Above: how today’s Telegraph portrays McCluskey
Unite and its general secretary Len McCluskey make no secret of their wish to increase the number of working class people in Parliament and to extend union influence within the Labour Party. It’s spelled out in Unite’s Political Strategy document produced in January 2012, which is widely available within Unite and not difficult for anyone to get hold of.
Unite’s strategy for the Labour Party is entirely compatible with Party rules and amounts to little more than what other pressure groups (such as the Blairite ‘Progress’ faction) are doing. Except for one crucial consideration: the trade unions founded the Labour Party and are not just a faction but an organic element within the Party.
Now, it may be that Unite has made some mistakes in Falkirk in their efforts to secure the selection of Karie Murphy. Paying for union members’ first year of Party subs is not against Labour’s rules, but if (and I stress the “if”) it’s true that some of these people didn’t even know they’d been signed up, and/or that their membership was “back-dated” to allow them to participate in the selection process, that would indefensible and it may be that Unite will have to beat a temporary, tactical retreat. But even so, that should not deter Unite’s perfectly legitimate campaign to get members and supporters selected as candidates wherever possible.
And Unite should take no lectures on Party democracy from Blairite scum like Mandelson. Kim Howells and Jim Murphy: remember how in the nineties the Blairites undermined Party democracy, gutted the annual conference of any real power and imposed candidates against the wishes of Party members? These are the last people who should be sounding off about democracy, to Len McCluskey or anyone else.
Unite may have made some relatively minor errors in Falkirk. But their campaign to increase union influence within the Party is absolutely correct and entirely within Labour’s rules.
As Jon Lansman points out at Left Futures, The Labour Party rules on all selections for public office (Chapter 5 Clause 1) are quite clear:
persons wishing to stand as a Labour candidate … where not otherwise prevented… shall also be a member of a trade union affiliated to the TUC or considered by the NEC as a bona fide trade union and contribute to the political fund of that union. Any exceptions to these conditions must be approved by the NEC.