Len McCluskey brands Labour payout to anti-semitism whistleblowers 'huge miscalculation' and warns party not to take Unite funding 'for granted'
Unite boss Len McCluskey (Credit: PA)
Unite chief Len McCluskey has branded Labour's decision to pay compensation to a group of anti-semitism whistleblowers a "huge miscalculation".
And he warned the party's new leader Sir Keir Starmer not to take the union's massive financial backing "for granted".
In an interview with the Observer, Mr McCluskey - who is due to stand down in 2022 - said he had no plans to bow out early.
A key ally of the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the union boss said the left would continue to apply pressure to his successor, saying Sir Keir "has to recognise that the ship he is sailing...if it lists too much to the right, then it will go under".
He also said there was "no doubt" that Unite's executive committee would want to review the sums it gives to Labour, as its biggest donor, in the wake of the decision to pay "substantial damages" to seven former staff members who took part in a BBC Panorama documentary on anti-semitism last year.
They took their case to court after the party suggested they had acted in bad faith. Labour issued an unreserved apology last months for "false and defamatory" comments made at the time, as well as agreeing the financial settlement.
But Mr McCluskey claimed the party’s own legal advice stated it would successfully fight the claims in court.
“It’s quite extraordinary, especially from a barrister,” he said.“
"All of us want to try to draw a line under the issue [of anti-semitism]. The quicker the last anti-semite in the Labour party is expelled and kicked out, the better for all of us.
"So I understood him wanting to do that, but you have to balance things.
“There were lots of claims and criticisms that the Labour party was institutionally antisemitic. I absolutely reject that.”
Asked if Unite would really stop bankrolling the party - having handed out more than £7million since the start of 2019 - he said: “It would be a mistake if anybody took Unite for granted. I think that would be a mistake.”
Labour's finances have been under the spotlight with nine more ex-staffers set to make data breach claims over a leaked report which saw their WhatsApp messages made public.
The 800-page report revealed in April denied that Mr Corbyn had failed to tackle anti-semitism in the party, suggesting such claims were made to undermine his position.
Sources close to the cases suggested it could cost Labour “a few hundred thousand pounds” if the party chose to settle, or “many millions” if the fresh action went to court.