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Tue, 7 April 2020

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EXCL 'Naive' Len McCluskey condemned as Heathrow expansion sparks Labour row

EXCL 'Naive' Len McCluskey condemned as Heathrow expansion sparks Labour row
2 min read

Len McCluskey has sparked a furious Labour row after he urged the party's MPs to back a third runway at Heathrow.

The Unite general secretary has written to every Labour MP calling on them "to make the right choice" in tonight's crunch Commons vote.

His position puts him at odds with the Labour leadership, which announced last week that the project had failed to meet four tests the party set on issues such as climate change and air pollution.

Labour MPs are being given a free vote on the issue, and up to 100 are expected to support the third runway.

In his letter, Mr McCluskey said the expansion of the airport would safeguard his members' jobs and create tens of thousands more.

He said: "In the coming days you will have the chance to make a historic and positive difference to the lives of Unite members, their sons and daughters, and generations to come.

"You can ensure our country remains a world leader in aviation and aerospace, industries containing high-quality, unionised jobs."

But a senior Labour source rounded on Mr McCluskey, and accused him of working hand-in-hand with Heathrow bosses.

The source told PoliticsHome: "Unite's position on Heathrow is utterly naive and demonstrates no scrunity of the evidence whatsoever.

"The union's press releases on the third runway could have been written by Heathrow Airport's head of communications, such is the absence of objectivity.

"Labour doesn't buy Heathrow's promises about economic benefits. The SNP doesn't buy Heathrow's promises about 16,000 jobs in Scotland. Why does Unite accept the promises about tens of thousands of jobs for its members at the airport? 

"It's sad to see one of Britain's leading trade unions hoodwinked by one of the biggest corporate lobbying and advertising campaigns in history. Unite members deserve better than this."

The split between Unite and Labour is significant, given Mr McCluskey's closeness to Jeremy Corbyn. The union is also the party's largest single donor.

Former Transport Minister and Labour peer Lord Adonis told the BBC last night: "The overwhelming majority of Labour MPs are in favour and many of them see it as vital economically."

Despite splits in both Labour and the Conservatives, the Heathrow project is expected to win the backing of Parliament in the 10pm vote.

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