May 18, 2015 / 8:34 AM / in 2 years

UK's biggest trade union threatens to shun opposition Labour

Prospective Labour leaders (L-R) Andy Burnham,Yvette Cooper, Mary Creagh, Tristram Hunt and Liz Kendall appear at the annual conference of independent organisation for Labour Party members and trade unionists, London, May 16, 2015.Paul Hackett

LONDON (Reuters) - The head of Britain's largest trade union Unite has threatened to sever links with the opposition Labour Party if the party's next leader moves it further away from its traditional base of support.

Labour's previous leader Ed Miliband, who was elected with the support of trade unions, stood down after the party suffered a heavy election defeat earlier this month.

That has prompted debate over the party's future direction and the influence of the unions, its biggest financial backers.

"It's essential that the correct leader emerges and that there's a genuine debate about the direction we're going in. It is the challenge of the Labour Party to demonstrate that they are the voice of ordinary working people, that they are the voice of organized labor," Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, which gave more than 3 million pounds to Labour's election campaign, told the BBC on Sunday.

"If they don't, if they kind of inject more disillusionment in the party, then the pressure will grow from our members to rethink. It's certainly already growing in Scotland."

Labour won only one parliamentary seat in Scotland which was once its heartland but voted overwhelmingly for the Scottish National Party at the May 7 election.

Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; editing by William Schomberg

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