Cameron sets strike trap for Miliband

By Ian Dunt

David Cameron repeatedly tried to use Ed Miliband's relationship with the trade unions to his advantage today, as the public sector pensions strike looms.

The prime minister returned to the subject of the strike three times during this week's PMQs as he criticised Mr Miliband's refusal to condemn the industrial action, which is set for November 30th.

"It really is irresponsible when negotiations are ongoing to cause strikes that will lead to the closure of most of the classrooms in our country," Mr Cameron told the Commons.

"It's also a tragedy that it's not just the union leaders that don't understand this but also the party opposite, which refuses to condemn these strikes."

Later in the session, he adopted tougher rhetoric and accused Labour of supporting the strike.

"These strikes are going to go ahead – everyone should be very clear about where responsibility lies," he said.

"It is with those union leaders, including the party opposite who are actually taking their side and backing this strike."

Mr Cameron told MPs that union money given to Labour represented 86% of the party's total donations since Ed Miliband had become leader.

The Tories are keen to pile as much pressure on the Labour leader as possible during the strike period. Mr Miliband can't come out too strongly against the action for fear of alienating the trade unions but he will resist being too positive because of expected public opposition.

During the last pensions strike, Mr Miliband was mocked for sticking rigidly to a line about everyone getting "back around the table". The resulting TV interview, in which he appeared robotic and repetitive, was viewed as one of the lowest points of his tenure as leader.

Polling shows that a majority of the public oppose the strike, but by relatively narrow margins.

Fifty-two per cent of people oppose the public sector strike (up from 49% in September) while 35% support it (down from 38%).