Unite challenger aims to unseat McCluskey with pledge to spend less time on “party politics”

13th December, 2016 9:37 am


The leading challenger to Len McCluskey to run Unite today ended weeks of speculation to launch his campaign with a pledge to curb the union’s involvement in Labour politics.

Gerard Coyne, secretary of Unite in the West Midlands, said he would avoid “Westminster power games” and vowed to focus on safety and security at work as well as living standards.

McCluskey, one of Jeremy Corbyn’s leading allies, remains favourite to be returned as general secretary after he stepped down last week to seek re-election.

Today Coyne began to make his pitch to members of Unite with an indication that he will reduce the scale of involvement by Britain’s biggest union in Labour Party politics.

“As a Unite member you deserve to be safe and secure in your job, to be treated fairly, and to have a decent quality of life. That’s what we must focus on as a union and that’s why I’m standing to be General Secretary. I believe our union needs to be changed so we can get on with the only job that matters; protecting and defending our members at work. That’s the job I’ll carry out if I’m elected,” he wrote in an open letter to members.

“Now I want to make sure we focus on protecting members’ rights at work. And I want our union to work harder for you and your family, delivering better value for your money. Employers are using competition from overseas to justify keeping wages low. We have got to be strong, smart and organised but we can’t be distracted party politics.

“As a candidate, my priority is making a real difference for you rather than playing Westminster power games. It’s time we changed the union to reflect our members’ priorities.”

The battle to run Unite is seen as central to the future direction of the Labour Party. The union has backed Corbyn in the last two Labour leadership elections and is the biggest donor to the party.

McCluskey spoke out against the “attempted political lynching” of Corbyn in the aftermath of the Labour leadership “coup” this summer.

If the former docker wins another term at the helm of Unite then it would take him beyond the May 2020 date which is seen as the most likely time for a general election.

The ballot of Unite members opens on March 27 and run until 28 April.

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