Len McCluskey has been re-elected as General Secretary of Unite. It was something of a messy fight: his rival Gerard Coyne was suspended yesterday – we still don’t know why – and the contest was much narrower than had been expected, with McCluskey winning by just 5,000 votes. The dismal turnout of 12 per cent also suggests that many of those eligible to vote were put off by the parochial rows at the heart of this contest. McCluskey accused a ‘cabal’ of Labour figures, who he described as ‘skilled masters of the darks arts’ of trying to use the election to oust Corbyn. While Coyne suggested that the general secretary of Unite shouldn’t be ‘the puppet master of the leader of the Labour party’, in a thinly-disguised dig at his rival.
Few can blame the 88 per cent of voters who took no part in the contest. But one thing is clear: this is undoubtedly good news for Corbyn. The trade union is Labour’s biggest donor and McCluskey has been a keen supporter of Corbyn (even if that backing waned slightly recently). If Coyne had won, he would have piled pressure on the Labour leader from the off – particularly if the party does as badly in the snap election as the polls are suggesting. With McCluskey in charge of Unite, it increases the likelihood of Corbyn staying on as Labour leader – even if the result is disastrous.
Now that McCluskey has triumphed, the post-mortem is likely to be no less vicious than the contest itself. McCluskey has said before that once the election was concluded, he would be demanding answers on how what he called ‘a shameful campaign full of lies, innuendoes and smears’ was allowed to play out. It’s business as usual then for the hard-left.