McCluskey attacks Tories over “unpatriotic” defence policy


Len McCluskey

Len McCluskey has attacked the Government’s “incompetent, short-sighted, and unpatriotic” defence policy over its failure to support British manufacturing.

The Unite general secretary called for a British-focussed approach to defence spending as he provided a sobering update on the number of domestic defence jobs, saying:

  • 50,000 skilled defence manufacturing jobs have been lost in the last decade.
  • 5,000 jobs will go at BAE in Warton in Lancashire over the next four years unless the plant wins new contracts from the Government.
  • More jobs are at risk because each role in frontline defence manufacturing helps support another five to seven jobs in the supply chain.

McCluskey also highlighted data which show Britain is set to double – from 12 per cent to 25 per cent – the share of the UK defence budget which supports American jobs by 2020.

He also pledged that Unite would defend “every last job” of members in the British defence industry.

“Our clear message to politicians is that this union will never support any public policy which sees our members and their communities thrown on the scrapheap. The skills, productivity and ingenuity they possess are why they represent the best of British manufacturing capabilities, and the best of an industrial tradition that too many politicians have been too careless about for too long,” McCluskey said.

“Up and down the country, communities depend on the defence industry for their prosperity, for jobs, for a future for young people, and for economic security. No trade union that I lead is ever going to allow any of that to be put at risk.”

This follows the launch of Unite’s “Defend our Spend” campaign which will pressure the Government to bring UK defence work in-shore. The campaign highlights the threats to British sovereignty from over-reliance on foreign defence equipment as well as the benefits to the UK economy from spending at home.

McCluskey went on to highlight Unite’s support of Trident saying the union is “right behind” members and said the media focus on Labour’s defence policy distracted from the Tory failure to support the industry. 

“Some are trying to make this all about the Labour Party. Jeremy Corbyn has the views on disarmament that he has always held, and I think the public are tired of politicians who trim their opinions to fit fashion. I respect that – and him.

“But the Labour Party must respect this – Unite is a trade union and for us, our members, their jobs and their communities must come first.

“But our focus must first of all be on the Government. That is where decisions are being made, and the Tories are playing games with your jobs.

“They are trying to keep the whole issue of nuclear weapons in the news because it embarrasses Labour and covers up their own deep splits over Europe rather than engaging in the debate and responsibly planning for the future of the industry.”

McCluskey’s speech follows comments from Emily Thornberry, Labour’s shadow Defence Secretary, who criticised the Government for continued cuts to the armed forces since 2010 in the light of an“increasingly strident” foreign policy from Russia.

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