Coyne’s post-defeat email recycles dead horses, signals intent to keep flogging them


Gerard Coyne

Earlier today, the SKWAWKBOX covered the decision of the Certification Officer to throw out, as unreasonable, former Unite challenger Gerard Coyne’s ill-judged attempt to annul the General Secretary election in which he failed, last year, to oust Len McCluskey.

Coyne has emailed his supporters signalling, as expected, that he is likely to continue to pursue the remaining points of his complaint even though these have already been rejected at various levels, as the SKWAWKBOX showed at the beginning of the year.

Below, in blue, is his email along with – in black – the information it doesn’t mention:

Dear Friend,

I wanted to update you on the progress of the legal complaint I launched against Unite over the General Secretary contest that took place last year.

The Certification Officer ruled today that Unite did not break its own rules by calling an early election.

I believe that Len McCluskey was wrong to pick and choose the timing of his re-election campaign, even though the judge has now found in his favour.

I will now be considering whether or not to appeal this decision.

But it’s important to emphasise the ruling today was about a single rule breach. I have listed a further eight in my claim, all of them serious.

And all of them already rejected by a court and/or by the Returning Officer (RO) and Election Commissioner (EC), both of whom considered that while Mr Coyne’s complaints against Len McCluskey did not stand up, in many cases Coyne himself had breached the rules.

Thousands of Unite members were denied a vote in last year’s election and many more were wrongly told their branches had nominated Mr McCluskey.

‘Denied a vote’ appears to refer to Mr Coyne’s claim that Unite didn’t give members enough time to vote by post. As the SKWAWKBOX pointed out in January after a thorough examination of the EC/RO’s assessment of his complaint:

Unfortunately for Mr Coyne’s claim, Unite sources pointed out that 23 days is perfectly in line with the period used by other unions – and all requested replacements were sent out very promptly.

So tenuous is this complaint that Coyne was able to provide only a single example of someone who asked for a replacement ballot and didn’t vote – and that person did receive the replacement. That was it – no other examples were provided.

Mr Coyne now claims that ‘thousands of members’ were denied a vote in the election, but has presented evidence of only one who didn’t vote after asking for a replacement – and that person received a vote, but just didn’t use it.

The issue of the wrong notification to members that their branch had nominated McCluskey refers to a single email sent out in error – but far from ‘many more’, it was sent to a mere handful of people.

As the SKWAWKBOX pointed out when he lodged his complaint:

Coyne alleged that the McCluskey campaign was telling branches they had nominated him when they had nominated Coyne – and that this constituted a breach of the rule against giving false information to members about a candidate.

The McCluskey campaign did in fact send such a notification to twenty-four branch secretaries – who already knew whom they had nominated and so did not pass on the information to any members.

The campaign had sent a corrective email as soon as the error was noticed – but even if they hadn’t, the people wrongly contacted knew which candidate they had nominated and confirmed they had not passed on the information, so twenty-four people among a total of over 100,000 who voted could not possibly have a ‘material impact’ on the result.

So the email went to very few people – and they were all branch secretaries who already knew whom they had nominated and who received a correction almost immediately.

Not only that, but they confirmed they hadn’t sent the email to anyone else, so the supposed ‘breach’ affected twenty-four out of over 100,000 who voted in the election.

Unite officials campaigned openly for Mr McCluskey in clear breach of the rules and the union’s resources were used to support his campaign.

Again, Mr Coyne is rehashing a complaint that has already been thoroughly investigated. The investigators not only rejected the complaint but decided that Mr Coyne himself had breached the ban on using union resources.

The EC said that the timing of downloaded data that Coyne claimed had been used for McCluskey’s email campaign meant that it,


Both the EC and RO, however, decided that Mr Coyne had breached that very same rule:


Coyne also claimed that union officials had used work time to campaign for McCluskey. The EC/RO found that there was no evidence for this.

Mr Coyne has not, according to sources close to the matter, submitted any additional evidence for his new complaint.

The EC/RO reports also note that Mr Coyne admitted receiving the data and that his lawyer tried to justify this on the grounds that Coyne felt he needed it and shouldhave it.

The Returning Officer’s conclusion was clear:


The Certification Officer will now consider those allegations at a separate hearing in June. I am confident these complaints will be upheld.

See above for whether that confidence is realistic.

But this isn’t about me. It’s about the kind of union Unite should be for its members.

I decided to take legal action because Unite members deserve a free and fair election.

The last contest was close – less than 6,000 votes separated the two leading candidates – but it was badly run and I believe the result would have been different if the rules had been followed.

So far, two election officials and a court have decided that the only evidenced rule breaches were not by Mr McCluskey.

The Certification Officer has the power to order a re-run of the election.

I have been a Unite member and union activist for over three decades. I was suspended and then sacked as Unite’s West Midlands regional secretary after I challenged Mr McCluskey.

I won’t be bullied. The country’s biggest union fights for working people every day. I recognise the hard work and dedication of its officials.

But the union movement needs to remain relevant to the needs of its members – people like me and you who joined because it gives us workplace protections that have never been more important.

I believe I have the ideas, the energy and the experience to build a union that’s equipped to take on the challenges of the 21st century.

The economy is changing. We need to change too. But I need your support in the weeks and months ahead.

I will keep you updated on how the legal challenge is going.

But in the meantime, if you would like to help my campaign please get in touch.



For the SKWAWKBOX’s full analysis of Gerard Coyne’s complaint, click here.


Readers must decide for themselves whether, in the context of the evidence – and of Mr Coyne’s performance in the Certification Officer hearings so far – his closing remarks demonstrate any realism.

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  1. Someone, somewhere, is investing significant cash in this sad campaign.
    We should encourage them.
    If they watch their money being so obviously wasted, they may think twice before investing in further mischief.
    But maybe not: there’s little evidence of intelligence in this campaign.

    I’m a member of UNITE and I voted for your opposition, LEN!
    I would never vote for you, or anyone with your credentials!
    In my opinion, you lean to far right to be a credible union person, never mind a leader of our UNITE UNION!
    In my long career as a manual worker and for quite some time as an Union Steward for the TGWU, I met many, like yourself, on the other side of the desk, complete nowhere men, who didn’t know the meaning of compromise or how to negotiate!
    Lies, they knew, just like this Tory Government!

  3. The magic money trees have been in full bloom for quite a while now in the fight to stop Jeremy Corbyn leading Labour to victory. Owen Smith’s office being donated £800,000 for his run for leadership is just one visible example. That one legal nothing criminal. And a few months ago Tony Blair announces he is closing a number of his sundry enterprises and putting 12 million pounds “into the fight against populism”. We all know who “populism” is.

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