When the SKWAWKBOX covered the announcement by Gerard Coyne that he would contest the election for General Secretary of Unite with Len McCluskey, this blog urged readers to support McCluskey’s candidacy.
But it did so on the basis that Coyne represented too great a risk and was supported by leading opponents of Corbyn in Progress/Labour First. I attempted to give him the benefit of the doubt as an individual, as his stance on Corbyn and Unite’s direction was at that time unknown.
But Coyne has now broken cover with a pitch for the leadership in the Guardian – and has removed all doubt. Risk has vanished and been replaced by threat – threat that means he must not get anywhere near the Unite leadership.
Coyne’s Guardian article is a case study in small-minded isolationism dressed up as modernisation that would be worthy of US President-elect Donald Trump. He encourages his readers to join in the “I’m alright, Jack” mentality he advocates and to ‘circle the wagons’, with a grand ‘screw you’ to anyone who isn’t in Unite on the grounds of making the union “flexible” and “responsive” – but only to the narrowest interpretation of the “interests” of its members.
And then, with two key paragraphs, he slips and gives away his real game:
Unite members worry about buying clothes for their children or whether they can afford a summer holiday. They care about pay and conditions at work and their job security – not who is up or down in the Westminster game of snakes and ladders.
Often, they are people who don’t feel “political”, even if they are affected by political events. I believe they want a general secretary who spends less time trying to run the Labour party and more time looking after their interests.
In other words, “If I become General Secretary, screw the fact that the oppressed majority in this country desperately need a Labour party that presents a real alternative, real hope – I’m going to spend my time looking inward and let the ‘moderates’ plot and undermine to their hearts’ content.”
No wonder the likes of Tom Watson, Luke Akehurst and every other ‘business as usual’ Labour politician and functionary are supporting him.
This approach is as ludicrous as Trump’s ‘Mexican wall’ nonsense, as if the UK’s biggest union has no wider duty to its members – and to their loved ones, friends and colleagues who may not be Unite members.
As if a decision to end Unite’s support for Jeremy Corbyn is not a huge V-sign to everyone, whether in or outside Unite – because a sinking tide in the country at large, watched passively or even encouraged by ‘Labour’ MPs welded to the right-wing ‘centrist’ consensus, will undermine the foundations of Unite and every other union.
The General Secretary of Unite needs the vision to realise s/he owes it to his or her members to look after their interests in the widest sense – by fighting for our whole society to be just, healthy and sustainable.
By supporting the Labour party in its role as a genuine alternative. A role it has only recently re-occupied thanks to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and the massive support of Labour members – including huge numbers of Unite members – for his and his team’s vision.
Gerard Coyne just showed himself unfit for the position he hopes to win.
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