Len McCluskey's Unite victory stokes fears of Labour deal with the SNP

Jack Maidment
Len McCluskey has won the battle to remain as general secretary of Unite the union - Paul Grover

Fears that Labour could do a deal with the SNP intensified after Jeremy Corbyn’s hard left ally Len McCluskey was re-elected as the leader of Britain’s biggest union.

Mr McCluskey won his bid to remain as general secretary of the Unite union as he defeated his main challenger Gerard Coyne by 59,067 votes to 53,544 on a turnout of just 12 per cent.

Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, raised concerns that Mr McCluskey had “made no secret of the fact he wants a deal with the SNP and Lib Dems to get Corbyn over the line”.

Mr McCluskey has previously said that Labour could push through its policies in government with the support of the Liberal Democrats and the SNP.

Gerard Coyne who has finished second behind Len McCluskey in the poll to be re-elected as general secretary of Unite Credit: Jane Barlow/PA

A senior campaign source told the Mirror that Labour’s “number one priority” is to deny Theresa May an overall majority and suggested that a deal could then be done with other parties to make Mr Corbyn prime minister.

The result of the Unite leadership contest came after Mr Coyne was suspended by Unite and a former trade union chief likened the leadership contest to “something that might go on in North Korea”.

Mrs Rudd said: “Len McCluskey is Labour’s biggest donor and Jeremy Corbyn’s biggest supporter. He’s now in the driving seat for Labour’s campaign – and has made no secret of the fact he wants a deal with the SNP and Lib Dems to get Corbyn over the line.

“This would mean only one thing: a coalition of chaos bringing uncertainty for the British people; grave risk to our growing economy and families’ finances with higher taxes, fewer jobs, more waste and more debt.”

Profile | Len McCluskey

Mr Coyne was suspended from his post as West Midlands Regional Secretary on Thursday amid speculation that the leadership contest result was “incredibly close” after the polls closed on Thursday afternoon.

Unite declined to comment on Mr Coyne's suspension.

Mr Coyne said after the result that the "union machine consistently attempted to bully and intimidate" him during the campaign.

He said: "Unite needs to change, and it needs to put its focus back where it belongs: on looking after the real interests of the members of the union.”

Earlier on Friday Baroness Prosser, the former deputy general secretary of Unite’s predecessor, the Transport and General Workers Union, and a backer of Mr Coyne, described the contest as “a bit like something that might go on in North Korea”.

She told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme: “I think it’s quite shocking really. My understanding is that the election was going well for Gerard and that he on some kind of analysis of how the votes were going that it looked as though he was going to win.

“So then for the next thing to hear that he has been suspended and that the union as I understand it is not saying why, that just looks a bit like something that might go on in North Korea really.”

SNP will seek 'progressive alliance' with Labour and Lib Dems

Ian Allinson came third in the contest, securing 17,143 votes.  

Gail Cartmail, Unite's acting general secretary,  said: "I congratulate Len McCluskey on his victory and would urge the entire union to pull together in the interests of our members, and not least to work for a Labour victory in the general election.

"The turnout in this important election can give no cause for satisfaction and, while the tone of the campaign will not have helped, the underlying reason remains the archaic and expensive balloting system imposed on trade unions by law.

"The sooner we can more to secure and secret workplace and online voting the better for union democracy."

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