He backed Brexit despite having, previously, been a lukewarm supporter of EU membership, he constantly attacks the Labour leadership and his personal interventions helped secure the biggest Tory victory in decades.
Now his legacy is in danger of being destroyed in a tide of alleged sleaze and contracts being unfairly handed out to friends.
Welcome to the world of Len McCluskey. His latest problem is that Steve Turner, the “official” left candidate to succeed him as general secretary of the union has said that he would favour a QC-led enquiry into the union’s finances if any evidence of mis-spending is found over the £98 million hotel complex McCluskey ordered built in Birmingham.
McCluskey has no-one he can trust to stand up for his record. As that record includes turning the union into the second biggest in the UK – from the first – and securing record lows in union elections as members lose faith in the leadership, maybe we shouldn’t be too surprised? He has a plan though. He is backing a fellow “Mouth of the Mersey” to succeed him. But it’s not being going well. The “provisional” left alternative – Howard Beckett – is visibily struggling in the contest to succeed the man who plucked him from the obscurity of provincial solicitor to be head of the union’s legal services and now assistant general secretary. Beckett’s problem is – to put it bluntly – he regarded as largely ineffective, politically poisonous and without any track record as a rank and file trade unionist.
Turner and mainstream challenger Gerard Coyne are both widely liked across the movement and have put the years in. The struggle takes many forms but its doubtful that property conveyancing in the Wirral took you as close to the frontlines of the class war as being a bus driver (Turner) or a shop assistant (Coyne).
Of course there is no suggestion that either McCluskey or Beckett broke any law. But there is definitely the widely held suspicion that McCluskey mismanaged Unite’s affairs and Beckett has been chosen to keep that out of the public eye.