Er, #GerardCoyne, you just said you wanted to keep #Unite OUT of politics

The SKWAWKBOX has criticised Gerard Coyne, Len McCluskey’s right-leaning challenger for the leadership of the Unite union, for the blinkered, Trump-like, cynical insularity and shortsightedness of his ‘vision’ for Unite if he should win, which in the opinion of this blog would be an unmitigated disaster. The UK’s biggest union needs a leader who understands that ‘everything is politics’ and that his/her members’ interests can only truly be understood and served by a union that is fully engaged in politics because those interests are affected by everything that goes on in this country.

However, it appears that Mr Coyne cannot even be credited with any firmness in his thinking, as he today gave a speech jumping into – well, wider politics:

coyne immig.png

If anything could make even clearer the fact that his ‘anti-politics’ stance is merely a transparent attempt to prevent the union’s involvement in any future Labour leadership contest, the fact that he apparently considers it ok to dabble in politics as long as he thinks it will damage Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership does just that.

More than ever, this blog urges every Unite member to vote for Len McCluskey. Labour has enough problems with opportunistic, damaging, right-wing stooges without putting another one at the head of Unite.

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  1. I have NO confidence whatsoever in Mr Coyne , I’m not sure that Len Mclusky should be seeking reelection as he did say he was only going to do one term in office , however, Len Mclusky is the only viable candidate and I will certainly be voting for him.

  2. If you like your politics cynical and dirty, without any trace of ambition or even purpose, then Gerard Coyne’s latest antics will enthrall you. I don’t really like commenting on Coyne’s antics any more than I would enjoy taking people on a guided tour of Tom Watson’s colon. However, Coyne’s speech on immigration is so awful that it could have been a joint effort in crayon on the back of a colouring book by Paul Nutall and John McTernan – who, judging by the tone and content of Coyne’s campaign, I suspect of being heavily involved. The speech has been trenchantly pulverised by a number of people, and I’m glad to see West Midlands Unite members calling out a GS candidate who can’t quite distinguish Unite from (what’s left of) UKIP.

    Coyne hasn’t got policies but he he does have a platform for recycling the right-wing Labour meme about immigration while adding some guff about the UK taking back control of its borders. This is puerile: the UK as a polity has not in anyway ever lost control of its borders, and no one can take back that which has not been lost. The issue of control of borders is linked to that of the state maintaining its territorial integrity, and that isn’t an issue that limited to immigration alone. Control of borders is just as much about defence policy, diplomacy and international law as it is about policing which foreign nationals can or cannot enter or reside within the UK. Border control as an aspect of maintaining territorial integrity cannot be reduced to the issue of immigration, and – despite Coyne’s efforts – the issue of immigration cannot be reduced to whether EU or other immigrants are legally active in the UK labour market.

    Not all immigrants want to undercut British workers or in some deviously foreign way add to the miseries of austerity: some immigrants are too young and others will be past working age. Immigrants don’t automatically get their coats and go out to work in a car wash or as nannies to people in Gerard Coyne’s income bracket. Equally, some foreign nationals who want to work in the UK don’t want to become immigrants; this is the case with entertainers or actors who may be working in the UK for the duration of a tour or the run of a particular show or play. Immigration and the issue of foreign nationals working, or be more accurate being legally employed or self-employed in the UK, do not elide as Coyne suggests.

    This is important because Coyne’s dog-whistling of the Tory/Red Tory line on immigration helps to undermine fatally the chances of any constructive discussion of labour market regulation in the UK. Legal access to the UK labour market for non-EU nationals is decided by granting work permits, a Civil Service function that was moved from the Home Office to the old Employment Department (ED), and that was then was moved back to Home Office in one of the “Machinery of Government changes” (i.e messing about with the structure and stability of Government Departments) that New Labour was so very fond of, and which kept me in sort of gainful emplyment for quite a long time. It’s actually important whether deciding on individuals’ access to the UK labour market sits with former Customs and Excise functions as part of the Home Office’s United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) so the work becomes a part of policing the UK’s borders – albeit on the cheap – rather than with ED where the focus was more on labour market regulation.

    Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have voiced support for a new Employment Department, and Coyne could have used his speech to look at how the issue of foreign national employment/self-employment in the UK is a potentially important means of regulating the behaviour of employers that can be aligned with cracking down on Gang Masters and others who visciously exploit and abuse non-EU national workers. He could have considered how these functions could be brigaded in a new Employment Department along with policing the minimum wage and a far more proactive approach to ensuring that employers do not treat UK pay law as being optional. I would have thought that perhaps this is something that a wanna-be leader of Unite might want to look at how Government functions that affect all working people are structured, and to highlight that there is a potential to promote a progressive agenda around this. But, as the Skwawkbox has pointed out so well, Apolitical Gerard doesn’t do anything even close to an attempt at constructive politcal engagement to the benefit of the Unite members that pay his salary.

    It’s shameful that any trade unionist would seek to set out a blame the foreigner approach as Coyne does and stigmatise “Europeans” (I suppose on the grounds that it’s not racist if you don’t say Poles or Czechs or Slovaks) as an economic threat to other workers resident in the UK. It’s also shameful that Coyne has refused to address a complex intersection of issues in which trade unions have a genuine political interest in a way other than as a vehicle for smearing McCluskey as a proxy for Corbyn. If there was any tiny doubt that Gerad Coyne is anything other than a useful idiot and singularly qualified as unfit to act as Unite General Secretary, then I hope that his not-at-all-racist speech has finally dispelled it.

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