In a Sky News interview on July 5th Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey made a robust, passionate and forthright defence of Unite in regard to Falkirk and allegations of bullying – and according to arch Blairite Jim Murphy MP “overstepping the mark” (‘whatever that means’ – Len McCluskey)
In the two minutes plus interview (see above) – Len told reporters that Unite had done nothing wrong. He said that Unite had been trying to recruit union members to join Labour which was was precisely what Ed Miliband wanted unions to do. reviving moribund local parties, he said. This was under a reduced rate membership scheme (promoted by Ed Miliband for Usdaw) introduced under the leadership of Tony Blair.
Courtesy of Andrew Sparrow in the Guardian here is a summary of what Len said:
On Labour’s handling of the Falkirk affair: He said the internal report produced by the party was unfair and unsatisfactory and that, in attacking Unite when he should be concentrating on the government’s failings, Ed Miliband was adopting a Tory agenda. “I”m afraid the way it has been handled by the Labour party headquarters is nothing short of disgraceful. We believe they have handled it absolutely amateurishly. And they’ve played into the prime minister’s and the coalition’s hands, who must be rubbing their hands at this. At a time when our economy is flat-lining, and nobody has got a clue how to get us out of the mess we’re in, the Tories must be delighted. And I’m afraid the responsibility for that lies fairly and squarely at the doorstep of Labour headquarters. We are in the middle of a media storm which has been caused by Labour’s inability to deal with this situation. They’ve shot themselves in the foot”.
On Unite getting members to join the Labour Party in Falkirk, the union was merely pursuing a strategy supported by Miliband: “Indeed that’s what Falkirk was all about – us trying to recruit ordinary working people, ordinary trade unionists, to become members of the Labour party so that our values could be promoted. That’s part of Ed Miliband’s Refounding Labour. And for some reason we are now being castigated. And I don’t know why. Was it asking for trouble for us to go our members and say “join the Labour party” and for our members to say “okay, we’re prepared to have a go, we’re prepared to join the party, we’re prepared to resurrect constituencies which, in many cases, were moribund. There’s nothing wrong with that.
On Jim Murphy, the shadow defence secretary’s comments: “We’ve got shadow cabinet members saying that Unite have overstepped the mark. What does that mean? We asked too many of our members to join the Labour party? We should have told them that the Labour party was full up perhaps? It is a nonsense”.
A Clause 4-style confrontation with the unions: “It’s depressing that Labour leaders seem to want to have a Clause 4 moment, they have got to have a situation where they front up union leaders. Well, Ed doesn’t need to front up me. I’m his friend. I support him”.
Personal support for Ed Miliband: “Do I still support Ed MIliband? Yes. Ed Miliband is the leader of our party. There is absolutely no question of that. He has my full support and Unite’s full support. But that does not mean to say that we agree on everything. In a democratic party you can disagree.“ He also said that he had not spoken to Miliband about Falkirk.
On links with Labour: “We are part of the Labour party. There are individuals within the Labour party who would like to break the link. Certainly the Tories would like to break the link and the rightwing media would like to break the link. We are part of the party, we are proud of our party, we created it, nobody is going to push us out”.
Unite has done nothing wrong: “As far as Unite is concerned, we’ve done nothing wrong. We are being attacked mercilessly by the media. To our knowledge, we’ve done nothing wrong”.
On an independent inquiry into the events in Falkirk: “That was the only way to establish the truth”
“No confidence whatsoever” in the internal report compiled by Labour: “People criticised in the report were not given a chance to respond to the allegations made about them, he said. In fact, they were not even interviewed. And Unite was not even interviewed”. Len claimed that he had not seen the internal Labour party report. This morning Angela Eagle said he had seen it.
On a police inquiry into the events in Falkirk : “I’m sure the police have got a lot better things to do than this”.
Len said that Unite would cooperate with the police inquiry into the events in Falkirk. But he also said that having a police investigation was not a satisfactory way of getting to the bottom of what happened. The police would not produce a public report, he said. At one point, before he corrected himself, he said their report would be “inaccurate”. “Unite will obviously cooperate with any inquiry, although I’m certain that [the police] will produce as inaccurate – a report that isn’t as full as we would like. That’s why we’re saying there should be an independent report”.
Len said he would personally accept responsibility if an independent inquiry found that Unite had done something wrong and that Ed Miliband could win the general election – provided he persuaded ordinary people he was on their side.
Update: Read Mark Seddon: ‘The Labour Party Needs Unions To Keep It In The Real World’,