Unite rival blasts 'puppet master' Len McCluskey for Jeremy Corbyn 'ultimatum'

Posted On: 
2nd January 2017

Len McCluskey’s main rival for the leadership of Unite has accused the union boss of acting as “Labour’s puppet master” for hinting at Jeremy Corbyn’s departure. 

Gerard Coyne is taking on Len McCluskey to be Unite general secretary
Credit: 
PA

Mr McCluskey told the Daily Mirror that if Labour’s “awful” polling ratings had not improved by 2019 then “everybody would examine that situation, including Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell".

Gerard Coyne, who is standing against Mr McCluskey to be general secretary of Unite, Labour’s biggest donor, said he was “astonished and deeply concerned” by the “public ultimatum”.

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"My criticism of his handling of the role of general secretary of Unite is not whether he has backed the right leader or the wrong leader of the Labour party, but that he appears to think it is his job to be Labour’s puppet master,” Mr Coyne said.

"In 2015 and in 2016, he decided the Labour party should be led by Jeremy Corbyn, and spent hundreds of thousands of pounds of Unite members’ money to make that happen. It is not in the interest of Unite’s members that the general secretary should spend so much of his time and their money playing politics…

“At this time of great insecurity for 1.4 million Unite members and their jobs, all Len McCluskey can talk about is the insecurity of Jeremy’s job.”

Mr Coyne, who is Unite’s regional secretary for the West Midlands, launched his bid for the leadership with a call for the union to stop “playing Westminster power games”.

Mr McCluskey has been a high-profile ally of Mr Corbyn since the left-winger first ran for the Labour leadership in 2015.

His comments today will be seen as putting the Labour leader on notice that Unite’s backing is not unconditional.

He told the Mirror: “Let’s suppose we are not having a snap election. It buys into this question of what happens if we get to 2019 and opinion polls are still awful.

“The truth is everybody would examine that situation, including Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell…

“These two are not egomaniacs, they are not desperate to cling on to power for power’s sake.”