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Reflections on “Red” Len’s victory

It is an interesting aside that ‘Red Scares’ seem to entering the media discourse with increasing frequency. Contrast, for example, the creation of ‘Red’ Ed Miliband with even the mainstream media dismissal of the infamous ‘Demon Eyes’ campaign against Tony Blair. Something has changed; and that something is the fact that the age-old capitalist problem, its own instability, has returned like Banquo’s ghost to haunt the feast. Fleet street and media moguls know this hence why the red bugaboo is invoked every time it catches even the slightest whiff of left-wing politics.

Len McCluskey is the latest honorary recipient of the ‘Red’ tag following his victory in the campaign to be elected General Secretary of Unite.  The importance of his win may well be as much what he represents as what he ends up doing. For Labour there is the ominous possibility that his election reflects growing disenchantment among trade unionists with its performance and an even greater unwillingness to be continually used as a doormat that, rather oddly, pays for the privilege.

Len’s promise that there will be ‘no more blank cheques’ rings a little hollow. It’s something trade union leaders routinely say before duly writing the said cheque.  The reality is you can huff and puff but there is literally nowhere else to go and Labour’s leadership is keenly aware of this fact. Overblown rhetoric like this tends to lead to an alienation of  some Labour Party members who wrongly, sensitive souls they sometimes are, en masse seem to think its a statement of intent, tantamount to blackmail.

It would be much more productive if Unite and Len McCluskey made it clear that they would carry on funding Labour, but also made it crystal clear that  a large proportion of that money would be used supporting campaigns and causes (as well as candidates) within Labour who were supportive of Unite and its general policy objectives. Just imagine the difference the financial and organisational backing of one of Britain’s largest unions could make to the embattled Labour Left. Not even the faint-hearts in Labours ranks could object to that because that is merely Unite’s democratic right.

The cynic in me though suggests the rhetoric is a substitute for real action. Real action action along the lines outlined above. However, I am quietly hopeful that McCluskey might prove the cynical me wrong. His defence of strikes, in the following terms;

“My experience is there is no such thing as an irresponsible strike. Workers take strike action because they genuinely feel there is nothing else they can do.”

goes, strictly speaking, beyond the call of rhetorical duty. Labour’s leaders would do well to listen to what Len has to say on this because the leadership’s current lack of empathy when it comes to the lives of ordinary working people, is causing the rift that I mentioned above.

Repairing that rift wont be easy. It will require a lot more than tough talking and will require action. Len McCluskey has the chance to make his mark not just on Unite but on the Labour Party British politics as a whole. Let’s all hope he does not miss that…


  1. Syzygy says:

    “Real action action along the lines outlined above. However, I am quietly hopeful that McCluskey might prove the cynical me wrong.”

    I would really like cynical you to be proved wrong too. Union funding to help the embattled Labour left would make so much difference in supporting Ed M in confronting blairite ‘advice’.

  2. Darrell says:


    Well, here’s hoping. Indeed it would, it would create pressure from the left which would give him scope to tack more to the left.

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