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Unite official who challenged Len McCluskey is sacked from top post

Unite official who challenged Len McCluskey is sacked from top post
3 min read

The Unite official who tried to topple general secretary Len McCluskey has been sacked by the union.

Gerard Coyne was dumped as Unite's regional secretary for the West Midlands following a disciplinary hearing.

He was suspended from the post in March, just hours after polls closed in the bitterly-fought general secretary election, which Mr McCluskey won by less than 6,000 votes.

In a statement, Mr Coyne said he was "deeply disappointed but not surprised" by his dismissal, and vowed to appeal against the decision.

He said: "When you are in a kangaroo court, you are rarely surprised by the outcome.

"I have held the post for 16 years and no complaint was raised during the hearing about how I carried out that role. However, during the disciplinary process I was informed that union rules require a regional secretary to be "the general secretary’s representative in the region".

"It was implied that because of the way I criticised Len McCluskey during the campaign I could not fulfil that role any longer."

Mr Coyne said the seven charges originally made against him "consisted of such heinous crimes as publicly criticising and challenging Mr McCluskey’s decisions in leaflets, newspapers and social media".

Six of the charges were eventually dropped, according to Mr Coyne, but he was found guilty of a data breach during the general secretary election campaign.

He added: "This preposterous trumped up charge has been used to indict me - even though the returning officer from Electoral Reform Services had already ruled that there was no breach of the rules.

"It was always clear to me that the charges were nothing more than a stitch-up. My real ‘crime’ was having the audacity to challenge Mr McCluskey in the General Secretary election that he called unnecessarily.

"The disciplinary hearing was nothing more than a show trial and the irony not lost on me that Mr McCluskey’s chief of staff, Andrew Murray - a self-confessed admirer of Joseph Stalin - was the investigator and decision maker on the charge I was dismissed for.

"It is beyond parody that I, as a 30-year member of the Labour Party, should be accused of harming Unite-Labour relations by Mr Murray, a member of the Communist Party for 40 years.

"It is a public warning to any member of Unite’s staff who is thinking of challenging the way the McCluskey gang run the union: ‘step out of line, and you will be out of a job’. Political dissent is not tolerated inside Unite."

Mr Coyne said he would not be "bullied into silence" and vowed to continue with his bid to have the election re-run.

A Unite spokesman said: “The decision is subject to a right of appeal to Unite’s executive council, and the union will be offering no further comment on the matter.”

During the general secretary election campaign, Mr Coyne accused Mr McCluskey of being Jeremy Corbyn’s “puppet master”, while the Unite boss called his rival a front man for a “cabal” of MPs hostile to the Labour leader.

Mr Coyne also questioned a deal Mr McCluskey struck with Unite to help him buy a £700,000 flat in central London. Under the arrangement, Unite contributed £417,000 to the cost of the flat near London Bridge, and the union leader provided the rest of the money himself.

Unite insisted there was nothing untoward about the arrangement, claiming it was common among union leaders forced to base themselves in London.

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