Socialist Worker

McCluskey’s strategy won’t reclaim Labour

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2364

The rift and regroupment between union leaders and the Labour Party leadership will rumble on over the summer.

The police declared “nothing to see here” over the Falkirk selection process that sparked the row. 

But Labour has said it will still discipline party members over the selection. 

Unite let it be known that it threatened to strike at Grangemouth oil refinery to defend one of those concerned. 

Meanwhile The Sun is running stories such as Monday’s “How the reds fund Ed” every other day.

Unite leader Len McCluskey moved on from welcoming Ed Miliband’s proposals to weaken the party’s link with Labour. 

His speech last week was presented as an astute move to put the debate back on Unite’s terms, but it will be seen as an acceptance of defeat.

He said, “There will be difficulties for the party—its income from trade unions will shrink, possibly dramatically. 

“Certainly, Unite will be using its political fund for a variety of initiatives—not just handing it over.

“This is an opportunity to do our political strategy better than before because our voice and our votes become seen as legitimate.”

He added that for years relations had been strained by the feeling that “we have been taken for granted by people who welcome our money but not our policy input”.

And that is the nub of the problem for all those with a “reclaim Labour” strategy. 

Within minutes “senior Labour sources” as the media like to put it said, “Donations from any source—be they from big businesses or major trade unions—will, as now, have no link with policy proposals.”

The truth is that the trade unions’ relationship with Labour isn’t equal.

Union leaders are caught between the pressure of their members and their loyalty to Labour. That’s why they bounce between praising and condemning Labour leaders. 

Their reluctance to lead a fight means they are ever more reliant on the prospect of a Labour government as an alternative to that fight.

That is why they won’t even move to defend their own interests.

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