A highly-placed source at the union has told this blog that a move on Unison may be the latest front opened by the ‘party within a party’ Progress group in its war on Labour’s democratically-elected leader Jeremy Corbyn.
It’s on record from their own mouths that the right-wingers within the party see organising as their best/only hope of negating Corbyn’s massive democratic mandate, as their months-long manoeuvre to stack September’s annual conference with their delegates in order to win a vote to stack the NEC with additional anti-Corbyn members showed.
Now it appears that the Unison union may be the next target.
In 2012, Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis went on the record to call for Progress to be ‘proscribed’ (i.e. banned) by the Labour party in a similar way to its 1980s left-wing counterpart Militant.
Agreeing with a similar call from the then-leader of the GMB union, Prentis didn’t mince his words, even calling attempts by Blair loyalist Peter Mandelson to defend the group ‘desperate’. Speaking to his union’s 2012 conference, he said:
..must be desperate. Mandelson’s defence of Progress was ironic. It is a secretive organisation operating inside the Labour party…
[Progress is] a party within a party, funded by external interests. An influence we will not support. It is intolerable that they should act in that way within our Labour party.
Strong words. But Prentis – re-elected late last year amid great controversy around alleged vote-rigging and alleged illegitimate use of union resources – seems to have undergone a mysterious ‘conversion’.
Toward the end of the recent Labour leadership election, Prentis spoke out in favour of the Progress-driven push for MPs-only election of the Shadow Cabinet and against any deselections of what he called, apparently without irony, “the party’s best talents”, going so far as to demand that Corbyn ‘slap down’ those pushing for them to be deselected.
He then followed Corbyn’s victory by appointing a vehemently anti-Corbyn, Progress-supported former NEC member, who was voted out in the summer’s NEC elections and was closely associated with the controversial suspension of Labour members before the election, to a senior Unison position – a move that prompted some members to leave the union.
Other appointments include the former leadership campaign manager of a Progress MP, and various Progress supporters to policy positions and others.
Interestingly, many of these individuals describe themselves on, for example, Twitter as simply working for ‘a union’ – an attempt to stay ‘below the radar’?
My sources tell me that a move appears to be underway to fill key positions with Progress members and supporters in order to influence the union’s support for Jeremy Corbyn in the event of another leadership challenge.
The alleged ‘silent coup’ may or may not be linked to the alleged dodgy practices around the Unison leadership election last year, but it’s of deep concern and must be countered by those in the union who support Labour’s new status as a genuine alternative to ‘more of the same’.
The right-wingers are already known to be targeting Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey – called ‘that arsehole’ by Progress MP Anna Turley – when his position comes up for re-election in the not-too-distant future and the GMB’s about-face to support failed challenger Owen Smith in the Labour race suggests that union is also under attack from the “we can’t inspire so we’ll organise” brigade.
Be aware – and don’t allow it to succeed.