Len McCluskey, leader of Unite – the biggest union in Britain and Ireland , with 1.4 million members and Labour’s biggest affiliate – will today emphasise his support for Ed Miliband and the Labour party in the run-up to the next general election.
Speaking at the opening of the Unite conference in Liverpool, McCluskey will draw upon the history of Liverpool dockworkers, comparing workers’ rights then with the zero hours contracts of today. He will go on to emphasise that “amidst this swamp of ill-treatment”, it is vital that Unite throws its full weight behind the Labour party – and in light of recent attacks on him, Labour leader Ed Miliband- as May 2015 approaches:
“The most important challenge Unite will face over the next eleven months is winning next year’s General Election. There is a time to have heated arguments within the Labour Party about policy. There is even a time to discuss the future of the Party itself. But that time is not now.
We have a clear and vital choice before us. It’s whether we can evict the present ruinous Conservative coalition from office and get a Labour Prime Minister into Downing Street. There is no third option. So let there be no doubt. Unite stands fully behind Labour and Ed Miliband in the increasingly radical agenda he has outlined. It is a people’s agenda and this union will be proud to fight alongside Labour to secure it.
Is there more to do? You bet there is. Ed has to understand that only by offering hope to our kids; only by being on the side of the ordinary men and women of our nations, only by rejecting the siren voices of austerity lite will he win the trust of the electorate.
Have conviction, Ed. Ignore the personal stuff, it is trivial nonsense. Our members are not interested how you eat a bacon butty, only that you bring home the bacon for working people. And we will not let Labour fight for this programme with one hand tied behind its back. We will be up against the Party of the rich, bought and paid for by the rich, with its coffers overflowing with cash from hedge funds, the City and those doing very nicely out of health privatisation.
Unite will do its bit to make sure that the next election is not financially lop-sided because democracy demands a fair fight.”
In line with this, in an interview with The Mirror, McCluskey encouraged the Labour leadership to be bold:
“Voters need hope and an alternative to this depressive, downward spiral. Ed Miliband and Ed Balls need to be bold and challenge the status quo. My call to Ed is don’t enter any coalition. If he is the largest party he should govern without tainting himself.”
This morning McCluskey will also explain that bold steps also include challenging UKIP, “which uses anti-immigrant rhetoric to mask the fact that it is anti-union, pro-big business, anti-NHS and more Thatcherite than Thatcher herself.” He will say that “Unite stands ready to take them on for what they are – a right-wing menace to our communities and our society.”
In response to ongoing negative stories about Unite in the media, McCluskey will also highlight how “the Tories, their media allies and the rest of the establishment” attack the union because they are afraid of the way Unite challenge “their privileged position in society”. But he will go on to warn:
“These attacks form part of a dangerous agenda. The Tories want to be able to reassure global big business that trade unionism is being kept in its box, that the sacred flexible labour market is not going to be challenged, that Britain is open for exploitation. If the Tories win we will face a government determined to put many of the normal functions of free trade unions outside the law. But we will be ready. And we will not be cowed.
The Conservative Party should not assume that we will put respect for unjust laws ahead of our duty to fight exploitation and ruthless employers. We will fight for our members within the law where possible. But let the Tories be in no doubt that if they push us outside of the law, they will be responsible for the consequences, not us. It’s no exaggeration to say that the future of our society, and the future of the labour movement, will be in the balance over the next twelve months. Let there be no doubt – we’re now facing the fight of our lives.”
Unite conference continues this week – including a debate on the union’s relationship with the Labour Party tomorrow.