Len McCluskey vows to overturn Labour policy if Unite members want second Brexit vote
Len McCluskey today said he would fight to change Labour policy if Unite members say they want a second referendum on Brexit.
The boss of the powerful union said he would “use all of the influence and power of oratory that I have” to encourage a so-called ‘people’s vote’ on the final Brexit deal.
His comments are significant since Unite is Labour’s biggest paymaster and wields a lot of power on the party's national executive committee, while Mr McCluskey himself is a close ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
A poll published yesterday revealed 57% of Unite members would back a vote on the final Brexit deal – suggesting the policy of the union could change at its conference this week.
Members will get to debate and vote tomorrow on a Unite executive statement that leaves open the possibility of a huge about-turn in its approach to Brexit.
Mr McCluskey told Radio Four's World At One programme: “Be under no illusions. Whatever decision is taken tomorrow by our members here at our policy conference that becomes Unite policy.”
He added: “And I will use all of the influence and power of oratory that I have to promote that policy.”
Asked if he would use that power to secure a change in Labour party policy, he said: “We always do.”
Labour says it respects the result of the 2016 EU referendum and so is not supporting calls for a so-called "people's vote" on the final withdrawal agreement.
But Mr Corbyn refused to rule out a change of policy three times when asked about it by Sky News at the weekend.
Elsewhere in the YouGov poll of Unite members, 58% said quitting the single market - which is also Labour policy - would damage Britain.
And 61% said pushing for a free trade deal with the EU was more important than limiting the free flow of migration.
Labour MP Chris Leslie, who has been calling for a second referendum, told Radio 4: “I hope that Unite’s leadership will listen to the membership… and impress upon the Labour front bench ‘you have got to do this for the future of jobs and trade and the economy and our public services’.”
Meanwhile, Mr McCluskey has also called on Mr Corbyn to do more to re-connect Labour with its traditional supporters.
Addressing Unite's annual conference in Brighton, he said: "We all know that the next election is far from in the bag. One problem is a weakness in some industrial areas outside the big cities, among older working-class voters in particular. There is a broader sense of disconnect between London and the often run-down and ignored industrial areas.
"Extra seats in London are not going to get Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street. So test every policy against how it is going to play in Walsall and Wakefield, Mansfield and Middlesbrough, Glasgow and Gateshead.
"Put the necessity of decent secure jobs, skilled work, at the heart of everything. If you’re talking about any policy which cuts against that, it is almost certainly a mistake."