Michael Gove is the "oddball in the corner of the pub" who needs to "take off his tinfoil hat" and focus on being education secretary rather than attacking trade unions, his Labour opposite number has said.
In a series of attacks, Gove told an audience at the Conservative Party's headquarters in London that far from reducing union influence over him, Miliband's proposed reforms to the relationship with Labour will increase the problem. The education secretary said Labour is "sinking back into their pre-Blair position of living in the unions' shadow".
Writing on The Huffington Post UK, Labour's shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg launched a personal attack on Gove for straying beyond his departmental brief.
"Why has Michael Gove got nothing to say on the big issues this summer? He has been silent on the overwhelming opposition from leading universities to his A level changes. Silent on the latest figures showing nearly a million young people not in education, working or training. Silent on the explosion of pupils sitting multiple GCSE exams in the same subject, which threatens school standards and budgets. Finally on 27th August we hear from him, not to address these issues, but to go on a rant about trade unions," Twigg said.
"He is the political equivalent of an oddball in the corner of the pub who everyone tries to avoid. He can’t resist telling you how we should bring back the royal yacht or send every child a bible with his name on it. Parents and pupils deserve more than this."
The Labour Party had a awkward summer, with Ed Miliband and other shadow cabinet members being accused of failing to take the fight to the coalition. However Twigg accused Gove of "conducting his very own Summer Of Silence".
"Now when he has finally opened his mouth, it is to act as Lynton Crosby's ventriloquist's dummy. He needs to focus on the day job," he said.
Twigg added Gove "should take off his tinfoil hat, sit down and have a nice cup of tea" rather than delivering speeches to "spout ahistorical guff to push a political agenda he knows is nonsense".
Defending Ed Miliband's reforms to Labour's link with the union, Twigg said it was the "most significant reform since the creation of the Labour Party over a century ago".
Miliband has pledged fundamental reform of the unions' relationship with the party in the wake of the controversy over Unite's involvement in candidate selection in Falkirk. The party's biggest donor was accused of signing up members in the constituency so it could influence the choice of a candidate.
The Labour leader is set for a rough ride over the reforms when he addresses the TUC annual conference next month in what is expected to be his first major speech after a bruising parliamentary recess.