Gerard Coyne announces bid to topple Len McCluskey as Unite chief

Posted On: 
13th December 2016

Gerard Coyne has announced his candidacy for the leadership of Unite with a vow to focus on members rather than "playing Westminster power games".

Gerard Coyne announcing his bid this morning at Fort Dunlop in Birmingham
Credit: 
PA

Mr Coyne, who is Unite's regional secretary in the West Midlands, announced his bid this morning with a call for Unite to become "strong, smart and organised".

The contest was triggered when Mr McCluskey announced last week that he would be standing down before his five-year term was due to come to an end in 2018.

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The Liverpudlian leftwinger now aims to win a third term to stay in post until at least 2020, allowing him to continue supporting Jeremy Corbyn and exerting huge financial and political influence over the Labour party.

The pair now face a long-running campaign, with the result not announced until April of next year.

'PARTY POLITICS'

Mr Coyne's pitch for the top job is centred on moving the union away from the internal Labour party rows that have dominated Mr Corbyn's leadership.

"I want to make sure we focus on protecting members’ rights at work. And I want our union to work harder for you and your family, delivering better value for your money. Employers are using competition from overseas to justify keeping wages low," the former Sainsbury's worker said in a statement this morning.

"We have got to be strong, smart and organised but we can’t be distracted by party politics.

"As a candidate, my priority is making a real difference for you rather than playing Westminster power games. It’s time we changed the union to reflect our members’ priorities."

'GAME CHANGER'

Last week a senior Labour source told PoliticsHome that defeat for Mr McCluskey would be a "game changer" in trying to unseat Mr Corbyn as Labour leader.

"Deposing Len as general secretary would give us a chance of winning the next election," said the insider.

"At a stroke it would remove Unite's support for Jeremy, leaving him vulnerable if there was another coup. The stakes are huge."

TWO SALARIES

As PoliticsHome reported last week, the union will be paying two general secretaries' salaries until the end of the election, as Mr McCluskey will remain in post while Gail Cartmail also takes on the role of acting general secretary.

Ironically the official reason given for Mr McCluskey's resignation was that it would save the union money.

In a statement Unite said: "This will ensure that the ballot for executive council members and the ballot for general secretary are conducted simultaneously, minimising the enormous costs caused to the union by the legal requirement to conduct the ballot by post and not by modern voting methods, thereby saving the union in the region of £1 million."