Delegates at the Unite union conference this week were furious at moves against Jeremy Corbyn—and wanted the union to take a stand.
Catherine Anderson, a delegate from the North East Yorkshire and Humber region told Socialist Worker, “We should support Corbyn and stand up against the coup to remove him. We should hold those MPs accountable to the people who elected them—and that means deselections.”
Catherine is one of hundreds of thousands of people to join or rejoin Labour since Corbyn became leader. She explained, “I used to be a very active member but became disillusioned under the Blairites. I believed Corbyn was taking Labour back to what it used to be after it lost its way.”
Unite is one of Labour’s biggest financial backers.
Cindy Callaghan from the education sector in Scotland said, “We need to take a stand much more forcefully—such as withdrawing funding from Labour if there’s a legal challenge to keep Corbyn off the ballot paper.”
Adrian Cowley, from the automotive sector in the East Midlands region, told Socialist Worker, “He’s got the backing of the people—the problem’s just with some of the MPs.”
Previous Labour leaders have sought to sideline Unite inside Labour. But Adrian said, “We should have a say—the Labour Party was set up by the unions in the first place.
“And we’re closer to the workers, the normal people, while the people in parliament who’ve come up through university can lose touch with them.”
George Hickman from the union’s graphical, paper and media sector in the West Midlands told Socialist Worker, “I think it’s the most important motion for the whole conference. I’m not a Labour Party member, but every policy we vote on depends on having someone in office who will work with us.”
In his keynote speech on Monday McCluskey slammed the Labour plotters for “a squalid Westminster bubble coup” and “an attempted political lynching”.
He warned that in the coming leadership election, “any attempts to keep Jeremy Corbyn off the ballot paper risks a lasting division in the party.”
This strident defence is welcome and unions’ support for Corbyn could be decisive.
But McCluskey also acknowledged “the legitimate concerns of Labour MPs”, leaving the door open to concessions to the right.
One big debate at conference was over the renewal of Trident nuclear missiles. The decision to back the nuclear missiles will help Corbyn’s enemies.