X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week. If you receive it, you’ll also find your subscriber number at the top of our weekly highlights email.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.spectator.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050. If you’ve only just subscribed, you may not yet have been issued with a subscriber number. In this case you can use the temporary web ID number, included in your email order confirmation.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

If you have any difficulties creating an account or logging in please take a look at our FAQs page.

Coffee House

Len McCluskey: Fine to reform Labour’s union link, but I want more power

24 July 2013

3:25 PM

24 July 2013

3:25 PM

Today’s broadcast from Len McCluskey Land was always going to be fun. For those of us who only lived through the tail end of the 1980s, the Unite General Secretary’s speech was a useful glimpse of that decade and the one before. It was also peppered with some great characters: a chap who Len called Paul Dackery who, when not editing a national newspaper that made a rather embarrassing editorial judgement 80 years ago, apparently likes to go around licking people’s boots. McCluskey addressed Dacre and his colleagues at the Mail, saying ‘we know you like to kick the poor while licking the boots of the rich’. Apart from anything else, kicking and licking at the same time would make for quite impressive gymnastics on the part of this Mr Dackery, whose name is such poison to the Unite leader that he didn’t even want to pronounce it properly.

Offstage, a small violin wept as McCluskey turned on the ‘Tory media and New Labour spin doctors’, who apparently ‘will never ever be able to understand the solidarity of working people’. A funny thing to say in the week that polling found 61 per cent of Unite members don’t think McCluskey or Ed Miliband represent them or the things they care about, but never mind. McCluskey didn’t seem that bothered, defending his union so robustly that he even said ‘your union did nothing wrong in Falkirk’ as he insisted that it had stuck to the rules, even if the rules were a bit bad and might, he conceded, need changing. McCluskey has already criticised the report into the row, which he hasn’t seen, but which his political director was able to read and take notes on. Today he stuck the knife in a bit further, saying the report was ‘a shoddy force which every one of you here… would recognise as a disgrace’.

[Alt-Text]


This was all a nice bit of drama, but not surprising. What will cause more meaningful drama in the months ahead is the direction in which Len is clearly taking his union. While he was very keen to say that Ed Miliband’s speech about reforming the Labour link with the trade unions was ‘an opportunity, not a threat’, he also made perfectly clear that it’s not just the link that must change: it’s the party too. He spoke of the need for Labour to present itself as a party attractive to Unite members in order to attract sufficient numbers of them to register as affiliate members.

The funny thing is, Len might find a Labour party that is really attractive to Unite members is not one that he personally finds attractive. Lord Ashcroft (and goodness knows what funny name the Unite boss would give this right-wing villain) found that 86 per cent of Unite members back the government’s £26,000 benefit cap. Awkwardly, quite a lot of them enjoy reading that nasty Mr Dackery’s paper, too: 20 per cent against 11 per cent who read the Mirror and 11 per cent who read the Guardian.

But back in Lenland, the Labour party will have to become more attractive at least to McCluskey himself. Because the clear line from this speech was that the union will happily submit to the ‘bold’ reforms proposed by Ed Miliband so long as it gets more of a say in policy-making. And the threat was there too: McCluskey said the union’s political fund could be put to a ‘variety’ of uses, ‘not just handing over to the Labour party as has generally happened’. Which shows just how bold Miliband is going to have to be, not just in reforming the specific union link, but in keeping control of his party’s policymaking process.

Give something clever this Christmas – a year’s subscription to The Spectator for just £75. And we’ll give you a free bottle of champagne. Click here.


Show comments
Close