A crisis is never good for a political party – sudden revelations throw off their chosen narrative and disrupt their campaigns, as well as damaging their reputation.
But I suspect Ed Miliband is now coming to wish the Falkirk story was as simple as that. With Unite’s actions in Scotland, he has a much more damaging problem to face – not a flash in the pan scandal, but a weeping sore.
The Sunday Times hold a large cache of emails from and to Stevie Deans, the man at the centre of the Falkirk and Grangemouth stories. For the last few Sundays they have released a few of them each week, bringing new angles to the story and piling yet more pressure on a growing number of senior Labour Party officials. This week the focus is Jackson Cullinane, the Chairman of the Scottish Labour Party (and also, surprise surprise, a senior Unite official) who, it is alleged, not only knew of the Falkirk plot but approved of it and later lobbied to defend its participants when they came under fire.
It’s a damning story, which reveals Labour’s Unite problem goes even further than previously thought.
But it’s also the latest symptom of a really serious problem for Labour: their reputation, and Miliband’s campaign, is out of the Opposition leader’s control.
Each week that he refuses to take on McCluskey will see new revelations, and the scandal will grow further. Worse, he doesn’t even know how much the Sunday Times and others have saved up, so he can’t plan anything until his press office gets the call from journalists asking for yet another response to yet more bad news.
The same lack of control can be seen from the leaked emails about “nightmare” Ed Balls yesterday.
Everyone’s first thought was that they represented a return to the old days of Labour factions briefing against each other. It seems that in fact it was an honest mistake by an aide who sent the blunt assessment of the Shadow Chancellor to a Tory MP by accident, but the content is still revealing.
In short, it suggests that Miliband’s people – in private at least (barring a predictive Outlook accident) – feel that Balls is a liability. He disrupts his leader’s messages, and he refuses to acknowledge the fiscal mistakes he and his former master made.
We already know that he is forcing Miliband’s hand over HS2, and he is a personal embodiment of the big-spending, high-borrowing years that got us into this mess.
And yet he continues to hold his job, with no sign of the Labour leader using his authority to bring him into line. Balls continues to throw his weight around with impunity.
Both of these stories tell us one thing: Ed Miliband is in trouble.
He can’t deal with disciplinary issues, or lance the Falkirk boil, because he dare not upset his major donor, Unite. He leaves Ed Balls free to run riot through his messages and policies apparently because the Shadow Chancellor is too big, and too ruthless, a beast for him to safely take on.
That is bad enough in itself. The impact on Labour’s election strategy of a leader who cannot lead could well be disastrous.