000 jobs and £2.5 billion worth of growth.
And what is the response of Unite members? Are they celebrating the good news for working people? On the contrary, they are picketing the site, jumping on cars and hurling abuse like something from the Seventies. Unite has done nothing to bring this investment to Britain. It didn’t think of it. It didn’t promote it. Yet the union somehow believes that it has a right to be a partner in the running of the port, and that the owners should be compelled to deal with it rather than with their employees. McCluskey wants to run the place, just as he wants to run the Labour Party, and he threatens exactly the same madness that brought this country to its knees in the Seventies – the strikes and the militancy that drove investors away, and that cost London its port.
With the right employment conditions, and the right infrastructure, I have no doubt that London is going to lead the rest of the UK in an astonishing commercial and industrial renaissance. But the global competition is intense, the margins are small, and if vital facilities are in the hands of men like McCluskey, our chances are much diminished. Unite cannot bully this Government. Whatever he claims at Bournemouth on Tuesday, Miliband is a different story.
What is the definition of a milimetre? The distance between the positions of Miliband and his masters in the trade unions. What is the definition of a milisecond? The time it takes for Miliband to do their bidding. What is a Miliband? A rubber band that is twirled between the fingers of militants. The Falkirk debacle has exposed the reality of Labour’s relations with the union barons. If Ed ever got through the door of Downing Street, he would have McCluskey barrelling in first and plonking himself on the sofa. It is a disaster we cannot allow.