Exclusive: Coyne campaign emailing NON-Unite members – DPA breach?

Amid today’s furore about Tom Watson’s ludicrous and hypocritical – and unchallenged by his BBC interviewers – claims that an innocuous conversation involving Momentum’s Jon Lansman represented a ‘left-wing takeover’ when the right-wing has been doing exactly the same and worse, a potentially far more serious piece of information has reached the SKWAWKBOX.

The SKWAWKBOX’s article on Watson’s nonsense highlighted similarities between his behaviour and that of Gerard Coyne, incumbent Len McCluskey’s rival in the Unite General Secretary election, who also received a slap-down from Unite in the same way that Watson has.


Watson and Coyne are close and Watson has been a staunch advocate of Coyne’s candidacy – even at the same time as calling it a ‘golden rule’ not to interfere in union elections. And it appears that Coyne may have an unhealthy relationship with someone at Labour HQ.

Tom George, a London-based pensioner contacted this blog to advise he is receiving email from Gerard Coyne’s campaign – when he has never been a member of Unite, nor of any of the unions that merged to form it. Here are Mr George’s words:

Although I was a union member of during my working life (retired in 2005), I have never been in Unite Union. I received an E-Mail from Gerard Coyne asking for my support.

I wrote back asking where he got my details but cannot get him to say. I have now lodged complaint with his Union.

Here’s my union history in brief: British Seaman’s Union 1959, Seamans Union of Aussie 1961 to 66, back to British Seaman’s Union 66 to 77. Short time in Usdaw, when worked for Co-Op after work accident, then to CPSA as joined Civil Service. We then became PCS. Retired in 2005 and became  member of  Civil Service Pensioners Association.

None of these unions are part of Unite. I am a longstanding Labour member, though. What is going on??

Coyne is, of course, entitled to access Unite’s member data for the purposes of the General Secretary contest. But that does not give him access to information on members of other organisations.

For Coyne’s campaign to contact a non-Unite member asking for his vote is a spectacular own-goal. But it also raises extremely worrying questions about Labour HQ’s handling of confidential information protected by the Data Protection Act (DPA).

This blog has already featured complaints from Labour members about emails received from Tony Blair when they have never been part of his organisation nor signed up to receive emails. Now we have Labour members receiving emails from Gerard Coyne about a contest in a union they have never been part of.

If Labour members’ details are being provided by someone at Labour HQ to assist his campaign, then this is a flagrant breach of the DPA – and a prosecutable one. And the information is not coming from Labour, where is it coming from?

The SKWAWKBOX calls on both Unite and the Labour Party to investigate this issue as a matter of urgency – and to throw the book at anyone found to be providing or receiving members’ details illegally.

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  1. Coyne is acting against the interests of the very Union he pretends to want to save, for sure he won’t get my vote.

  2. I too received an email from Coyne. I’m retired. I’m not and never have been a a Unite member, nor am I a full member of the LP – only a supporter.
    The Coyne/Blairite camp can only have received my email details from LP records.

  3. I’ve received the same email – here is is :

    “Dear friend,

    Your union should focus on the day job – protecting you at work and fighting for better pay and conditions for our members.
    But Len McCluskey has been obsessed with playing Westminster politics. That’s why he gave £225,000 of your money to Jeremy Corbyn to get him elected as Labour leader.

    Now this weekend we have learned of plans to link your union Unite with far-left political faction Momentum if Len McCluskey is re-elected.

    If you support me for General Secretary, I won’t let Unite become a political football. I won’t spend your money on political games.

    All my focus is on you, the members.

    I was shocked when I read the newspaper reports this weekend about Unite’s plans to give your money to Momentum.

    But far from coming out and defending his plans, Len McCluskey has gone into hiding.

    The truth is, he’s happy to play politics with your union and with your money. But he doesn’t want to answer hard questions when he has to get re-elected. Now the power is in your hands: you the members will vote next week to decide who leads Unite.

    I want to change our union. If you support me for General Secretary, I will put the focus back on members. I will freeze your subscriptions and stop playing politics with your money.

    You can read more about my plans here:
    Read my manifesto

    Let’s take Unite back for its members.

    Thank you for your consideration and support,

    Gerard Coyne

    I’m voting for Gerard Coyne

    I’m not sure who I’m voting for

    I’m voting for Len McCluskey

    I’m voting for Ian Allinson

    I’m not voting”

    I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of Unite. I am a member of the Labour Party. Don’t know where they got my details either.

    If I could vote I’d be voting for Len.

  4. Anyone who has received an email in this way and believe Coyne campaign team has wrongly got you details, should contact the ICO direct, as well as Labour (you know how things go missing)

  5. We urgently need to know why and how non-Unite people’s details are being used by a Unite candidate in this shameful manner. Meanwhile, as Unite Community members and Labour Party full members neither my husband nor I have had any emails from any of the candidates in the GS election.

  6. As a branch officer in the Labour party the DPA is very vigorously enforced in our CLP. I cannot share my branch members details with the Membership Secretary of another Branch – that can only be done by the CLP membership secretary, who wont do any such thing!.

    It is a worrying development in these left vs right wars, that the right are behaving like Tories – that the law doesn’t actually really apply to THEM. Wrong. It’s my data and other peoples data, and above all it is the law. I for one want my law makers to actually act like they are bound by it. The Tories are perfectly capable of committing fraud, sleaze or whatever without the rest of the political world being corrupted too. .

    After the last 24 hours, with TW dragging his nonsense around the studios and other media, and the superb work done in this blog of lifting the lid on all manner of RW malfeasance, I hope I am beginning to sense a change in the air. I hope that by conference in September we will see a properly united party taking down the Tories.

  7. I have received the same email too and am an active member of PCS. my details must have come from the Labour Party too

  8. I received the same email as Andy Whiteman and have sent details to Skwawkbox as requested

  9. Of course, this should cut both ways. If, for example, Labour Party personal data was provided to Momentum, this should be investigated with the same amount of vigour.

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