Sunday, 2 April 2017

Gerard Coyne: Another Reason to Vote Len McCluskey

Got nothing against Gerard Coyne, but in 20-plus years associating with the labour movement I have never seen a candidate run such a desperate and rubbish General Secretary election campaign. Kicking off his Unite leadership bid, Gerard criticised Len McCluskey for spending more time talking about and fiddling with the Labour Party than looking after the welfare of the members. And since then, all his campaign has done is moan about Labour, taking potshots at Jeremy Corbyn, and busily morphing into the very caricature his pitch attacked. Meanwhile, Len has run a sensible Unite-focused campaign talking about workplace rights, pensions, attacks by bosses, members' interests. You know, speaking to the people who pay his salary.

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.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Gerard Coyne did comment on the EDL guy:

http://www.votegerardcoyne.co.uk/statement_from_gerard_coyne

"I utterly condemn the racism of this abhorrent man. There is no place for racism in Unite. If he is well known locally I am surprised no disciplinary action has been taken against him. That is why I am writing today to Gail Cartmail, acting general secretary, to ask her to begin the appropriate disciplinary action. This man should be thrown out of our union."

Did you check before you asserted otherwise?

While we are at it, though, I can see no record of Len McCluskey commenting on the support from racists he has been getting... https://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/coyne-antisemitic-tweets-storm-1.434488?highlight=gerard~coyne

Ben Philliskirk said...

There are three candidates in this election. One hard-right, one bureaucratic left and another left candidate, namely Ian Allinson. My branch nominated him, thankfully, and I will gladly be voting according to their recommendation.

Phil said...

That's fair enough re: the EDL. Though I would suggest hiding it behind a 'Statement from Gerard Coyne' on his news section isn't the best way of letting the world know.

Albert Tatlock said...

Coyne is supported by the sinister and flatulent Tom Watson. Therefore, vote McCluskey. No-brainer.

Anonymous said...

You complain that Coyne has simply put a statement on his website - but McCluskey hasn't even done that about his support from anti-Semites. Why is that acceptable to you and so many others on the left?

Frankie D. said...

"Coyne is supported by the sinister and flatulent Tom Watson." As is corbyn. Do you want him out as well?

"Therefore, vote McCluskey. No-brainer." Yes, you would have to have no brain to vote based on disliking one of the only successful and popular Labour MPs around at the moment.

Phil said...

There's a huge difference between any old random tweeting anti-semitic abuse (some of which is entirely confected) and a leading member of the EDL actively and publicly campaigning for a candidate.

Anonymous said...

Watson "supports" Corbyn??

Must have missed that.....

Anonymous said...

The most notorious Tweeter "@1unionbloke" was plainly well connected in the union and enjoyed mutual interaction with Len McCluskey campaign accounts, who retweeted his messages. The idea that he was some "random" just doesn't wash.
The truth is that the left has a high tolerance for anti-Semitism, especially when it hides behind the "anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism" claim.
To be clear, this is nothing to do with Israel, it's about suggesting that there is a conspiracy of the powerful co-ordinated by Jews. That is what "@1unionbloke" alleged - claiming that Coyne was part of it.

Yes, it's terrible that an EDL member interfered in Unite's election but there is no evidence that Gerard Coyne's campaign was aware of his racist views, that isn't the case with @1unionbloke - he was tolerated until he went so far that even McCluskey's campaign realised he was a liability. But when he stuck to the claim that allegations of anti-Semitism were being made up, they happily shared his messages. Presumably because it was politically expedient to do so, rather than confront the truth that the Corbyn universe in which they were operating is now attracting large numbers of these people.

That's the allegation - not that Len McCluskey or his campaign is anti-Semitic but that it is opportunist in its approach to racism.

Ed said...

So, from that JC article, we have "apparently sent by supporters of the union's hard-left general secretary", and one named account '@1UnionBloke' (which as far as I can tell has now been deleted - I certainly can't find any trace of it online; just some cranks claiming that it was really, definitely Andrew Murray, they were sure of that, oh yes ... ). With his usual scruples, in Nick Cohen's hands this morphs into "Len McCluskey's supporters are disgusting. There's no racist propaganda too disgusting for them to use against Gerard Coyne." Hardly worth complaining about Cohen, who lies the way most of us draw breath; but since you can present no evidence whatsoever that this (one) person is a bona fide supporter of McCluskey's with a presence in the real, physical world, I call bullshit.

We have just as much and just as little evidence that the Twitter account in question was set up by a supporter of Coyne's to smear McCluskey; in fact, if we were to apply the old 'cui bono?' principle, there's far more reason to believe they intended to help Coyne. That, of course, doesn't mean Coyne's campaign had anything to do with it. As someone who wants McCluskey to win, I could set up an anonymous Twitter account and post some anti-semitic messages, denouncing him as the front-man for Jewish finance capital going up against the honest workers' friend, Gerald Coyne; the JC could then write a story about the shocking anti-semitic attitudes among Coyne's supporters (they wouldn't, of course, it wouldn't suit their anti-left, anti-Labour agenda; but let that pass). And the cycle of stupidity could go on ad infinitum. The internet offers limitless opportunities for trumped-up smears like this; remarkably it only seems to be the ones with the potential to damage the left that get picked up and amplified in the media.

On the other hand, if the same things uttered by '@1UnionBloke' had been said in public by a named member of a far-right organization, who was openly campaigning for McCluskey's reelection, you would certainly expect McCluskey's team to put out a statement condemning them out of hand and telling them to bog off as fast as their legs could carry them.

Not hard to see why you prefer to be anonymous with this calibre of argument ...

Ed said...

'High tolerance for anti-semitism', 'now attracting large numbers of these people' - shameful, mendacious trash-talk from an anonymous smear artist, repeating the same trumped-up talking points that have been demolished a hundred times before. Since you lie so crudely about matters of public record the rest of your allegations can safely be dismissed. God it'll be satisfying to see your chosen candidate go down in flames with his S*n endorsements and his odious lies about Unite and Labour.