Unison boss Dave Prentis puts Jeremy Corbyn on notice after Copeland 'disaster'
A top union boss who twice backed Jeremy Corbyn to become Labour leader today warned he must come up with a plan to improve the party's fortunes following last night's by-election results.
Dave Prentis, the general secretary of Unison, said the party's defeat to the Tories in Copeland was "disastrous" and warned that working people could not wait forever for a Labour government.
He also broke ranks with Mr Corbyn by insisting the result in Stoke, which Labour won but with a reduced majority, "should never have been in doubt".
By contrast, Mr Corbyn and his allies have today sought to stress the significance of that victory, which saw Ukip leader Paul Nuttall pushed into second place.
Mr Prentis' comments are significant because Mr Corbyn relied heavily on the continuing support of union leaders when he was challenged last year, and his position would come under severe threat if that melted away.
In a statement, the Unison chief said: "No-one objective could argue last night’s by-election results were good for Labour.
“While it was pleasing to see Ukip put in its place, Stoke should never have been in doubt and the result in Copeland was disastrous.
"The blame for these results does not lie solely with Jeremy Corbyn, but he must take responsibility for what happens next. Nurses, teaching assistants, care workers and ordinary people everywhere need a Labour government. Jeremy has to show he understands how to turn things around and deliver just that."
Meanwhile, the Copeland result also caused a fresh row in the battle to be the general secretary of Unite.
Challenger Gerard Coyne said the defeat had his rival Len McCluskey's "fingerprints all over it" because he had consistently backed Jeremy Corbyn.
He said: "The Copeland meltdown is at Len McCluskey's door. As John McDonnell said this morning , Labour lost Copeland because of Jeremy Corbyn’s ambiguous attitude to nuclear power.
"But Mr McCluskey put thousands of pounds of Unite’s money into helping Jeremy Corbyn gain and retain the Labour leadership, knowing that he is a lifelong opponent of nuclear power.
"What sort of message does that convey to the nearly 3,000 Unite members employed at the Sellafield plant, in Copeland?
"McCluskey’s obsession with Westminster politics has created a disconnect between the political objectives of the union and the interests of its members."
But a spokesman for Mr McCluskey's leadership campaign said: "Unite members will be baffled by this nonsense when they see daily that Len McCluskey's priority is to fight for their jobs, pay and pensions, as he is doing today for the tens of thousands of UK workers who depend on the auto industry for their livelihoods."