The UK and Ireland’s biggest trade union has fired a warning shot across the bows of Keir Starmer’s hard turn to the right by slashing around £700,000 a year from its funding to the Labour Party and cutting the number of Unite members affiliated to the party by half – some 50,000.
A Unite source said the decision was because Labour’s leadership is ‘just not listening’. Unite general secretary Len McCluskey had warned two months ago that funding was to be reviewed, after Starmer’s decision to dole out around £600,000 to ‘whistleblowers’ in a case Labour’s lawyers said it was likely to win – and that the union’s support must not be ‘taken for granted’. The warning has not been heeded.
Unite is Labour’s biggest donor. Following an exodus of members appalled at the party’s direction under Starmer, Labour had already begun handing round the begging bowl to wealthy former donors. The prospect that further cuts will follow if Starmer continues his swing rightwards is a very real one, with McCluskey telling the BBC’s Newsnight:
I have no doubt if things start to move in different directions and ordinary working people start saying, ‘well, I’m not sure what Labour stand for’, then my activists will ask me, ‘why are we giving so much money’?
The money cut from Unite’s donations to Labour is expected to be rerouted to left-wing grassroots organisations.
With contests underway for the leadership of GMB and Unison, until now dominated by the right, Labour’s new centrist regime could be facing a serious crisis if the left succeeds in rallying behind good candidates.
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