Row erupts after union leader calls for disruption of Olympics

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David Cameron called upon Labour to start “turning back” donations from the Unite union after its general secretary faced widespread condemnation for calling for civil disobedience during the London Olympics.

Labour leader Ed Miliband described Len McCluskey’s comments, also threatening strike action during the Games, as “totally unacceptable and wrong”.

But the Prime Minister said Mr Miliband’s intervention, made in a message on the Twitter website, was not enough given Unite’s financial support for the Labour Party.

“Unite is the single biggest donor to the party opposite, providing around a third of their money, and had more role than anybody else in putting the Right Honourable Gentleman (Mr Miliband) in his place,” Mr Cameron said during Prime Minister’s Questions.

“It’s not good enough for them just to put out a Tweet, they need to condemn this utterly and start turning back the money.”

He said Tory MP Richard Graham, who said Mr McCluskey’s remarks would “damage the reputation” of the UK, represented the views of “the whole country”.

Downing Street earlier denounced the threat of strikes to disrupt the Olympics as “completely unacceptable and unpatriotic”.

The row erupted after Mr McCluskey told a journalist that unions could stage industrial action as part of their campaign against Government cuts and called for the public to engage in civil disobedience to defend public services.

Although Mr McCluskey said no precise plans had been drawn up for action during the Olympics he added that they “absolutely” could include strikes.

“I believe the unions, and the general community, have got every right to be out protesting,” he said. “If the Olympics provide us with an opportunity, then that’s exactly one that we should be looking at.”

Mr McCluskey said his union had not yet discussed “the specifics” of how workers could target the Olympics, but said they were looking at what “leverage points” the Games offer – such as bus services.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg urged Mr Miliband to “rein in” the union boss.

“I just think people will be gobsmacked, appalled, that someone thinks that at a time when we are finally hosting one of the greatest events in the world, he is calling for civil disobedience,” he said.

“I know he is the sort of paymaster of the Labour party but I hope Ed Miliband will rein him in.”

The controversy about potential strikes increased on the day that it was confirmed that the London Olympics will be officially opened by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

The royal couple will open the Games at the 80,000-seater Olympic Stadium on July 27, with more than a billion people set to watch on TV around the world, as well as the Paralympic Games at the same venue on August 29.

Meanwhile the Defence Secretary said that security plans have been put in place ahead of the games to make sure the UK is “prepared in every respect” to deal with any threats.

Philip Hammond added that the potential of any outside threat or danger at this summer’s Games was “hopefully very unlikely” but said a huge operation was ready to deal with anything that might go wrong.

His comments came as he visited RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire to observe an air security training exercise and meet members of the armed forces who will be providing airborne security at the London Games.

“Part of this exercise is making anyone with ill intention aware of the layered air defence that will be in place,” he said. “We’ve got no specific threat to the Olympics at all and certainly no specific threat of any kind of airborne threat, but we want the world to know we will be prepared in every respect so that we will be able to ensure that the London Olympics are safe and secure.”

He flew on an E-3D Sentry aircraft – which is fitted with an exterior rotating radar to detect aircraft and can track ships – to see how the air security plan will be co-ordinated.

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