Unite backs reform of the union-Labour link
The country’s biggest union, Unite, has backed the reforms to the Labour party's link with trade unions – but has warned those who want to push the unions to the margins of the party that Unite is `going nowhere’.
Speaking at the special conference to debate the proposals, Len McCluskey, Unite’s general secretary, said:
“My union was one of the first to embrace the principle of reform when Ed Miliband proposed it last summer because we understood that the status quo wasn’t working.
“It had left too much power for too long in the hands of an unaccountable Westminster elite who did not always share the values of working people and ordinary party members.
“And I was tired of standing up and pretending to speak on behalf of members who don’t support Labour at the ballot box so I welcomed the principle of change.
“The report before us today starts to take us down the road of involving more trade unionists in the business of the Party they support. That will present a challenge, certainly. But it is a challenge Unite intends to rise to – working to persuade as many of our members as we can to take advantage of the new opportunities to participate in Labour’s democratic business, as Ed Miliband has called for.”
Len McCluskey also too the opportunity to address the `firestorm of political and media attacks on my union’:
“What this union has been doing is now what everyone says they want us to do, that is encouraging our members to join the Labour Party, to take part in its democracy, to help make our parliamentary party more representative of our voters and the country as a whole. And, yes, to select Labour candidates who share our values. That’s not a crime in a democracy
“So let me make one thing clear. The Party has said it. The Police – who should never have been involved – have said it and I am saying it again today: my union did nothing wrong."
Len McCluskey received a standing ovation when he called for support for Stephen Deans, the union member vilified in the media for his attempts to rebuild the party in Falkirk:
“The smears and the lies will not deflect us from our political strategy but they do sometimes claim victims.
“That’s why I would ask this conference to show its support for Stevie Deans, a decent working man, a loyal Labour member and trade unionist, hounded from his job by an unscrupulous boss, who took advantage of our Party’s unnecessary arguments.”
Calling on the party to come together to make the renewed Labour-union link a success, Len McCluskey concluded:
“Let’s make these reforms work. Let’s open up our democracy again to working people. Let’s stick to the issues that matter and work flat out for a Labour government next year.
“Let me finally say to those elements outside the Party who seek to edge us out. This is our Party - and we’re going nowhere.”
For further information please call Alex Flynn on 07967 665 869 or Pauline Doyle on 07976 832 861.
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Notes to editors
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.