Trade Unions, Democracy and the Labour Party Leadership

03/08/2016 16:28 | Updated 03 August 2016
Rob Stothard via Getty Images

Unions are meant to listen to the views of their members aren't they? That is certainly what I thought and what I'm sure most people think. They ballot their members and go forward on the basis of that vote.

You would be shocked to hear then that Len McCluskey, General secretary of the Unite Union, has said to me that they will not be directly balloting their members on who they should support in the Labour Leadership race.

I understand that the Unite conference backed Jeremy Corbyn a few weeks ago - but this decision was taken by approximately 1,000 people. They were the only ones who had their opinion heard. I'm a Unite member as well as a member of the Labour Party, and I am extremely proud to be members of both, but I find it absolutely astonishing that Unite feel it unnecessary to consult their members directly.

Len said to me that MPs are trying to "force out" a leader elected so overwhelmingly nine months ago. I think the way I would describe that (without using several words that wouldn't be published) is absolute nonsense. As far as I'm aware, 60-odd MPs have resigned their roles, 170-odd voted basically to say that they think Jeremy is a bit useless and they have triggered a leadership contest in full accordance with the Labour Party rules. I would be glad if anyone can explain how that is trying to force Jeremy Corbyn out and how on earth it could be considered anti democratic as a lot of Corbynista's claim.

When Unite talk of democracy at the moment, they want rebel labour MP's to get behind Jeremy Corbyn and listen to the labour membership, they are acting as if the vote is some sort of anti democratic process. That is of course their right as an organisation that holds a certain position. What I don't understand however is the hypocrisy when it comes to them not asking their own members for their views, let alone then analysing and listening to those views. What is it they are scared of? Are they worried that after backing Jeremy Corbyn so heavily and demanding loyalty from moderate MPs that their members will hold a different view? If a vote was held and Unite members backed Smith then I would assume Len would have to resign given his absolute personal support for Jeremy Corbyn.

I believe the GMB union are doing an indicative ballot of their members as to if they should endorse a candidate (they didn't last time) and if so which one, and I've been told other unions are either considering it or are actively engaged in doing so. Why is it one union feels it right and proper to hold a debate and Unite feel it right and proper to allow such a critical decision to be taken by so few?

When people like Len McCluskey say we should listen to our membership, he has a point. Labour is a democratic socialist party and it is right that on the issue of leadership at such a critical time for the UK that it is being voted on directly by members.

Len McCluskey is a principled man who says he believes in the voice of the people being heard and listened to - will he now do a u-turn and allow his members like me to have a say on the direction which my Union will be taking?

I would urge Unite to allow this debate to be had, otherwise it will continue to fester.