The Leadership of Unite Matters!

If you hadn’t already noticed, the critical issue of the Labour leadership has been a particularly hot issue over the last year… as it was the year before. If the British public are to avoid future Government’s led by the Tories or worse, then the individuals we elect to lead our Labour organisations has never mattered more.

Ellie Mae O’Hagan however disagrees, and earlier this week penned an intriguing article for The Guardian that was titled “Whoever leads Unite, its support for Corbyn is unlikely to falter” (January 4, 2017). Here Ellie is referring to Len McCluskey’s decision to stake his own future as the General Secretary of Unite the union upon the line by calling an election for his own post one year early.


With Unite representing the Labour Party’s biggest donor, one might assume that the individual elected to lead the union is important, as if McCluskey were to lose the election it would represent a massive kick in the teeth for Jeremy Corbyn and the type of progressive pro-union politics that he represents. Afterall, as Ellie points out, McCluskey’s primary opponent in the election, Gerald Coyne, publicly refers to him as Corbyn’s “puppet master”.

Nevertheless Ellie has convinced herself that “it’s unlikely things would be much different” at Unite with a more right-wing leader.

But clearly this is wrong, as the deposing of one of Corbyn’s most visible trade union supporters would have a dramatic and negative impact upon Corbyn and British society more generally. Such a vote would illustrate that the endless hate campaign being waged against Corbyn in the media and within his own parliamentary ranks, would have convinced a large number of the very people who would benefit most from a Corbyn-led Labour government to cast their lot in with his opponents.

Ellie correctly extolls the democratic and accountable nature of trade unions, which makes for a nice change as far as The Guardian is concerned. She adds that as “all trade unions live and die on bread-and-butter industrial work,” this then means that “have little interest in playing some kind of cameo role in the internal dramas of the Labour party.” But again this is not true, as trade unions and their membership have a very real vested interest in electing a socialist government that would repeal this countries backward anti-trade union laws, and presently Corbyn alone offers this alternative.

Then, in passing, she makes the case for why the leadership provided by Corbyn is so important to Unite members, writing:

“…it’s only since Corbyn became Labour leader that the party stopped treating unions like some kind of embarrassing rich aunt who needs to be kept in the attic while her fortune is being spent. It’s only been three years since the party called the police on Unite during the Falkirk scandal, even though an internal party investigation found no rules had been broken.

“Before that, Tony Blair positively relished dissociating himself from trade unions and left Thatcher’s restrictive legislation largely untouched.”

A loss for McCluskey would represent a perfect opportunity for the majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party to call for Corbyn’s resignation. So a loss for McCluskey is a loss for all British workers.


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