David Blackburn

Unite turns back the clock

Unite turns back the clock
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Len McCluskey has won the race to lead Unite, Britain’s largest union. McCluskey will therefore have a major role in how the left respond to cuts in public spending. It would premature to label McCluskey but he comes with a reputation for militancy. He cut his teeth at the Transport and General Workers Union in the 80s and was a confidant of Derek Hatton’s. And he hasn’t forsaken childish things – being an integral figure in the long running and wholely counter-productive BA dispute.

So, impeccable credentials for a man of the old left; akin to the roll call of Wellington, Sandhurst and the City for those on the right. But McCluskey must resist temptation. His predecessor, Derek Simpson, outlined what should be the basis of Unite’s opposition:

'Ranting and raving from the side lines will only keep Labour in opposition for a generation. The cuts announced this week are the tip of a very nasty iceberg but the task of opposing them will be complex.'   

Simpson’s favoured candidate, Les Bayliss, who is derisively described as ‘the anti-strike right-wing candidate’ by Left Futures, came third, more than 55,000 votes behind McCluskey. The Tories will be salivating that Unite may change the cuts narrative from government savagery to union militancy.