Len McCluskey: Labour members should have a say on party leadership candidates
Labour members should have a say on the party's leadership candidates rather than it being left to just MPs, Len McCluskey has said.
In a major intervention, the Unite boss said that with its membership at an all-time high, Labour should be a more "open, democratic party".
If passed, the idea would dramatically increase the chances of Jeremy Corbyn's successor also coming from the party's left-wing, given the huge number of new members who have joined up to support the leader.
At the moment, candidates to be Labour leader must receive nominations from 15% of its MPs in order to get on the ballot paper.
Proposals to reduce that threshold to just 5% - known as the McDonnell amendment - are set to be debated at the Labour conference in Brighton later this month.
But appearing on Radio 5Live's Pienaar's Politics, Mr McCluskey - who wields huge influence within Labour because his union is the party's main paymaster - said he wanted to go even further.
He said: "The Labour party is now the largest political party in Europe and therefore the idea that it is only MPs that decide who goes on a ballot paper, I think is wrong.
"I'd like to widen the franchise, so I'm in favour of having a debate about these things. What I am in favour of is Jeremy's belief that we should have an open, democratic party. Unfortunately, under New Labour it was bureaucratic and stifled debate."
Mr McCluskey also spoke of his sadness at the end of his friendship with Tom Watson, Labour's deputy leader.
The pair were briefly flatmates, and are former political allies, but their relationship broke down following the attempt to unseat Jeremy Corbyn last summer.
"I am genuinely sad to have lost Tom's friendship," Mr McCluskey said. "I got on really well with him socially and we had good times together, but you'll have to ask him why he did what he did, which is to be part of a stupid and rather sinister coup to rather undermine the leadership when Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell were the first political leaders for 40 years attempting to put forward an alternative economic strategy to neoliberalism, which has resulted in massive inequality within our nation.
"Why was there constant knifing in the back? I don't know and you'll have to ask him that."
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