Days before voting starts in the Unite union’s general secretary election, incumbent Len McCluskey’s campaign has been caught sending members false information.
The campaign emailed members thanks for their branches nominating McCluskey—even when branches had nominated left wing challenger Ian Allinson.
One branch secretary told Socialist Worker, “I was quite annoyed. Members started contacting me, confused because I’d told them we’d nominated Ian.
“Members were confused because I’d told them we’d nominated Ian. You question whether there was more going on, whether this is the tactic.”
The campaign subsequently apologised for what it described as an “error”.
The branch secretary said, “You’d like to think the best, that this is a mistake. But you do question whether there was more going on, whether this is the tactic. I don’t know how widespread this was. Theoretically they could have sent to every Unite member.”
Allinson contacted the returning officer to complain. “They told me I could contact members as well, which sort of misses the point,” he told Socialist Worker. “It’s absolutely outrageous.”
He also said it raises questions about where the campaign is getting its data.
McCluskey’s campaign declined to comment.
Being the incumbent means McCluskey has control of the whole election process.
He triggered the election at the time of his choosing on a curtailed timetable.
To do so he officially resigned, yet he continues to represent Unite and its press releases still introduce him as general secretary.
McCluskey is runaway favourite to win, with Coyne’s campaign in particular failing to live up to its initial hype in the media.
It gives grassroots challenger Allinson an uphill struggle to get his message out to Unite’s vast membership. Yet McCluskey’s high-handedness can backfire.
The branch secretary said, “It’s hard to see what effect the emails will have. Members who haven’t followed it closely might just think oh ok, that’s who we’re backing.
“I think this is more likely to work in favour of the candidate we backed initially. Our members are more likely to see it as a cynical ‘mistake’ rather than a genuine mistake, and that could be counter-productive.”
This puts Allinson at a disadvantage. But he has been visiting workplaces and campaigning on demonstrations. He said, “The campaign’s going really well, we’re meeting some fantastic people and shaking things up.”
Ballot papers are set to be sent out on Monday. Voting closes on 28 April.