Unite hopeful dubs Jeremy Corbyn and Len McCluskey 'yesterday's men' as ballots go out
Jeremy Corbyn and Len McCluskey have been branded “yesterday's men” as voting began in the crunch election to be Unite's general secretary.
Union official Gerard Coyne – who hopes to replace Mr McCluskey as Unite boss – launched the attack in an ad van.
It said that by contrast, Mr Coyne was the “change candidate” who should lead Unite into the future.
The blast is the latest salvo in the ill-tempered election, which will decide who will take charge of the UK's largest trade union for the next five years.
Mr Coyne, who is Unite's regional secretary for the West Midlands, said he would focus on members' concerns rather than interfering in Westminster politics.
His comments came after Mr McCluskey gave his close political ally Mr Corbyn 15 months to turn around Labour's fortunes.
“The election to choose the leader of Unite will be a landmark in trade union history, a choice between the future and the past,” said Mr Coyne.
“Do we want Unite led by someone who carries on like a 1970s union baron, throwing his weight around in Westminster, making and breaking political careers? That is the game Len McCluskey played when he poured £225,000 of union funds into Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaigns – and then, yesterday, gave Mr Corbyn just 15 more months to prove that he is worth what Unite has spent on him.
“That kind of behaviour is for yesterday's men. With vast changes coming to our economy, a union leader should be focused day in, day out, on issues like Brexit, zero hours contracts, and the shifting nature of work.”
Speaking yesterday, Mr McCluskey – who is hoping to be elected Unite boss for the third time – insisted Mr Corbyn still retained his support.
“The reality is that I’m hoping he’s given the opportunity to put the alternative that Labour are building to the British electorate and hopefully we’ll see if he can break through, the opinion polls begin to change,” he told BBC 5live’s Pienaar’s Politics.
“I would suggest that the next 15 months or so will give us the answer to that.”
In a message to Unite members, Mr McCluskey said: "My message to Unite members, as ballot papers go out, is that I will continue to fight tirelessly for your jobs, your pay and conditions, for investment in your industries, for quality apprenticeships and skills for the future, and for security for your communities.
"I have travelled across the country meeting thousands of members in their workplaces and I have heard their concerns about the future of their industries and the impact of a hard Brexit, the threat of automation to their jobs, austerity, crumbling public services, insecure work, the rise of zero hour contracts, even one-hour contracts, and what sort of future their kids face.
"Under my continued leadership, Unite will continue to fight for better pay and conditions, for job security, investment and a strong union at work, while leading from the front in campaigning for a better future for all our members, their families and their communities."