Published on 8 Jul 2013

Unite campaign pretty dismal so far?

To listen to many Conservatives, and even some Blairite Labour people, you’d think the House of Commons was about to fall prey to a bunch of red-blooded, hard-left, McCluskeyite, Labour MPs controlled by the trade union Unite.

In May, the then political director of Unite, Steve Hart, wrote a paper in which he listed 41 parliamentary seats in which Unite hoped to get named people elected.  This list has been much quoted in the press, and included Falkirk, the scene of the recent row about Unite’s tactics.

So, just two months on, how is the Unite campaign going, given that it was blessed with all the union’s organisational skills, money, and critics allege, willingness to break the rules?

Er, not very well, so far.

Of the 41 seats, 22 of them have now picked Labour candidates.  And in 13 of the 22 seats, the Unite person named in Steve Hart’s report, failed to get selected.

True, Unite did get nine of its names chosen.  But that’s a strike rate of just under 41 per cent, which doesn’t seem that impressive to me.

The nine people promoted by Unite and who did win selection, are:

Lewisham Deptford: Vicky Foxcroft

Hornsey & Wood Green: Catherine West

City of Chester: Chris Matheson

Brighton Kemptown: Nancy Platts

Plymouth Sutton & Devonport: Luke Pollard

Halesowen & Rowley Regis: Steph Peacock

North Warwickshire: Mike O’Brien

Wolverhampton SW: Rob Marris

Stourbridge: Pete Lowe

According to my enquiries, none of those nine names is an especially left-wing figure. None is anything like as left-wing as the Unite leader Len McCluskey.  None seems to be a likely recruit to the socialist Campaign Group of MPs.

Chris Matheson in Chester, for example, doesn’t strike me as a hard-line McCluskeyite.  On the contrary he used to work for Ken Jackson, the right-wing leader of the engineering union before it amalgamated with the TGWU to form Unite.

Mike O’Brien and Rob Marris are both former MPs for the seats which they are now fighting again.  Neither had a revolutionary past at Westminster. Mr O’Brien, a former Solicitor-General, hardly strikes me as the sort to take orders from Len McCluskey.

Now it’s possible that one or two left-wingers will be picked from the remaining 19 names on Unite’s list.  But if they are, it will be just a handful, they will hardly threaten the Labour establishment.  Some of the remaining names, for example, are people who’ve stood for internal Labour elections on the slate of the Blairite group Progress.

Any Unite member expecting the union’s efforts to bring a great phalanx of left-wingers into Parliament is likely to be sorely disappointed.

Indeed, if I was a Unite member, given all the effort and support which the union claims to be giving these candidates, I’d want to question Len McCluskey as to why his strike rate is so poor.  Is it really worth it?

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2 reader comments

  1. Philip says:

    If Ed Milliband does what is being billed for his speech tomorrow, McCluskey may have done him (and us) a huge favour in Falkirk. Finally democratising Labour selection processes will also shoot a Tory fox. personally I find Cameron’s jeering about all of this amazing hypocritical given the Tories’ record on how money buys influence in the party & the source of some of their funds. It’s also typically myopic. If Milliband does do what is being suggested, a whole raft of Tory smears goes out of the window…including “Red Ed” (one of the most ludicrously inaccurate pieces of attempted smear you could ever hope to come across – though no doubt Sun, Mail & Express readers believe it).

    1. Andrew Dundas says:

      There may well continue to be all-women shortlists in winnable constituencies and the obligation to include on a short-list of five: a woman, an ethnic minority and a TU sponsored nominee. Leaving just two positions on the short-list of five for local members and those excluded from their own CLP because they are not a woman.

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