“Let democracy prevail” – voting in Unite GS election gets underway
The election has become increasingly bitter as challenger Gerard Coyne has stepped up his attacks on Len McCluskey’s support of Jeremy Corbyn.
Coyne has faced criticism for his links to Tom Watson and other Labour Party critics of the leader, and for using the Murdoch-owned press to promote what many people see as a negative campaign. He has also been accused of being a “Blairite hypocrite” by grassroots candidate Ian Allinson.
In an interview on the eve of the ballot, Len McCluskey appealed for senior Labour Party figures to stop meddling in the union’s internal elections and to “let democracy prevail”.
He said that Unite members want a leader who will fight for their jobs, pay and conditions and investment in their industries and would reject outside interference by senior Labour figures.
He said: “I have been meeting members across the country, from Aberdeen to Cornwall, Ireland north and south, the Channel Islands, Wales to the West Midlands. Their concerns are about investment in their industries, the impact of a hard Brexit, the crumbling public services, the future for their kids.
“I have met the health visitors in Hull who are being cut by 25%, which puts the lives of babies at risk, and energy workers at Sellafield and defence workers at Barrow who want reassurances about nuclear and defence spending. Recently I met with 200 Unite representatives from the auto industry to talk about an industrial strategy to secure a future for their sector.
“Gerard Coyne, who has become the puppet of a cabal of West Midlands MPs who are trying to use Unite’s democracy as a political football, has been persuaded that this election is an opportunity to attack Jeremy Corbyn.
“It has nothing to do with Jeremy Corbyn and my members will reject this outside interference. They are concerned about what we are doing to defend their pay and conditions, and defending them is what I intend to carry on doing.”
Coyne hit back at remarks made by McCluskey on Pienaar’s Politics on BBC 5 Live, when he appeared to give Corbyn an ultimatum of 15 months to “break through.”
Gerard Coyne said: “Who is Len McCluskey to decide that Jeremy Corbyn has 15 months to prove himself?
“He claims to run a democratic union, but he never asked ordinary Unite members in the first place who they thought would be the best Labour leader. If he had asked, I do not believe the members would have chosen Jeremy Corbyn – but McCluskey poured £225,000 of Unite funds into Corbyn’s two leadership campaigns.
“Now, without asking anyone at all, he has given Jeremy a shelf life of 15 months. By saying this, McCluskey has admitted that he may have made a catastrophic blunder in backing Corbyn at such expence.
“It demonstrates why union leaders should not meddle like this, and why Unite needs a change of leader.”
Ian Allinson said: “Coyne opened this election claiming that Unite’s leadership spent too much time on politics. Yet he has plenty to say on behalf of his New Labour backers like Tom Watson who are undermining Jeremy Corbyn.
“He’s paid for social media ads implying that he wants to overturn Unite’s democratic policy of support for Palestinian freedom in favour of backing the repressive Israeli regime. Coyne wants worse politics, not less politics. He is a Blairite hypocrite.”
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