Len McCluskey: “We need to unite behind Keir Starmer to cleanse Labour of this shame

Unite’s Len McCluskey

With the labour movement reeling from the revelations contained in the leaked report concerning how Labour HQ has handled complaints over anti-semitism in recent years, the party’s biggest affiliate has called for unity behind the new leader.

Writing today (Wednesday) on the Labour List site, Len McCluskey, the leader of Unite the union slammed ‘politically crooked officials’ who were prepared to harm working people and the wider economy in order to deny a Corbyn-led Labour government.

He calls for a redacted version of the report to be put into the public domain and says that Keir Starmer, who bears no responsibility for these institutional and cultural failings, must now work with the party’s ruling national executive (NEC) to direct the clean-up.

McCluskey also says that Unite, by far the largest donor during the 2017 campaign, amounting to three quarters of total union donations, has a right to ‘honest accounting’ of how the funds were spent, and questions whether electoral law and Labour Party governance procedures have been breached by secret practices.

He writes: Let us be clear what the officials, whose cynical, abusive and factional conduct has now been exposed, were actually doing.  In working for a Labour defeat, they were working for a Tory victory – that is to say, empowering the party that stood for austerity and a “hard Brexit”.  These politically-crooked officials were prepared to risk dramatic damage to the interests of the British economy and working people just in order to scratch their factional itch.

“And some of these officials have now secured peerages or been dubbed this-or-that of the British Empire “for services to the Labour Party”.  If they are to keep these distinctions, at the very least the citations should be changed to “services to the Tory Party”.

“And we – the labour movement – were paying for all this.  Indeed, it seems we were also handing over money that was, unbeknown to the Party NEC, allegedly being squirreled away into secret slush funds devoted to supporting those MPs who Party officialdom favoured.  

“At first blush, there would appear to be a case to answer for breaches of electoral law and perhaps even embezzlement. Since Unite was by far the largest single donor to the 2017 election campaign, giving around 75% of total union donations, I have the right to expect an honest accounting for this.

McCluskey continues “this was not the result of a legitimate political disagreement.  A large minority of the Labour Party membership never supported Jeremy Corbyn and they had a right to their views.  If they were employed by the Party they had every right to keep their jobs, provided they continued to do them diligently, loyally and professionally.

“But that is a world away from the rancid, and very cruel, political culture revealed in the GLU Report.  The atmosphere exposed in the exchanges varies between what one might expect to hear in the toilets at a teenage nightclub or a Trump rally.  ‘Mean Girls’ meets ‘Mississippi Burning’.

“They seem to regard the Party as their private property and anyone a millimetre to the left of Tony Blair as a “Trot”.  Andy Burnham has spoken out about how he feels the same apparatus undermined him on NHS policy.”

Calling for the issues raised not to be `swept under the carpet’ and for the labour movement to focus on the content of the report and not be distracted by secondary issues regarding its commissioning, done as part of the wider response to the EHRC inquiry, McCluskey says “Those named in the report have of course the right to defend, contextualise or explain what is set out.  They could even just apologise. We should not pre-empt any outcome, either legally or in terms of Party rule.

“But this cannot be swept under the carpet.  First of all, the Party should make a properly-redacted version of the report publicly available.

“This should not be a crisis for Keir Starmer. His desire to unite the Party is almost universally shared, and certainly has Unite’s full support.  He bears no responsibility for the state of affairs the GLU Report reveals but it falls to him and the Party NEC to direct the clean-up.

“In my view, where there is clear evidence of a party member having engaged in misogynistic or abusive conduct, or having worked to undermine the Party’s election campaign, or even having broken the law, there is a case for suspension pending a thorough investigation (with no presumption of guilt).  

“I know there are tens of thousands of Labour Party members, many of them also in my union, whose dismay at these revelations may lead them to wonder why they should stay in a Party where such things can happen. Let me urge them to remain with the Party and get behind our newly-elected leadership as they handle this crisis.

“Labour can, will and must move on.  Transparency and accountability will be key.  I am confident that Keir Starmer and Angie Rayner will be guided by these values, and will allow no return of the poisonous environment which prevailed when the hard right of the Party last ran the machine we all pay for.”


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