Len McCluskey blasts Unite 'meddlers' as he storms branch nominations
Len McCluskey has accused Unite rival Gerard Coyne of joining forces with "meddlers" in a bid to destroy the union as he won the overwhelming backing of branches across the country.
The trade union heavyweight is in a three-way battle for the top job against West Midlands regional secretary Mr Coyne and workplace activist Ian Allinson.
Results announced this morning showed Mr McCluskey won some 1,185 nominations from Unite branches around the UK, with Mr Coyne getting just 187 and Mr Allinson 76.
The branches who have nominated Mr McCluskey represent some 559,000 workers, compared to just shy of 100,000 in those who backed Mr Coyne.
In an extraordinary statement, the veteran left-winger, who is aiming for his third stint as Unite general secretary, said: "I am honoured to have received the nomination of so many Unite branches across the UK, working in all sectors of the economy. This incredible level of backing is a vindication of what our great union has achieved for working people under my leadership.
"It is also a rejection of the cynical approach of one opponent, which is not to offer a positive vision for our union but to taint it with smears and do the bidding of meddlers from outside our union who would rather destroy Unite than see it provide strength and hope for working people.
"This huge vote of confidence in my leadership demonstrates members want the union to remain proud, democratic and independent of outside interference."
Mr Coyne has raised questions about a shared equity deal which saw Unite contribute around £400,000 towards a central London flat Mr McCluskey bought last year.
Mr McCluskey triggered the election when he stepped down as general secretary midway through his second term, which would have run until 2018.
Should he win the contest it will enable Mr McCluskey to run the union up until the general election in 2020.
That would allow him to continue supporting Jeremy Corbyn and exerting huge financial and political influence over the Labour party.
He and Mr Coyne have been embroiled in a bitter war of words since the beginning of the campaign, with the left-winger claiming today’s result was a “rejection of the cynical approach” adopted by Mr Coyne.
Mr Coyne has accused his rival of being a “puppet master” obsessed with Westminster politics, while Mr McCluskey has in turn accused his opponent of peddling “smears and lies”.
In response to today's result, Mr Coyne said: "The number of nominations each candidate received is no guide to the eventual result. This is clear from previous elections. For instance, in the last contest for the post of general secretary of Amicus, before that union merged with the TGWU to form Unite, the incumbent, Ken Jackson received 352 nominations, but was beaten by the challenger, Derek Simpson, who had 93 nominations.
"Len McCluskey is a machine politician, elected by one in ten Unite members on a low turn out. Full time Unite officials were under heavy pressure during the nomination period to deliver for McCluskey.
"Gerard Coyne is appealing to the mass of Unite members who are not part of the McCluskey machine. He is very pleased to have received nominations from every region of the UK, despite the machine, and he will win."