Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Past His Sell By Date?

Len McCluskey 
Worzel Gummidge
The Politics Home web site scored a bit of a coup the other day when it predicted that Unite boss Len McCluskey would launch an unusual 'power grab' within his own union.

Kevin Schofield wrote on 30 November 2016 that McCluskey was considering bringing forward the timetable for the next general secretary's election to 2017 - because by 2018 McCluskey would be nearly 68 putting him under great pressure to hang up his boots.

On 6 December 2016 Schofield went one better with an exclusive article claiming that McCluskey planned to trigger this new timetable by voluntarily resigning and then standing for re-election himself.

Sounds completely crazy to me and I can only say that I hope Len McCluskey enjoys the same kind of success with his stunt as Zac Goldsmith, the former Conservative MP who resigned his Richmond parliamentary seat and promptly lost itto the Lib Dems.

Len McCluskey in bid to strengthen his grip on Unite
By Kevin Schofield - Politics Home (30 November 2016)

Len McCluskey has launched a secret bid to tighten his grip on Unite by extending his time as general secretary of the powerful trade union, PoliticsHome has learned.

Len McCluskey's term as general secretary of Unite is due to run until 2018
Credit: PA Images

The left-winger wants to bring forward the election for the top job until next year, in a move which could see him remain in place until the general election.

Mr McCluskey's current five-year term of office runs until 2018, by which time he will be nearly 68 and would be under massive pressure from within the union to retire.

It is understood he has told allies that if he is re-elected in 2017, he will only serve for three years before standing down at the age of 70.

His attempts to run for a third term as general secretary have potentially huge implications for the Labour party as he is a staunch supporter of Jeremy Corbyn.

Unite is also the party's biggest financial donor, giving Mr McCluskey huge influence over its policies and direction.

One senior Labour source said that Mr McCluskey losing to a moderate candidate would be a "game changer".

"Deposing Len as general secretary would give us a chance of winning the next election," said the insider.

"At a stroke it would remove Unite's support for Jeremy, leaving him vulnerable if there was another coup. The stakes are huge."

PoliticsHome understands that Mr McCluskey wants the general secretary election to take place next March to co-incide with elections to Unite's ruling executive council. He will argue that that will save the union more than £1 million.

The union's rules state that elections can only take place before the end of the general secretary's five-year term if he or she retires, resigns or dies.

But it is understood that McCluskey could overturn that rule if 75 per cent of the union's executive committee votes to do so.

He is due to hold meetings with senior figures within the union over the next few days in an attempt to secure backing for his proposal, which he would then present to the executive council next week.

Mr McCluskey refused to deny the plan before a meeting with Labour MPs in the Commons last night.

Asked whether there would be a general secretary election next year, Mr McCluskey said: "I don't think so."

He was also asked if the proposal would be discussed by Unite's executive council next week and replied: "Not to my knowledge."

Figures released last week by the Electoral Commission revealed that Unite donated £430,000 to Labour between July and September, on top of the millions which the union has ploughed into the party's coffers during Mr McClukey's time in charge.

Worzel Gummidge (03/11/13)

I heard the Unite leader - Len McCluskey - on Newsnight Scotland the other night and he comes across to me more and more like Worzel Gummidge, the famous children's TV character, for his rambling style and inability to make much sense.

Gordon Brewer, the interviewer, asked Len what he would have done if it had turned out that someone employed by Unite - was moonlighting during their day job and doing work for the Conservative Party while Unite was paying their wages.

My brain hurt trying to understand Len's rambling answer which came across as an unbelievable, incoherent and pathetic excuse - summarised best by the fact that the Unite convener at Grangemouth (Stephen Deans) resigned from a job he loved on the eve of a disciplinary hearing - rather than face accusations that he had abused his time off arrangements.

According to Len, neither Unite or Stephen Deans had anything whatsoever to apologise for even though it seems clear that the union convener was spending much of his time working on Labour Party business - instead of representing the workforce at the giant Grangemouth plant - and anyone who suggested otherwise (including Labour elder statesman Jack Straw, for example) was pursuing an 'agenda'.  

Great TV I have to admit, but painful viewing for supporters of responsible trade unionism - where people behave with decency and integrity and are not, first and foremost, obsessed with tribal party politics.

Jimmy Reid springs to mind although it goes without saying that Len could never have laced Jimmy's boots.

Finger-Jabbers (13 February 2013)

I enjoyed this entry in the Atticus column which appeared in last week's Sunday Times - because a good insult at your opponent's expense is a great weapon in political debate.

Especially if there is a real kernel of truth in what is being - as well as a barbed sense of humour. 

And on this occasion I think Alan Johnson is spot on in his assessment of the Unite leader - Len McCluskey - as I've said so myself on the blog site.  

"Alan hits out at the union finger-jabbers"

"Guess who coined this magnificently colourful and venomous description of the typical British trade union leader: 

"Fat, white, finger-jabbing blokes on rostrums, shouting and screaming."

It's worthy of Lord Tebbit or Boris Johnson. So you might be surprised to learn it is the view of the former Labour cabinet minister Alan Johnson, who once led the Communication Workers Union.

Johnson reserves particular scorn for Len McCluskey, the leader of Unite, who last year called for Blairites to be purged from the party. Speaking to Progress, a Labour magazine, the former post-man complains: "Some of our colleagues, Len might be among them, think that victory is a bourgeois concept. That the only goal for true socialists is glorious f****** defeat at every election."

This is not entirely fair comment. The unions go out of their way to win the occasional important election. Had the trade unions not intervened, the Blairite David Miliband would now be leader of the Labour party." 

Worzel Gummidge (6 January 2012)
Worzel Gummidge
Len McCluskey
I heard Unite's general secretary - Len McCluskey- on the TV last night talking about the pensions dispute.

I have to say Len comes across as just about the least impressive union leader I've ever heard - and I've met a few in my time.

Len bears an uncanny resemblance - in my opinion - to a famous character from children's TV - Worzel Gummidge - but the unfortunate thing is that he makes about as much sense as good ole Worzel too.

After his ritual condemnation of the government - Len seemed to suggest that the forthcoming Olympic Games in London - will be a target for the unions in their fight to defend final salary pension schemes - which of course only benefit the better off.

But I can't believe that's true - because trade unions sensible ones at least) never call strikes over the summer - because that's when most of their members are on holiday - either that or they're looking forward to or just got back from holiday.

The last thing they need or want is the prospect of even more hassle - and losing another day's pay - which union officials don't lose of course because they're working while their members are on strike.

So we'll wait and see what happens.

Unite is small beer - a small trade union in terms of the pensions dispute - maybe it's just a bit of sabre-rattling to help promote Len's image as the new general secretary.

Yet when I see him on the box I'm still reminded of my childhood - and my old friend Worzel Gummidge - except with shorter hair and without the hat.
Mandates R Us (1 November 2011)

Later this week we will hear the result of various trade union strike ballots - over public sector pension reform.

So before we all work ourselves up into a 'lather' - along the lines of: 'Mirror, mirror on the wall who has the biggest mandate of them all?' - I thought I'd publish this previous post on the 2010 election of Unite's general secretary.

Len McCluskey won the race with 101,000 votes - or 6.7% of Unite's 1.5 million members.

Make of that what you will.

Unite Election (22 November 2010)

Len McCluskey has been elected as the new leader of Unite - the UK's biggest trade union.

McCluskey received 101,000 votes - or 6.7% of Unite's 1.5 million members.

The other candidates were:

Jerry Hicks who came second with 52,000 votes (3.5%)

Les Bayliss who came third with 46,000 votes (3.0%)

Gail Cartmail, the only woman, with 39,000 votes (2.6%)

238,000 members took part in the ballot - which represents 15.8% of the 1.5 million members claimed by Unite.

Len McCluskey has been a member of the Labour Party for the past 39 years.