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Let’s Unite the left for Len

Len McCluskey at CLASS fring meeting at Labour Conference 2012Even taking account the advantages of incumbency, the momentum, dynamism and confidence of Len McCluskey’s campaign to be re-elected General Secretary of Unite stands in sharp contrast to the lacklustre efforts of the right wing challenger, Gerard Coyne, and the amateur hour theatrics of the “grassroots” candidate, Ian Allinson.

What stands out is not only that Len can point to year on year achievement, but that his campaign is getting out and about meeting members in organized workplaces around the UK, where he is meeting a strong response.

Elsewhere, Gerard Coyne’s campaign has a streak of desperation about it, with key campaign pledges to freeze Unite subscriptions for the next two years, and to extend Unite’s support to more people through a family membership scheme. He is promising to do more member servicing with less money, and that could only be achieved by jeopardizing Unite’s financial stability, and therefore endanger the firm foundation upon which Unite can challenge rogue employers, whether through political or industrial campaigning.

Ian Allinson, undoubtedly an accomplished workplace militant at Fujitsu, fails to distinguish between the wish and the deed, and his campaign lacks any sense of realism about the real world constraints on the union. It is potentially worrying that friends and colleagues in Unite report that while Jerry Hicks took votes from both the left and the right of the union, Ian is only gathering support away from Len.

One thing that both Ian and Gerard Coyne highlight is the potential improvement of developing more opportunities for experienced lay members and retired members and officers to service members in one to one representation, freeing officer time for organising. A report of the issues facing Women officers in Unite was published last year. The substantive issues of women working in a male dominated culture are not unique to Unite, and the response to the report’s finding are properly for Unite to address without outside interference. However, it is clear from the report that servicing individual members can represent a disproportionate burden on the time of some Unite officers, and any opportunities to free those officers for other tasks would be worth considering.

I am not a member of Unite, but should Len be defeated, then this would have a destabilizing impact on the whole movement. Ian Allinson’s campaign seems utterly complacent about the threat from the right wing, ignoring the more politicized context of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party, and the impetus that this gives to those who wish to deliver Corbyn a defeat by proxy in Unite’s election. Both Progress and the shadowy Labour First organisation have clandestinely encouraged their supporters to join Unite to vote for Coyne. Let us hope that we don’t all end up regretting the lack of judgement of Ian Allinson and his ultra-left supporters as they split the vote.

23 Comments

  1. Joe says:

    “Both Progress and the shadowy Labour First organisation have clandestinely encouraged their supporters to join Unite to vote for Coyne.”

    Is “clandestinely” encouraging supporters to join to back a candidate better or worse than Momentum openly urging Corbynistas to join and back Len?

  2. Imran Khan says:

    The last of the dinosaurs and a supporter of Lutfur Rahman. Good riddance.

  3. Richard MacKinnon says:

    If Labour has any sense they will take this once in a generation opportunity to rid themselves of Len McCluskey. He is a massive vote looser. He steps way over the mark with his manipulation of candidate selections, a recent Scottish example was in Falkirk where he tried to place his office manager Karie Murphy as Labour’s candidate. Result SNP gain.

    His inflated self opinion of himself reminds voters of the 1970s. It is a bad look. It is not what union leaders do in the 21st century. Trade union leaders should stick to running their union not interfer in political parties. Gerard Coyne’s campaign is based on exactly that. He should be commended for it.

    The Labour Party gets a lot of financial support from the trade union movement, it has a chance here to get behind the ‘sane’ candidate for leadership of the countries biggest union, the candidate that will not be that will not be that guaranteed embarrassment.

    Conservative central office think Len McCluskey is the gift that keeps on giving. Labour members should ask themselves why that is. They should also note where McCluskey gets his support from within the party’s MPs and purge them as well.

  4. Mervyn Hyde says:

    As a retired Unite Member I shall be voting for Len, he has stood full square behind Jeremy Corbyn, and as far as Gerard Coyne is concerned I well remember Duffer Duffy, who promised to modernise the Union only to reduce it to a compliant dog with it’s teeth taken out.

    We need to start rebuilding our Unions not as Gerard Coyne would do- turn it into just another lap dog for the corporate sector.

  5. chris gibson says:

    Len is in his dotage and should retire. We only have the bomb because of len. I’m voting ian Allotson, a dynamic shopfloor activist.

  6. Bazza says:

    I’m a Unite member and will vote for Len.
    Len speaks up for working class/working people.
    Wonder if Coyne would sing in a Karaoke bar if he won: “The working class can kiss my ass I’ve got the foreman’s job at last!” (To the tune of ‘The Red Flag’).
    Oh and the bourgeois socialist (top down, ready made programmes) “grassroots” candidate is an irrevance – why are the far left never honest enough to say which party the belong to?

  7. Sue says:

    I will vote for Len as this is not a time to split the left wing vote. Len has solidly supported Corbyn. It could be the end of the socialist project within the Labour Party if Len fails to win. Len showed a lot of political understanding in calling this election early and he’s done it to wrong foot the right and ensure that Unite will be supporting Corbyn in 2020.

  8. chris gibson says:

    I object to Bazza saying Corbyn is a top down bourgeois socialist. The fact is he has the answers. Bazza should know though, he has been a strike leader many times in his life.

    1. David Parry says:

      I don’t think he’s saying that about Corbyn; I think he’s talking about Ian Allinson.

  9. chris gibson says:

    And by the way, Im signing out. When you start abusing left wing candidates, the end for you is nigh.

    1. Bazza says:

      Uh?
      Yes the far left candidate will be a decent socialist who no doubt has fought for working class/working people/trade unionists all his life and I am sorry, and it is painful to say, but the Trots have perhaps been fed a narrow political perspective all they lives.
      But because of this I belive it is sad to say they may waste most of their lives; but don’t just listen to me, just read Paul Frolich’s biography of Rosa Luxemburg.
      Yes they dedicate their lives to the oppressed as I do; but fake friends tell you what you want to hear, real friends tell you what you NEED to hear.
      The far left in my view stands for top down, ready made programmes, follow our vanguard, a socialism FOR when perhaps what we need is a grassroots, bottom up, participatory, left wing democratic socialism – a socialism WITH.
      The Far Left never quite understood the secret but here I share it with you: “You will never win working class/working people to your ideas if you are not honest.” X

      1. Richard MacKinnon says:

        Bazza,
        Have you ever asked yourself what real working people want? When I say ‘real working people’ (note I dont use the word ‘class’ that is because I dont see society that way, unlike you), I mean people that would rather work in a low paid job rather than go on benefits. The type of working people that have never been on benfits. The type of person that will go without rather than take on debt. The type of person that will go to the pub for a pint on a Friday and Saturday and wonder how it is that the guy next to him who is on benefits is there every day.
        Do you ever stop for a minute and think what these working people want. Have you ever actually asked someone that has to live day in day out working hard for a rotten wage, what it is they want. I doubt it.
        Shall I tell you what they think Bazza? what they talk about? I dont think you will like it, but Im going to tell you anyway. Before I do I’m going to tell you what it is they dont talk about because that is just as important. They dont talk about socialism or how only a true socialism can change things. And they definately do not talk about their trade union and who they will be voting for as its next leader. The likliehood is they wont be in one.
        Topics of conversation are likely to be about income tax as in ‘why am I paying 2 grand in tax when I only earn 18? or possibly, The Welfare State, as in ‘how does that fb at the bar manage to be in here every day when he has never worked since the pit closed? or a common topic these days is the NHS, as in ‘do you know many burkahs there were in the health centre today’.
        You talk endlessly with others on this site about “The Working Class” , you talk as if you know them and you that know what is good for them. It is as offensive as it is patronising. The truth is you dont know them, and you dont have a clue what they want. If you did you would not think or talk interms of “the working class”, there is no such thing any longer. That is how far out of touch you are.
        What there is these days is “working poor people” and if you got out more often you would know that they are as likely to be a teacher or a nurse or a farmer. And if you took the trouble to speak to them you would also know they dont read Paul Frolich’s biography of Rosa Luxemburg and they dont vote Labour.
        I hope you found this useful.

        1. Karl Stewart says:

          Very useful Richard thanks.

          Like everyone else apart from you, I’ve never actually had a conversation with anyone in my entire life, so I’ve got absolutely no idea at all what people talk about.

          Many thanks for enlightening me and others by explaining what it is that people actually talk about.

          Very useful indeed.

          1. James Martin says:

            I agree Karl. I’ve been a trade unionist since leaving school at 16 and starting work on British Rail track maintenance, and I’ve been an active rep, branch, regional, national officer and full time official in various jobs and unions for many decades now and do you know what, working class lad that I am I never thought to talk to any of my workmates, not once. So glad Richard alerted me to my shortcomings. Must be why I’m supporting Len…

          2. Bazza says:

            Oh the reggae classic, “Living in the love of the common people.”
            Yes and as my poor mother struggled to bring 5 of us up in our council house in the 1960’s I remember coming home from school one day when I was 11 with my sister.
            As we opened the door there was my mother with her head in the gas oven; I had the wisdom to turn the gas off, move her gently out of the oven, open the door to get fresh air in, then tell a neighbour and after being hospitalised she recovered.
            Someone once questioned my capabilities years later and I thought back to this, realising not only was I good enough, I was good enough if I wanted to be leader of the World!
            The tragic reality is that as left wing democratic socialists although it is the working billions who really create the wealth and make societies work (and the rich and powerful legally nick their surplus labour) only a minority of us have worked this out but we will keep fighting for our brothers and sisters in every country.
            Of course you will always get a few numbskulls who fight for the Masters and Mistresses but perhaps it is them who will never really think in their whole lives.
            Oh and after doing a range of crappy jobs then being the first in my family to go to university to get a degree and a Masters Degree for many years I was a tenants activist and adult educator working on council estates, visiting shanty towns in other countries, meeting global radical educators (reading Paulo Freire) I even met a President and all of this is why as a unite member I will VOTE 4 LEN!

  10. Richard MacKinnon says:

    James Martin,
    I used to be in the NUR and I used to go to branch meetings. I remember exactly why I left and I also remember it was’nt easy to get out.
    At the Labour Party conference in 1982, the NUR delegation, manadated by its members decided to vote for the National Union of Mineworkers, led by Arthur Scargill. Sid Weighell the NUR General Secretary, however, secretly voted for the EETPU, a fact quickly discovered by conference officials.
    Branded a cheat, Weighell was forced to offer his resignation, which a union conference convened in Birmingham accepted 41–36. Despite the scandal he maintained he had done the right thing, saying “I’m glad to have been a casualty if it means that the party executive does not fall into the hands of militants.”
    His reward for defying his members wishes was a knighthood from Jim Callaghan.
    The whole episode pissed me off. In those days the NUR had millions of members. I realised as a young man right there and then, whats the point of trade unions if one man can ignore the wishes of his members. What a great life lesson that was.

    1. Andy Newman says:

      a fact quickly discovered by conference officials.

      It was Arthur Scargill and Moss Evans, who discovered the “error”. In fact it was conference officials who originally “misplaced” 700000 NUPE votes, and who wouldn’t show the ballot papers to Evans and Scargill. It was a process of deduction that the NUM candidate was 170000 votes short, and therefore “Weighell” must have failed to vote.

      In those days the NUR had millions of members.

      170000

      1. Richard MacKinnon says:

        The point is Weighell ignored the wishes of his members and was awarded with a K.

      2. In fact the CAC inspected all the ballot papers in order to sort out the mess.I was on the CAC at the time,as was a senior member of the NUR,who distrusted SW.It had nothing to do with officials or with Moss or Arthur.As I recall,the NUR member of CAC took the actual NUR ballot paper to the NUR delegation.This showed SW voting for EEPTU and not,as instructed,the NUM.SW was sent home,later tried to crawl back and got the heave-ho.

        1. Andy Newman says:

          Thanks for the clarification PW, I was relying on the account in Lewis Minkin’s “The Contentious Alliance”, who seems to have been misinformed on this point of detail

        2. Richard MacKinnon says:

          He got the heave-ho to the red benches for his betrayal of his members. Its where all loyal general secretaries ended up. That’s how it works with Labour.

  11. Richard MacKinnon says:

    Bazza,
    If Conservative Central Office ever hatched a plan to infiltrate the Labour Party and plant a couple of agitators, they could not do better than the real thing, Corbyn’s front bench and Len McCluskey.
    This may be difficult for you to accept but none the less it happens to be a fact. When people see McCluskey on TV they ask ‘why is a trade union boss talking about the nations defence systems? what has the economy got to do with a him?”
    He is a massive vote looser for Labour. Fact. Ordinary people fear his influence in Labour or, as in my case, find him a very good joke. Fact.

  12. Karl Stewart says:

    Richard Mac writes:

    “I used to be in the NUR and I used to go to branch meetings. I remember exactly why I left and I also remember it was’nt easy to get out.”

    It’s never been difficult to resign from a job, so he can’t mean that. If he means seeking to undermine union organisation by refusing to pay union subs while working in a unionised company – of course that wouldn’t have been “easy”, it shouldn’t even be possible.

    If someone wants to work in a non-unionised workplace, then there are plenty of non-unionised jobs they can do.

    And then he claims:

    “In those days the NUR had millions of members.”

    No they didn’t, the NUR never had even one million members. What utter nonsense.

    (But at least he knows what people talk about eh?)

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