Posts Tagged ‘Len McCluskey’

Corbyn’s a disaster but we must fight, fight and fight again to save the party we love

19/04/2017, 10:11:48 PM

by Rob Marchant

It all seems so obvious now. But none of us was predicting it over breakfast yesterday, partly because Theresa May had several times denied it was a possibility. In some ways, it might have paid her to let Jeremy Corbyn stay in a few more years and hurt Labour’s polling more.

But the combination of the lack of a decent majority and the lack of legitimacy of a prime minister who has never gone to the polls, combined with Labour’s unprecedentedly awful polling made it a very modest gamble indeed. And leaders, to be a success, need to learn how to gamble when the odds are good.

News correspondents, bless them, for the purposes of unbiased reporting need to now pretend for the next seven weeks that Labour has a chance of winning. But no serious commentator is predicting any such thing. It is simply impossible. The party is in damage limitation in a way it is difficult to imagine it has ever been before. It is fighting for its life.

Its problems can be summarised in four points.

One: this is the Brexit election and Labour has no answers. Its leader pretended to be anti-Brexit but was really pro. He has now even stopped any pretence otherwise and the party’s message is therefore utterly confused. With the result that Labour is now mistrusted by many in both pro- and anti- camps. Worse, current polls show that voters care more about Brexit than they do political colours. So Labour can effortlessly be squeezed by UKIP and the Tories in some constituencies and the Lib Dems or Greens in others.

Two: the snap election means that Labour’s ground war will be its worst ever. This is the first snap election in forty-three years. There are very few staffers, if any, who even remember the last one.

Given the point in the parliamentary cycle, Labour has few new candidates selected, and had to endure hours yesterday of the prospect of the Leader’s office suicidally attempting to enforce mandatory reselections on the sitting MPs. Fortunately this was ultimately abandoned but not before souring relations at the top of the party even further.

The Tories won’t be much more advanced in terms of candidate selection, but in the marginals they should easily be able to find candidates who fancy a spell in Westminster and have a really very good chance of arriving there.

Although Labour has a little more from the influx of new members, it is still strapped for cash and will be easily outspent by the Tories.

Electoral data is two years out of date already and there is no time to update it. Their new, Corbyn-supporting activists will largely not door-knock and their old ones will struggle to motivate themselves.

In short, the party would have been poorly placed for street campaigning if it had the normal five years to prepare. This time it has seven weeks. (more…)

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The “soft coup” might be on, but it surely ain’t from the right

24/03/2017, 06:41:00 PM

by Rob Marchant

For weeks now, the party’s left has been whispering about a “soft coup”. Ah, the old Soviet tactic, much beloved of today’s Vladimir Putin: confuse things by accusing your opponents of whatever you are up to yourself. Oh, and make them feel under attack, so they close ranks.

There is a coup going on, but it is clearly not the evil Blairites named by John McDonnell.

As revelations about Jon Lansman’s declared strategy for Momentum as an alternative power base to the party itself became public, it seems Monday night’s PLP meeting was converted into something of a showdown.

Corbyn jeered. Watson cheered. The PLP, depressed and muted for months since Corbyn’s re-election, suddenly found its voice.

And it was that same Tom Watson leading the charge – a loyalist clearly adept at unearthing the truth but in this case apparently with a couple of years’ time-lag.

(We should probably gloss over his part the plot to bring down Tony Blair; or the fact that, in the Falkirk selections debacle – in which his own parliamentary office was directly implicated, along with Unite, let us not forget – he helped lead to the change in the electoral system which let in Corbyn in the first place.)

And the revelation was that – hold the front page! – Momentum is actually organising for the takeover/destruction of the Labour Party (delete as applicable), just like Militant before it, in conjunction with that same Unite union. Where were you in 2015, Tom, when it was obvious to everyone? Or in 2013, when Unite were stitching up selections for the hard left?

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Len McCluskey is the conservative candidate in Unite’s leadership election

17/03/2017, 06:37:08 PM

by Dean Quick

Len McCluskey is being championed as the “left” candidate in the Unite general secretary election. Assuming that the label means something we have to think it means he’s the candidate that stands for greater equality, for challenging the unfairly powerful and undeservingly privileged and the person most committed to giving us a powerful trade union able to meet and match the worst a Tory government can throw at us.

But the truth is that McCluskey is none of these things. He’s the candidate of the status quo, of continued decline, of no change, of jobs for the boys and he’s armed with a backward looking programme because, in essence, he’s a candidate of the past and certainly not of the future.

McCluskey – unlike some of his chief lieutenants – has never been in the Communist Party or even aligned with one of its satellites, like the Straight Left faction that Jeremy Corbyn’s paladin Seumas Milne supported. But his approach to his job is fundamentally that of the “militant labourists” that formed the traditionalist internal opposition to the CP’s “Eurocommunist” leadership in the 1970s and 1980s.

That factional battle was at its height this time thirty years ago. But it would be a mistake to think that the issues involved collapsed with the Berlin Wall. For while the Communist Party was at heart a pathological organisation – how else can you think of a movement so tied into a history of defending dictatorship and murder – its influence was profound.

The “Euros” were influenced by the new left movement (itself born out of an earlier Communist fragmentation) of the 1960s and engaged with ideas like feminism and what they called “new social movements”. Above all it sought to build a broad coalition for social change through a cultural politics that encompassed much more than the traditional movement settings of the workplace meeting and the party committee.

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Unite say they won’t be bound by strike laws. Does Labour think this is ok? Seriously?

24/07/2015, 02:15:21 PM

by David Green

The most remarkable thing about Unite’s decision to remove the words “so far as may be lawful” from its constitution is how little comment it has attracted in the Labour party.

The union’s opposition to new Tory plans for minimum strike ballot thresholds is understandable, right, and will be supported by the Labour party at large. But what is unsupportable is the union’s declaration that it will not regard itself as being bound by the new legislation.

Indeed, the constitutional change goes much further than this – worryingly so. On its face, the change means Unite will pick and choose the laws it deigns to obey.

This is dismaying in any major civil society body, but for a formal affiliate of the Labour party it is intolerable. Labour is – must be – a party of government, one which aspires to lead and not simply to oppose. A necessary part of this is that we seek change through reforms within the UK’s political system.

Unfortunately for all concerned Labour didn’t win the last election, and the Tories did. All the bleating about mandates in the world can’t change the fact that they have an absolute majority in the UK’s sovereign parliament: any legislation they can pass is the law. Labour believes – must believe – that even the most iniquitous law must be remedied by being repealed by parliament. Endorsing any other approach undermines the principle of the rule of law, on which all of the rest of society’s stability and freedom depends.

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In the battle for post-Miliband Labour, Unite’s leadership fights from a position of weakness, not strength

05/06/2015, 10:37:30 AM

by Rob Marchant

When you are on the back foot, play the victim. The underdog. Under attack from the establishment. If they ask awkward questions, do not accept the premise of the question. Thus has the hard left defended itself against any kind of rational criticism based on mere facts, for decades.

In a remarkably disingenuous, more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger piece at LabourList entitled “Setting the record straight over Unite’s position in Scotland”, Pat Rafferty, Unite’s Scottish General Secretary, writes how Unite tried to save Scottish Labour…but they wouldn’t listen. If only they’d listened to us. Instead, an unnamed “some in the Labour Party” are trying to “attack” Unite. Poor things.

Honestly, what rubbish. Unite was part of the problem, not the solution. At the root of Labour’s wipeout was the parlous state of Scottish Labour. The end result of decades of hegemonic machine politics, of which Unite was an integral part. An overbearing, one-horse town politics on which the carpet was lifted in the debacle that was the Falkirk selection, where the union was accused of manipulating the vote. A debacle that, let us not forget, led directly to the biggest-ever shakeup in Labour’s relationship with unions.

No, it was that, and the SNP’s gradually building itself as a credible alternative government to that Labour hegemony, which lost Scotland’s Westminster seats. Not a sudden surge of nationalism. Many of the SNP’s voters do not even want independence and, should we still need reminding, No won the referendum, not Yes.

But with so much managed from Holyrood, Westminster is now a throwaway election for many Scots, much as the Euros have come to be for much of the rest of Britain. A place to register protest. And they did.

Scottish voters also saw how Unite’s disastrous bluster came close to destroying thousands of jobs in a dispute at the country’s only oil refinery in 2013, only to end up with a worse deal for their members than that originally on the table. According to YouGov, half of the Scots surveyed thought Unite’s actions at Grangemouth were wrong. The convenor? Step forward Stevie Deans, chair of, er, Falkirk CLP.

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Week 5 of the campaign: the good, the bad and the ugly

03/05/2015, 12:20:13 PM

Uncut’s weekly review of the campaign looks back at the events of week 5.

The good

Labour’s sharpened up its act in Scotland

Labour nationally finally focuses on the SNP threat, and zeroes in on the exactly right message against nationalism: its fundamental pettiness.

As Tom Harris MP, sometime of this parish, put it:

While the best line of the Glasgow rally from Miliband reflected the same theme: “Nationalism never built a school”. A genuinely superb encapsulation of all that’s wrong with the SNP.

New arrivals

Uncut sends our congratulations to Lisa Nandy, Labour’s candidate in Wigan, and her partner Andy Collis on the birth this week of their son, Otis. A Wigan party spokesman has said that the shadow minister for civil society, “is incredibly grateful to the NHS staff in Wigan for their amazing care and dedication. Lisa would also like to thank people across Wigan for their kind words and support during a very busy time.”

For better or worse, Otis won’t generate the same volume of media coverage as the Royal baby. Whether this torrent of national and international reporting will have any impact on the 2015 election remains to be seen but at least Labour should (hopefully) have a future voter in Wigan, ready for the 2035 election.

Celebrities for Labour

Labour is winning the celebrity war. Where the Tories have Katie Hopkins, Labour has Stephen Hawking. Tom Watson will be taking Steve Coogan campaigning in Battersea, Croydon Central, Bermondsey & Old Southwark, Brentford & Isleworth, Harrow East, Ealing Central & Acton and Hornsey & Wood Green on Monday and Tuesday. I’m sure Coogan used to mock Ross Kemp as part of his stand-up routine but that didn’t stop Kemp giving Wes Streeting’s campaign to re-take Ilford North for Labour a boost.

The celebrity intervention to generate most headlines was, of course, Russell Brand interviewing Ed Miliband. As Brand reflected on the compatibility of capitalism and democracy, Miliband’s mind might have wondered back to discussions around the kitchen table as he was growing up. Nonetheless, he seemed more at ease in a video released by the Labour Party akin to something from Question of Sport. Simon Hattenstone painted Miliband well in a Guardian interview in March, which revealed Miliband’s eagerness to converse with Ronnie O’Sullivan. The video shows that Miliband has not only had his chat with O’Sullivan but used it to win him over to Labour.

It may be that Labour needs snookers to get back into government. In which case, Miliband could have uncovered a new guru at a most opportune moment.

The Bad (more…)

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Horse-trading in Halifax

25/03/2015, 09:55:41 PM

by Rob Marchant

Union money: “the cleanest in politics”, as some Labourites describe it, misty-eyed. To be fair, sometimes it is. There are decent unions who donate money because they actually want a Labour government. On the other hand, the cliché is that business donations always come with strings attached.

Let’s decide which of the two the following is.

Exhibit A: the Halifax selection, where Len McCluskey’s friend Karie Murphy was working hard, with the backing of the considerable weight of Britain’s largest union, to be its MP. The Sunday Times (£) wrote a couple of weeks ago that her place on the shortlist was being horse-traded for a previously-pledged donation of £1.5m to Labour’s election fund. Surely not?

After her failure to be shortlisted by the party’s Special Selections Panel, there were two possible outcomes: that Unite’s donation would then be delivered, and that it would not be delivered. Naturally, the outcome couldn’t possibly related to the Halifax selection. We’re talking about the cleanest money in politics, after all.

Oddly, the Telegraph reported last week that “a senior Unite figure said the union could withhold any further funding for final two months of the campaign and demand Miss Murphy is allowed to run for another seat this election.”

It is also important to note that Labour is perfectly entitled – and always has been – to select shortlists close to an election. The party has never pretended that this first stage is democratic – it can’t afford to be, when you only have weeks to establish a candidate and try to win – it is only afterwards that the local party gets to choose from the shortlisted candidates.

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Unite leverage squads turn attention to private sector providers in the NHS

19/08/2014, 05:54:39 PM

Last year, Unite’s leverage department generated a storm of publicity with its actions during the Grangemouth dispute. Directors of the employer, Ineos, were targeted in their homes, with one executive calling the police after a leverage squad of 25 protesters arrived on his road, complete with banners and a giant, inflatable rat.

Now, word reaches Uncut that the union’s leverage squads will be turning their attention to private sector involvement in the NHS.

In a letter sent to union members, Unite leader Len McCluskey states,

“Our Leverage Department has now turned its efforts towards protecting our NHS…Unite will not stand by as the vested interest groups carve up the NHS for private gain and our Leverage Department has begun work to protect accident and emergency wards in your community, to protect hospitals and GP centres under threat in your community, and to expose and prevent the vested interest groups who tender for NHS work, those groups who have profit before patient care.”

On the Unite website, the work of the leverage department is described as,

“…a process whereby the Union commits resources and time to making all interested parties aware of the treatment received by Unite members at the hands of an employer. Those interested parties may include shareholders of the employer; competitors of the employer; communities within which the employer operates; customers of the employer and the market place of the employer…”

This latest move seems to represent an escalation of leverage activities. While in previous cases, leverage squads were deployed in industrial disputes like Grangemouth, it appears that ideological battles – such as the role of the private sector in delivering health services –  will now be fought using these same tactics.

While many on the left in the Labour movement would support Unite’s expansion in the use of leverage, it is likely to cause the Labour leadership a headache in the run up to the general election.

The inevitable question that will be asked of Ed Miliband and Andy Burnham will be whether they back Unite’s decision to deploy leverage squads over the NHS.

If they condemn it, the story will be about another Labour-Unite spat. If they do not, then the old headlines about Labour being in the pocket of Unite and trade union militancy, will be recycled.

Either way, Labour is about to be put on the defensive.

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Unite’s takeover of PCS will have big implications for Labour if Ed doesn’t make it into Number 10

30/04/2014, 07:00:32 AM

by Rob Marchant

While we all want the morning of 8 May, 2015 to be defined by a triumphant Miliband glad-handing a crowd of jubilant supporters in Downing Street, it is worth taking a moment for a cold, hard look at the opposite: the Armageddon scenario of Labour returning to opposition.

Although this may be seen as a distasteful or even a disloyal task, neither is it, if the direction of travel of poll lead continues, one that is unthinkable in an election still far too close to call. Forewarned, as they say, is forearmed.

What will surely weigh heavily in the minds of all the major players at that point are the desires of one man, who over the last couple of years has shown himself to be the party’s trickiest stakeholder. That man is Len McCluskey.

While the furore of the Falkirk selection disaster has died down and the party reform agenda has largely gone through for the long term, Unite has been quietly preparing itself for a post-election world. It seems fairly obvious that, should Labour win, the chances of a split with Unite look remote; it would be a short route to instant marginalisation. As Prime Minister, Miliband could afford to face down a little union cage-rattling, and potentially even expand his party reform agenda.

But were Labour to lose – and presuming losing were deemed a “hanging offence” for the current leader, though we should not rule out, by the way, that Miliband might not look to hang on as a unity candidate –there would be a leadership election in which, as Uncut has observed before, it would be politically impractical to preclude unions from taking part “in the old way”. That is, such that candidates would need to court them just as they did before the Collins reforms. McCluskey would, at this point, have three important levers at his disposal.

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Axelrod won’t make a difference as long as Zombie Labour marches on

18/04/2014, 01:33:10 PM

by David Talbot

The charge was made infamous by Unite’s Len McCluskey who, in typically robust style, refuted comments made by the Labour MP and former Shadow Chancellor, Alan Johnson.

That the former general secretary of the Communication Workers’ Union had the audacity to attack the trade union movement in the organ that they most despise, Progress, ensured that this former comrade had joined the dead roll-call of “Blairite zombies”. Indeed, the moniker is seemingly used to tar anyone who is either proud of the work of three successive Labour governments, or who is not an instant adherent of whatever ‘One Nation’ Labour purports to be.

The imagery is powerful, as those who deploy it clearly acknowledge, and the connotations serious. It is used a weapon of instant dismissal, not on the merits of the argument being put forward but on the political relevance, or not, of the person articulating them.

For we know that happens when movements, parties or politicians continue to stagger forward, limp-like, dead behind the eyes. They become “zombies”. Unable to articulate any coherent political thought they mindlessly harp back to better days, presumably when they were at least alive, and stick cult-like to their dogma.

For the left of the party, who have monopolised this attack on the perceived wickedness of the Labour right, this interpretation allows them to, at a stroke, blame them for all the party’s woes. It is the swivel-eyed, walking-dead platoon of Blairite ultras holding Labour back, so the argument goes.

The living dead in the Labour party are, though, not the target often cited. With their clammy dead hands it is not the Blairites who have a zombie grip on the direction on the Labour party. The political lobotomies belong solely to the left of the party who, with the recklessness of those about to die, have realised they could do everything they ever dared for.

When deciding whether to sign on the dotted line, its unlikely that Labour’s newest guru, David Axelrod, had full sight of these legions on the undead left. But as he gets to work, he will soon understand their power.

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