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Murdoch's media tune hits a bum note

RUPERT MURDOCH'S mouthpiece The Times is running out of ways to portray Ed Miliband as a puppet in the pocket of trade union leaders.

So it resorted on yesterday's front page to doing what it does best - making up stories.

"Miliband asks unions to save his No 10 bid," bellowed the sad relic of a title that once prided itself a newspaper of record.

Further scrutiny indicates, once the paper's readers have recovered from their bout of the vapours, that the Labour leader plans a meeting, in the likely event of no party having an overall majority, of his party's national executive committee.

Two-thirds of this committee are MPs, elected members' representatives and local councillors, meaning that just a third emanate from trade unions. 

It would not only be abvisable but essential for the Labour leader to call together the collective leadership of his party to discuss, in the light of the election results, what path to follow.

Still, as the old adage has it, never let the facts get in the way of a story.

The reality is that the unions are supporting Labour despite having failed to convince the party leader that his poll prospects would be enhanced by backing key policies such as rail renationalisation or repealing anti-union legislation. 

Miliband and those closest to him have drawn up the manifesto and worked out the campaign strategy that they believe will carry him to Downing Street.

Motions carried at union conferences and union leaders' comments show clearly that trade unionists would have preferred a sharper political stance.

Despite this, Miliband has indicated a more working class-aligned approach than anything put forward by his new Labour predecessors, whose policies and choice of friends contributed to the mass alienation of working people from the Labour Party.

Nowhere was this alienation more manifest than in Scotland, where Labour regarded successive Scottish National party (SNP) victories - first as a minority administration, then with a clear majority - as minor blips to be overturned in Westminster elections.

Whatever hopes may have been entertained that this could happen were scuppered by the disastrous decision to join the conservative coalition in the Better Together campaign against Scottish independence. 

Labour continues to pay the price of this lack of judgement - and indeed of principle - in the current election.

If Miliband has listened to trade unionists on this question instead of the Scottish representatives of his party who frittered away Labour's support in Scotland, he would not be holding his breath now to see if Scottish Labour can salvage a dozen seats from the SNP surge.

Pointing out that the SNP is not a socialist party or that it hasn't taken a consistent line against austerity is insufficient as a strategy. Both statements apply equally to Labour.

What differentiates Labour from the SNP is its links with the organised working class - the trade union movement.

If it spurns or belittles those links or the opinions of trade unionists, it shoots itself in the foot and helps nourish the cynical view that "mainstream" parties are all the same.

The Murdoch stable and the rest of the right-wing media want nothing to do with any government presenting a pro-working class agenda.

To secure David Cameron's return, whether alone or in coalition, they will ridicule and misrepresent anything Miliband says.

All the more reason to take the battle to them and to refuse to dance to media-composed tunes.

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