Union chief warns of Labour “chasm” as Corbyn readies party for general election

20th September, 2016 3:24 pm


Labour could face a long spell in Opposition unless it begins to heal divisions in the aftermath of the leadership contest, a trade union boss warned today.

John Hannett, general secretary of Usdaw, said major changes were necessary to tackle the “depth of the chasm” .

He spoke out as it emerged that Jeremy Corbyn, who is expected to retain the leadership on Saturday, intends to put Labour on a general election footing.

Today Hannett said Labour’s current strife was the worst since the 1970s.

“I’ve been around the Labour party for 40 years, and it’s the worst I’ve witnessed. That means there’s a big responsibility on those decision-makers to put that right,” he told The World At One.

“It’s the scale of this – it’s the depth of the chasm that exists at the moment that requires major repair. Otherwise, we could be in opposition for some time. You can’t win an election from a position of internal turmoil.”

Usdaw, which endorsed Owen Smith in the leadership contest, is Britain’s fourth-largest trade union.

The intervention of Hannett, who represents 433,000 workers in the retail, road transport and food manufacturing sectors, comes as the deadline for the return of Labour ballots passes at 12pm tomorrow.

Today it was suggested that Corbyn would tell party staff that a general election could come as soon as the spring.

The leader is expected to outline practical steps the party should take to prepare for a national poll, Newsnight reported.

Corbyn believes such a move would concentrate the minds of MPs and encourage them to halt their attacks on his leadership, it is said.

Theresa May has publicly ruled out calling a general election before 2020 – despite criticising Gordon Brown for refusing to go to the country when he entered Number 10 in 2007.

If the prime minister were to change her mind, and seek to override the law on fixed-term parliaments, then Corbyn would instruct Labour MPs to vote for an election, despite the party’s record low poll ratings, it is claimed.

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