One remarkable aspect of the contest for the position of General Secretary of Unite has been in the bedfellows it has created on the side of the challenger, Gerard Coyne.
Tom Watson is well known for his prominence in the campaign to hold media baron Rupert Murdoch to account for his newspapers’ involvement in the phone-hacking scandal. It’s the one area in which even the majority of Labour members who now hold him in contempt for his behaviour toward the party’s leader would give him credit. But that now looks likely to evaporate.
Watson stands squarely behind Coyne’s candidacy, even putting himself out on a limb with a ridiculous attempt to smear Momentum and Jon Lansman – and Coyne’s rival Len McCluskey by association – for campaign organising that mirrors exactly the plans of Watson’s friends in Labour First.
It earned him a humiliating slap-down by Unite for interfering in the union’s democratic processes, but it appears he’s so keen to help Coyne’s failing campaign that he was prepared to ‘take one for the team’.
The admiration is mutual. During Watson’s campaign for the Labour deputy leadership, Coyne was quick to declare his wholehearted support for his long-time associate.
Another ‘foursquare’ supporter of Coyne’s campaign is none other than one Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch’s widely- and justly-loathed ‘newspaper’, the Sun, gave Coyne a platform to launch a contemptible attack on his rival.
By choosing to appear in a publication that, under Murdoch, mounted an all-out assault on unions in the 1980s and which smeared both the miners and the victims of the Hillsborough disaster, Coyne has betrayed every principle a true union man should hold sacred. As Len McCluskey observed, albeit in a slightly different context, Coyne’s behaviour
provides Unite members with a looking glass to what the future of a union led by an agent of the right wing would look like.
Coyne’s decision to appear in the Sun disgraces him and nails the coffin-lid shut on any vestige of credibility he hoped to retain.
And unless he immediately and publicly disowns Coyne for running to Murdoch and calls on Unite members to support the incumbent McCluskey, it also disgraces Tom Watson and removes the one area of credit that even those who now despise him for his conduct as deputy leader would have granted him.
Given the lengths to which Watson has already gone to support Coyne, that seems unlikely in the extreme.
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