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RAQUETEERING Tories refused to call off a £160,000 tennis match between privileged premier David Cameron and a Russian oligarch’s wife yesterday as his smear campaign against trade unions scored a spectacular double fault.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling warned in a speech yesterday that “shoddy backroom deals” were taking place between trade unions and Labour chiefs to decide party policies ahead of the general election.
In a morning rally on the BBC’s Today Programme, Mr Grayling smarmed: “The Labour Party today is almost entirely dependent on union funding.”
But in a swift backhand, presenter Justin Webb asked: “Here’s the problem for you — the Prime Minister has just sold himself for £160,000 to the wife of a former Putin deputy finance minister.
“You’ve hardly got a leg to stand on, have you?”
The foot-faulted Mr Grayling was then forced to admit it was still game-on, saying that “the tennis match is going ahead because it’s a donation from a British woman, a British citizen who is perfectly entitled to make a donation.”
Mr Grayling appeared to be running scared after three major unions — Unison, Unite and the GMB — announced that over a million local government workers would strike on October 14. This will be the unions’ second day of co-ordinated action this year.
In a fierce drop-shot, Labour vice-chairman Michael Dugher said Mr Grayling was talking “absolute garbage” from the “Tory lie machine.”
The tasteless tournament will see banker Lubov Chernukhin — who is married to former Russian deputy finance minister Vladimir Chernukhin — spar with the Prime Minister and his fellow Old Etonian London Mayor Boris Johnson.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, who was singled out for criticism by Mr Grayling, hit back with a sharp ace.
He said: “Even by their own standards of rank hypocrisy, the Tories are today setting a new benchmark for double standards.
“They denounce trade unions while they fill their pockets with Moscow gold supplied by an ever-increasing number of donations from dodgy Russian oligarchs.
“Trade union funding is totally transparent and is overseen by two independent statutory bodies.
“Compare this to the Tories who fill their coffers with millions of pounds from nameless individuals who use smoke and mirrors to hide their identities.”
Red-faced Mr Johnson brushed off criticism that Tories were selling themselves to big business and bumbled: “It seems the people in question are not associated with the Putin regime, quite the reverse, they seem to be hostile to it.”
Party finances are likely to remain on centre court in the coming years, as Labour Party officials decide how to implement the reforms to its union links pushed through in March.
There are likely to be renewed calls for state funding of political parties following next year’s election.
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