Major boost for Jeremy Corbyn as Len McCluskey re-elected Unite general secretary

Posted On: 
21st April 2017

Len McCluskey has triumphed in the Unite general secretary election after a bitterly contested battle with rival Gerard Coyne.

Len McCluskey overcame Gerard Coyne to win a third term as Unite general secretary

The news will be seen as a big boost for Jeremy Corbyn, as Unite is Labour's biggest single financial backer and Mr McCluskey is supportive of the Labour leader. 

Mr McCluskey triumphed with 59,067 votes to Mr Coyne's 53,544, with leftwinger Ian Allinson on 17,143.

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However his victory was secured on a turnout of just 12.2% of Unite members.

It follows a campaign in which both candidates traded insults, with Mr Coyne accusing his rival of trying to be the Labour leader's "puppet master".

Mr McCluskey in turn accused Mr Coyne of being the frontman for a "cabal" of MPs hostile to Mr Corbyn's leadership.

The Liverpudlian had been due to step down as general secretary in 2018, but announced his resignation at the end of last year to give himself a mandate for a fresh term.

Unite's acting general secretary Gail Cartmail admitted the turnout had been disappointing, saying: "The turnout in this important election can give no cause for satisfaction and.

"While the tone of the campaign will not have helped, the underlying reason remains the archaic and expensive balloting system imposed on trade unions by law.

"The sooner we can move to secure and secret workplace and online voting the better for union democracy."


In a dramatic late twist yesterday Mr Coyne was suspended from the union just hours after polls closed in the election.

A senior source in the Coyne campaign told PoliticsHome that the suspension could be connected to the attacks he made on Mr McCluskey – who is seeking a third term as Unite general secretary – during the campaign.

They included questions about 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. Mr McCluskey provided the rest of the money himself.