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Let us be clear from the start. Support for Gerard Coyne’s campaign to lead Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union, Unite, has nothing to do with rescuing the union from a “clique” obsessed with “Westminster power games.” Nor are Coyne’s supporters concerned with better representing the interests of Unite’s 1.4 million members.
The driving force behind Coyne’s support is nothing less than an attack on Labour’s democratically elected leader Jeremy Corbyn. It is believed that by removing one of Corbyn’s closest and most powerful political allies, Len McCluskey, Corbyn can be further isolated.
If successful, this could help lay the groundwork for yet another coup attempt.
Coyne and his anti-Corbyn backers will deny this of course, but the evidence is overwhelming.
“Show me your friends, and I will show you who you are”
A lot can be learned about someone by their friends, and Coyne certainly has some disreputable supporters.
Throughout his mudslinging campaign, Coyne has relied heavily on the support of the Labour right. Indeed, the Tory organisations operating within the Labour Party – Labour First and Progress – have been actively campaigning on his behalf.
An election campaign document leaked to the Independent demonstrated the motivations behind this support. The Independent’s political editor Joe Watts, writes that the report shows that “Mr McCluskey’s opponents believe they can topple him as general secretary – a result that could fatally weaken Mr Corbyn as Labour leader”.
This has been further confirmed by recent reports that Andy McSmith – the head of media for Coyne’s campaign – was seen meeting with James Robinson, who is head of media for Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson and husband of Progress MP Gloria De Piero.
These meetings prove a direct relationship between anti-Corbyn MPs and the Coyne campaign.
Coyne has built his campaign on the claim that McCluskey is “obsessed with Westminster power games” and that he ignores the more immediate issues faced by the membership. He also claims that under McCluskey Unite has been run by a “clique who exercise control for their own narrow political agendas.”
These are statements of breath-taking hypocrisy.
The very reason that Coyne has the backing of the Blairites is because McCluskey’s removal would help to isolate Corbyn. McCluskey is not the only one involved in a parliamentary power struggle, although he is the only one with the decency to admit it.
And how else should we describe the 172 coup-plotting Labour MPs – who consider their own views more important than half a million members – but as a “clique who exercise control for their own narrow political agendas”?
Coyne’s mates at the Murdoch press empire
Throughout his leadership campaign, Coyne has also relied on the support of the tabloid media – in particular, the racist, sexist, anti-worker The Sun.
Earlier this week, Coyne even penned an article for Rupert Murdoch’s propaganda mill, in which he repeated the now discredited view that Unite is seeking to affiliate to Momentum. Talk about having friends in the wrong places.
However, Coyne is not unaware of the betrayal inherent in writing for The Sun, even if he does misunderstand why it is a betrayal:
“He [McCluskey] and his followers will cry foul when they find out that I am writing for The Sun, because Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper does not share their rosy views on Jeremy Corbyn.”
But it’s more likely that trade unionists will cry foul because The Sun is a notoriously anti-union rag. Just last week The Sun ran an article attacking trade unionists by claiming that councils can save money by removing facility time – the time required to carry out their duties as a rep – for trade unionists in the public sector.
The Sun was also responsible for producing some of the most hateful diatribes against striking junior doctors last year.
The fact that a prospective trade union leader would take to the pages of The Sun demonstrates how out of touch he is with the mood of British workers.
Coyne’s article continues:
“But I respect the hundreds of thousands of Unite members who read The Sun. I want to reach out and represent all Unite members, not just those from a narrow band of the political spectrum.”
Carefully chosen words, but does Coyne also respect The Sun‘s despicable lies about Hillsborough? Or The Sun’s persecution of Muslims, immigrants, and members of the LGBTQ community? Or its backwards views on women?
Many of these marginalised people also make up Unite’s membership! Why isn’t Coyne speaking out for these groups?
One thing is for certain, if Unite falls into the divisive hands of Gerard Coyne then workers, whether they are members of the Labour Party or not, will be in a far weaker position.
There is a popular hashtag many people will already know: #DontBuyTheSun.
But ahead of the Unite leadership contest, maybe we can get another one trending: #DontVoteForCoyne