Unite Union have stranglehold over Labour candidates and policy

Mail investigation reveals that over half of Labour candidates in key seats are sponsored by Unite Militants

  • More than half of Labour candidates in winnable seats sponsored by Unite
  • Analysis conducted by the Mail lays bare the union's grip on Ed Miliband
  • Its £14.3million contribution makes it the biggest donor to the Labour party
  • Many of Unite leader Len McCluskey's demands have become party policy

More than half of Labour candidates in winnable seats are sponsored by just one hard-left trade union.

Fifty-four of the party's contenders for 106 target constituencies are either members of Unite, or are endorsed or partially bankrolled by it.

The analysis by the Mail lays bare the extraordinary stranglehold the union's firebrand leader 'Red' Len McCluskey has on Ed Miliband.

Tories say the general secretary's degree of influence is payback for the huge sums Unite has given to Labour since 2010.

Its £14.3million contribution makes it the biggest donor to the party. Together, the unions have handed £40million to Mr Miliband – two thirds of the Labour leader's funding. The avalanche of cash is reflected in the party's candidate list. Of 410 new faces for the General Election on May 7, one in three – 133 – have links with Unite.

Labour's close ties with the union will be on display on Friday evening when Mr McCluskey will be the special guest at a major rally in Glasgow.

Party leaders hope the intervention of the former supporter of the Trotskyist Militant Tendency will help fend off the threat of the SNP.

Many of the Unite leader's demands have become party policy under Mr Miliband, including the abolition of the spare-room subsidy or bedroom tax.

Labour is also pledging to adopt other Unite-inspired policies such as a ban on zero-hours contracts, a large increase in the minimum wage, scrapping fees for employment tribunals and rent controls.

Mr Miliband has announced plans to part-renationalise the rail network – another policy pushed by Mr McCluskey – and Labour has repeatedly refused to rule out increasing corporation tax, a change the Unite leader has argued for.

Two years ago, Unite was mired in scandal for trying to 'manipulate' Labour's selection of a candidate in Falkirk by stuffing the local membership with its supporters.

Henry Smith, Tory candidate for Crawley, said: 'Labour is nothing more than the political wing of the trade unions, with Ed Miliband an appointed puppet who squeaks whatever Red Len tells him to. The consequences could not be dire: more wasteful spending, more unaffordable borrowing and higher taxes for hardworking families.'

Mr Miliband was elected Labour leader in 2010 thanks to the support of the unions. The frontrunner, his brother David, won more support among Labour MPs and party members. But Ed won more support among the unions, pushing him over the winning line. Trade unions gave £148,000 toward his leadership campaign – including £115,000 from Unite. Mr Miliband was endorsed by Unite, with the then two co-general secretaries, Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley, urging members to vote for him.

After the result was announced, the new Labour leader was observed putting an arm round them and saying: 'Thank you.' Fifty-three of Unite members had voted for him. Since Mr Miliband became leader, the unions have donated £40.4million to the Labour Party, according to the Electoral Commission. Unison has handed over £8.1million while the GMB has donated £6.9million and Usdaw £6.1million.

Another £2.6million has come from the CWU, £730,000 from UCATT and £690,000 from the union Community.

In target seats, 84 per cent of Labour candidates have union links.

Harriet Harman, Andy Burnham and Chuka Umunna are all Unite members.

A spokesman for Labour said: 'We are proud to have selected a wide range of candidates with varying backgrounds including carers, military personnel and business people.

'Trade unions have no undue influence over Labour's candidate selection process, and unlike the Tories who stand up only for a privileged few, Labour is on the side of millions of hardworking people.'

A spokesman for Unite said: 'There is no such thing as a Unite MP or candidate, there are only Labour candidates. We fully support all Labour candidates.'

The bully with his boot on Red Ed's throat

Commentary by Leo McKinstry

Len McCluskey's Unite union is a potent and sinister force in British politics

Out on the election campaign trail under blue skies in South Wales, the trade union firebrand's manner was as warm as the weather. 'Didn't you once call me a slab-faced Marxist?' the famously militant leader of Unite asked me with a grin that was more genial than menacing. I had to confess I had.

But that did not stop 'Red' Len McCluskey giving me the time of day on a street in Neath as he conducted a two-day tour of the Principality to drum up support for Labour's cause.

Watching him in action, it was clear that he is highly popular with activists. His gospel of traditional hard-left socialism goes down well with the converted, as does his hackneyed anti-Conservative bile. 'We look to Wales as a beacon of hope to show what a Labour government can do. The Tories might have the money but we've got the working people on our side,' he said to cheers and applause.

Yet all the smiles cannot hide the reality that McCluskey and his union are a potent, sinister force in British politics, seeking to use their financial and organisational muscle within the Labour movement to drag Britain back to the dark days of the 1970s.

As the Mail reveals today, the sheer scale of the influence Unite holds on scores of Labour candidates is chilling given the socialist revolution the union would seek to impose.

Indeed, McCluskey, a former Liverpool dock worker who keeps a drawing of Lenin in his office and once boasted of presiding over more strikes than any other union boss, is quite open about his yearning for that period when the unions held the government to ransom: 'We are supposed to believe that the Seventies was a horrible time. It wasn't. It was a time of great advances for working people,' he has said.

Labour's umbilical link to McCluskey's union has received much less attention in recent days than a potential deal with the left-wing, anti-austerity SNP, yet it is just as potentially disastrous for the governance of this country.

Not only is Unite – which has a claimed membership of 1.42million – intertwined with the Labour Party's structure, MPs and finances, but it also remains addicted to the failed socialist policies of the past, including a major expansion in the public sector, less flexibility in the workplace, higher taxation and ever more state spending.

Just like Nicola Sturgeon, McCluskey wants to make Labour bolder, 'more radical, courageous and brave'. Only last month, he appeared to threaten illegal action if a Tory Government pushed through further restrictions on strikes in the public sector. 'When the law is misguided, when it oppresses people and removes their freedoms, can we respect it? I am not really posing the question, I'm giving the answer. It ain't going to happen,' he declared.

Despite all his talk about the oppression of working people, however, he has not done badly for himself. Last year it was revealed he received a £5,000 rise, taking his pay and pensions package to £140,281.

McCluskey's determination to influence Labour was all too evident in Wales. With an air of quasi-regal grandeur, he visited several factories, gave talks to Labour activists and held a number of photo opportunities – including one in Cardiff at the statute of that old champagne socialist Nye Bevan.

When I spoke to McCluskey, he downplayed his hardline socialism, instead talking about the need for investment in industry and the economy. And he denied that he had too much influence over Ed Miliband's party: 'If only that were true,' he said, while proclaiming his loyalty to the cause. 'Unite is supporting Labour 100 per cent,' he said, adding that is now campaigning 'all over the country'.

Yet there was something synthetic about McCluskey's protestations of support for Labour.

As I watched him at close quarters, it became more apparent that he was going through the motions. When asked in an interview with BBC Radio Wales about Miliband's leadership, McCluskey could say only: 'He's doing OK'. Beneath the surface, I have no doubt he longs to hear Ed offering more nakedly socialist policies, rather than trying to appeal to Middle England.

Moreover, if Labour and Unite really think that McCluskey is an asset in the election, they are doing their best to keep quiet about it.

When I tried to find out McCluskey's schedule for his Welsh visit from any number of Unite and Labour sources, including McCluskey's own press officer, I was greeted with either hostility or silence.

No one would give me any information. It was only through persistence and good luck that I managed to track him down, to the outrage of his press officer who asked me paranoiacally: 'How did you find us? Did you fit a tracking device to Len's car?'

That kind of anxiety and suspicion shows more than just a lack of confidence. It reveals a fear that, just as with Sturgeon's spendthrift radicalism, the hard-Left dogma of Unite is likely to alienate floating middle-of-the-road voters.

Such fears are, of course, only too justified. For this is no small-town demagogue. On the contrary, McCluskey is pivotal to Labour's future because of the stranglehold his union has over the party.

It was Unite and the other affiliated unions that ensured Ed Miliband was elected leader in 2010 against his more moderate brother David, who enjoyed greater popularity among Labour MPs and the rank and file. Since 2010, Unite is estimated to have donated at least £14.4million to Labour's coffers.

The dominance of Unite runs right through Labour's organisation, with huge implications for the make-up of a putative Miliband government.

One recent analysis showed that 159 Labour MPs from the last parliament receive sponsorship from Unite or are members of the union, including senior frontbenchers such as Harriet Harman, Angela Eagle, Hilary Benn and Sadiq Khan. In addition, 133 Labour candidates at this election are reported to have links to Unite. As Martin Mayer, chairman of Unite's political committee and a member of Labour's National Executive recently admitted, the union is involved in a 'serious attempt to win back the party'.

Tragically for Britain, there is now a real danger that an incoming Labour government would be forced to lurch even further to the Left, not just by SNP by also by Unite, with Miliband too weak to stand up to those who are determined he will be their puppet in Downing Street.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3049576/Union-s-sinister-hold-Miliband-Mail-investigation-reveals-half-Labour-candidates-key-seats-sponsored-Unite-militants.html#ixzz3Y1hLEZRu
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