General secretary Len McCluskey has announced that Unite the Union will use the funding withdrawn from Labour after its affiliation cut to “support and nurture the newer voices in our movement”.
The executive council of Unite narrowly voted yesterday to reduce its affiliation to Labour by 10%, or 50,000 affiliates, which is a significant move – though the union will remain the party’s largest trade union affiliate.
Announcing the decision officially this morning, McCluskey said Unite would use the political funds to support the “very talented thinkers and energetic organisations out there who could do with our assistance”.
The Unite general secretary said: “Unite is and will remain the biggest affiliate to the Labour party, something that we are very proud to be.
“We know that it is this union’s financial support and dedicated activists that help ensure that the Labour party is not just election-ready but sustained between elections.
“But we also want to use our political funding to support and nurture the newer voices in our movement. There are some very talented thinkers and energetic organisations out there who could do with our assistance – and the Labour Party needs their enthusiasm and ideas, too.”
McCluskey explained that the redirection of funds would go to different parts of the wider labour movement, in a hint that he believes Keir Starmer’s leadership should listen more to affiliated unions and grassroots activists.
He added: “Unite stands committed to transforming our country into a better place for working people so it is vital Labour remains the party of change and ideas, of redistribution and fairness.
“Our party has been the engine of progress in these isles during both the last and this century, from developing universal healthcare and education to Sure Start and NHS investment.
“We want to make sure it retains that spirit and determination because our movement’s brighter future – and a Labour government in 2024 – depends on this.”
In a pre-recorded interview with BBC Newsnight that aired last night but was conducted before the meeting, McCluskey said executive members of Unite were “angry” about the party’s handling of the Panorama libel case.
Labour apologised “unreservedly” in July to ex-staffers and journalist John Ware in the case about antisemitism. The party agreed to pay “substantial damages” believed to have cost between £600,000 and £750,000.