22 Jan 2019

Len McCluskey to enter No 10 for talks

The odyssey of Brexit reaches a new weirdness on Thursday. Len McCluskey will be walking up Downing Street for talks with Theresa May.

The leader of Unite, sworn enemy of the Tories and the establishment has been invited in as part of the wider talks on Brexit which started after last week’s failed vote of no confidence in the government.

There was an introductory phone call last week between Theresa May and the man who many think wields more influence over the Labour leadership than anyone else outside Jeremy Corbyn’s closest team. Labour MPs who met with the No 10 team and the PM ahead of the meaningful vote recommended that the PM herself pursue a direct conversation with Mr McCluskey rather than leave it to her staff. That approach was adopted and is now being followed up.

Downing Street signalled today that it intended to continue contacts with trade unions and business – but many will wonder where this is leading.

The PM’s direction of travel in the Commons on Monday and on the Cabinet conference call on Sunday sounded like she’d cooled on wider consultation  and was retreating back to pushing her original deal
through but with another push at getting some kind of sunset clause assurance on the backstop out of the EU.

The waiving of the fee for EU citizens who want settled status may point to a parallel strategy to continue wooing a few Labour/Remain figures in the hope that some more Labour support can be squeezed to make up for the problems squeezing ERG support second time around.

The original Whips office calculation was that it could need 25/30 or so Labour MPs to backfill hardline ERG supporters whose problems with the deal went beyond the backstop.

It’s not clear yet whether the TUC or other unions are joining in the Thursday meeting.

Tweets by @garygibbonblog