Posts Tagged ‘Jennie Formby’

Disunity at Unite means trouble for Labour

11/06/2013, 02:05:43 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Yesterday’s sudden departure of Unite’s long standing national political director, Steve Hart, was enough to make head’s turn in Labour leadership circles. That he then followed up with a tweet (now deleted) saying he was told that he was “too close to Labour,” will have set alarm bells ringing.

Given the apparent reason for Hart’s ejection, his replacement, Jennie Formby, seems an odd choice. Unlike Hart she sits on Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee. In terms of Labour’s structures, it’s difficult to be any closer to the party.

However, the organisation chart does not tell the real story of what has happened.

Three factors seem to have been pivotal in Steve Hart’s downfall: clashes at the top of Unite over the union’s proximity to Labour, Ed Balls’ speech last week and the fall-out from Unite’s ham fisted attempts at fixing candidate selections, particularly in London for the European elections.

Steve Hart has been at the heart of London Labour politics for over a decade, having forged close relations with Ken Livingstone’s mayoral administration. When Livingstone’s former chief of staff, Simon Fletcher moved in to a senior position at the London Labour party before the last election, Hart’s influence increased.

When the continuity Kennites took control of key positions in the London Labour party after the general election, Steve Hart’s role in London Labour grew.

And when Simon Fletcher joined Ed Miliband’s office with responsibility for union liaison, earlier this year, Hart’s personal connections extended right to the top of the party.

But unions are jealous, internecine places. Their internal politics are largely masked to the outside world but as with all large organisations, the competition and back stabbing are vicious.

Steve Hart’s increasing influence would not have been welcome, particularly to those on the left of the union vying for control of Unite’s political direction.

(more…)

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