Unite cuts funding to Labour Party by £1m following warning to Sir Keir Starmer
Unite, Labour’s biggest single donor, is to cut the amount of money it gives the party after the union’s general secretary, Len McCluskey, said he feared Keir Starmer was leading it away from the left.
On Tuesday Unite’s executive council voted to cut its affiliation to Labour by 10%, or 50,000 affiliates. It is understood the move could reduce the union’s funding to the party by just under £1m.
Unite will instead use the money to fund other organisations, although it stressed it would still remain Labour’s largest trade union affiliate.
Unite has been Labour’s biggest financial donor and the union’s general secretary, Len McCluskey, was one of the strongest allies of ex-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
However, Mr McCluskey has recently warned new Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer over the direction of the party.
He has also expressed anger at the party’s decision to reach a settlement with antisemitism whistleblowers.
McCluskey has been particularly critical of Starmer’s decision in July to make a formal apology to party whistleblowers who spoke to a BBC Panorama programme about antisemitism in the party, and to pay them damages.
The eight former staffers sued the party for defamation, saying senior Labour figures had issued statements attacking their reputations and suggesting they had ulterior political and personal motives to undermine the party.
When the programme was broadcast, a Labour spokesman called them “disaffected former officials” and said they had “worked actively to undermine” Corbyn and had “both personal and political axes to grind”.
McCluskey told Newsnight he and the party’s executive were angry about the decision, “because they thought it was an absolute mistake and wrong to pay out huge sums of money to individuals who were suing the Labour party based on the Panorama programme, when Labour’s own legal people were saying that they would lose that case if it went to court”.
“So we shouldn’t have paid them anything.”
In August, McCluskey had told the Observer there was “no doubt” the union’s executive would review its contributions to Labour in light of the Panorama settlements.
“It’s an abuse of members’ money,” McCluskey said. “A lot of it is Unite’s money and I’m already being asked all kinds of questions by my executive. It’s as though a huge sign has been put up outside the Labour party with: ‘Queue here with your writ and get your payment over there.’”
At the time, McCluskey’s promise of a review was praised by some of Corbyn’s allies in the Labour parliamentary party, such as Ian Lavery.
In an interview, last week with the BBC Len McCluskey talked frankly about the direction the Labour Party was heading under Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership. Mr McCluskey talked about how when he became the leader of union ten years ago, members would question why they gave ‘New Labour’ so much money expressing how they felt that ‘New Labour’ was letting them down. Mr McCluskey openly warned the Labour Party that these questions where being echoed once again.
Another point of contention and one that has left a bad taste in every paid members and affiliates mouth is the fact that Sir Keir Starmer took the personal decision to pay out the Labour staffers who actively worked to undermine both Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party documented in the #LabourLeaks scandal.
Sir Keir Starmer gives a ‘grovelling apology’ and a bung to those that worked hardest to harm the Labour Party and for thousands that is unforgivable.
Sir Keir Starmer has made an ‘unreserved’ apology for suggesting that ‘whistleblowers’ involved in last year’s widely-criticised Panorama programme were not reliable, the apology comes after legal advice stated that the party had a strong defence. The former Director of Public Prosecutions ignored the legal advice and made a political (personal) decision to make the apology and fork out members money with over a six-figure payout to the so-called whistleblowers.
“We unreservedly withdraw all allegations of bad faith, malice and lying. We would like to apologise unreservedly for the distress, embarrassment and hurt caused by their publication.”
The apology comes after the Party’s lawyers said they were confident of winning the case brought against them, but Sir Keir Starmer was determined to issue the apology and agree a settlement said to be in six figures with the former staff.
Jeremy Corbyn was just 2,227 votes away from chance to be Prime Minister
These are some of the same staff who are facing allegations of throwing the 2017 general election, an election that 3000 votes different would have meant Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime minister, seven years of Austerity, public pay freezes and food banks could have come to an end.
These are the same Labour staffers who actively worked to remove thousands of Left-wing Labour Party members by creating a program to trawl social media accounts looking for keywords to use in suspending and excluding members from the party.
These are the same staffers that need to answer questions in their role and involvement relating to the inquiry being conducted by Martin Forde, an enquiry addressing the internal report that has uncovered of evidence racism, sexism, factionalism and obstruction of Labour’s 2017 General Election campaign.
Black voters are still reeling from the aftermath of the leaked report and many have told us that they now feel “politically homeless”.
The lengthy document revealed that Labour officials used a string of insults, racism, and sexism in their private WhatsApp groups to describe senior Black MPs and officials including Diane Abbott, Dawn Butler and Clive Lewis.
The messages about Dawn Butler and Diane Abbott are a visceral reminder of the discrimination black women face in the workplace
Many black British women feel a particular, protective kind of kinship toward black female MPs, grateful for their representation both figuratively and literally in the face of media attacks.
So the leak of an internal report from Labour HQ, which alleges senior staff exhibiting the very prejudice they claim to fight against, has been especially hard to digest.
The 860-page document has unearthed a plethora of party horrors: allegations of misuse of funds, the continued undermining of the 2017 electoral campaign and the then-leader Jeremy Corbyn’s attempts to investigate anti-Semitism in the party, as well as vicious criticism of leading Labour figures by staff members in private messages.
The entire dossier is hard to swallow, but the messages regarding Dawn Butler and Diane Abbott left a singularly bitter aftertaste.
One staff member “engaged in a classic racist trope” by referring to the Hackney North MP as an “angry woman”, while another called her “repulsive.”
Unite is not abandoning the working-class struggle or the socialist cause but it’s diversifying its support.
The Labour Party would do well to remember it was the Unions that made the Labour Party and gave them the means and support to take the working class voice to parliament.
Announcing the union’s decision, which will see funding switch to other parts of the labour movement, the Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “Unite is and will remain the biggest affiliate to the Labour party, something that we are very proud to be.
“We know that it is this union’s financial support and dedicated activists that help ensure that the Labour party is not just election-ready but sustained between elections.
“But we also want to use our political funding to support and nurture the newer voices in our movement. There are some very talented thinkers and energetic organisations out there who could do with our assistance – and the Labour party needs their enthusiasm and ideas too.
“This move will support the collective voice from the shop floor to the grassroots, helping to ensure that the party listens to and genuinely reflects the aspirations of the many for a Labour party and Labour movement that will truly deliver on our shared vision and values.”
“Unite stands committed to transforming our country into a better place for working people so it is vital Labour remains the party of change and ideas, of redistribution and fairness.
“Our party has been the engine of progress in these isles during both the last and this century, from developing universal healthcare and education to Sure Start and NHS investment. We want to make sure it retains that spirit and determination because our movement’s brighter future – and a Labour government in 2024 – depends on this.”