McCluskey tightens grip on Unite elections

Unite the union chief Len McCluskey has tightened his grip on internal elections this week as he digs in to defend Jeremy Corbyn.

He’s isolated and surrounded, his forces are few in number, but Len McCluskey now claims he intends to go on and on and on, telling the Unite executive council that not only will he serve out his full term but will stand again.

Few believe him – but most understand the reasoning. Without Len the little group of Stalinists that currently exercise an iron grip over Jeremy Corbyn’s office would be quickly removed from all power and influence.

But so long as McCluskey stays then the clique, centred on Karie Murphy – Corbyn’s chief of staff and close friend of Len – Seumas Milne and Andrew Murray are secure: though their baleful influence is leading even Corbyn’s most dedicated supporters in the Shadow Cabinet to the brink of despair (as shown by Diane Abbott’s tweet this morning).

Unite’s rules conference met this week and its main task has been to ensure that the union is less democratic than ever, with a change in the union’s constitution to ensure it is harder to stand for general secretary.

The target of this was not the union’s right and centre but the left – McCluskey’s Stalinist clique are determined to ensure that the union’s far left cannot stand a candidate in any future election and so have rammed through an amendment that requires any future candidate to get 5% of branches to nominate them.

The union has about 3,000 branches, though one in three exist on paper only such has been the scale of decline under McCluskey, so that means a future challenger would need around 150 nominations, compared to 50 that were needed last time.

The Stalinist faction could have changed the rules to ensure that members were given a transferrable vote – much like Labour leadership elections – but rejected that in a typical bout of conservatism.

Core to maintaining their grip on Unite is suppressing turnout and depoliticising every internal poll – fewer candidates, less publicity, less choice – all of these are the mantra of McCluskey and co.

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