It's not just this that irritates about Gerard's challenge. His campaign has effectively gone out of its way to troll Unite's activist base. Let's just add the interventions up. Pitches in the Daily Express and The Sun (the latter coming with the endorsement of anti-union "hardman", Trevor Kavanagh), the backing of Richard Littlejohn, daft (and ill-timed) student-style stunts, an attack on the union's record with women workers, accusing it of bullying and intimidation(!) without a shred of evidence, praise for Stoke's Indy/Tory/Kipper council, blaming Len for Labour losing Copeland, driving campaign placards around in the middle of nowhere, and the pièce de résistance, a leading member of the English Defence League campaigning on his behalf without comment from Gerard himself (edit: see comments below).
Not only is this a bad campaign, it's a bloody stupid campaign. Yet there is method behind the madness. A campaign document leaked to the Indy at the fag end of last year pointed out that deposing Len and getting Gerard in would depend on boosting the turnout. A not unreasonable supposition. And, typical of those in and around Westminster who think workers are thick and solidly behind UKIP, boosting the numbers voting means a race-to-the-bottom anti-Labour campaign. Hence the Express. Hence the love for rightwing local authorities. Hence the attacks on Unite's relationship to Labour. Should we be surprised then that the likes of Littlejohn and the EDL are on board?
Even worse is this campaign is being run and directed by Labour people, and people who, until recently, had a fearsome reputation for fixing and the dark arts. What in fact their strategy underlines is the pickle the trade union and Labour right are in. In the Labour Party, union influence was used to stymie and then reverse the gains made by left during the 1980s. Today, unions retain significant clout but are no longer at the beck and call of the Labour right. The latter has retreated almost entirely into the apparatus, the cadres of councillors, and the PLP. It means their capacity to intervene in the big unions is limited as most lay activists and officialdom are well to their left, even if they're not Corbyn supporters. And if they could they've shown they haven't a clue how to relate to trade unionists as workers anyway. Their political collapse is ultimately a consequence of their organisational collapse.
Thankfully, there is something Unite members can do about this. There are a number of positive reasons to vote for Len. His industrial record, and how enemies and opponents of the labour movement loath him immediately spring to mind. But Gerard Coyne's campaign have supplied another. A vote for Len McCluskey is a vote against cynical, anti-Labour politics and sends a message that this is not acceptable in our movement. My ballot paper is filled out and ready for posting. I hope yours is too.