THE BLOG

When Unity Is Required, Tom Watson Manufactures Division - It's Small Surprise He Has Worked To Split The Party Again This Week

21/03/2017 11:37 GMT | Updated 21/03/2017 11:38 GMT
Bloomberg via Getty Images

For the last three months I have been touring the country meeting working men and women as I campaign to be re-elected as Unite's General Secretary.

I have been listening to their hopes and fears in the factories, bus garages, building sites and hospitals. They are worried about their jobs above all, about Theresa May's "hard Brexit", about the public services they can see crumbling around them after seven years of Tory austerity.

They are - every last one, no matter whether they support me or not - decent people, committed to doing their best for their families, their workplace and their communities in a troubled world. They are the sort of people who make me proud to be a trade unionist, and proud to be able to help them in their daily struggles.

But there is another world in our movement, alas. A world of skulduggery, smears and secret plots.

That is where you will find Tom Watson. When Labour has needed loyalty he has been sharpening his knife looking for a back to stab. When unity is required, he manufactures division.

It is small surprise that he has then worked to split the Party again this week. He has form as long as his arm. And now his sights are set on abusing the internal democracy of Unite.

Who can forget his notorious "curry house" conspiring under the last Labour government?

Or the way he suddenly pulled the plug on our discussions to avert last year's disastrous PLP coup, which has done lasting damage to Labour?

Or his divisive "bring back new Labour" speech at last year's Party conference, when everyone else was trying to re-unite?

He is a product of the manipulative and authoritarian culture of the old trade union right-wing, for whom power was an end in itself, and all means acceptable to attain it.

So it is good that the Shadow Cabinet came together to slap him down yesterday after his latest spiteful attempt to stir up strife.

They are all too aware that decent Labour councillors fighting in this May's local elections will pay with their seats for divisive outbursts like Watson's.

This time, the allegation is that I was secretly in cahoots with Momentum founder Jon Lansman to bankroll his pressure group.

That was at breakfast. By lunchtime I was no longer the scheming mastermind, but Unite Chief of Staff Andrew Murray was doing the conspiring instead. By evening, he may well have been blaming the Unite caretaker for digging a secret tunnel linking Unite HQ to Jon Lansman's home.

The fact is that I have never had a private meeting with Lansman about anything in my life, let alone on this alleged scheme.

Anyway, backing groups like Momentum is not my decision to take, as Watson will know. Only Unite's Executive could decide to support such an organisation, and there is no proposal that it should do so.

Why the untruth? Watson wants to control the Unite election. He is not ready to leave the matter in the hands of the ordinary working people who make up our union. He has been masterminding a nasty tabloid-style campaign against me - standard fare in political elections, alas, but something new for the trade union movement.

His transparent plan is to install a puppet who can take the union back to the bad old days when unions like the one he worked for were in the pockets of employers and failed to put their members' interests first.

I know Tom. I am still proud to have privately and publicly supported him when he was under great personal strain because of his courageous campaign against the Murdoch empire.

How sad then that he should turn on those of us who supported him in his darkest hour, and how sad that his candidate, Gerard Coyne, should now be using The Sun, to attack his own union - a rotten tabloid and an instrument of the establishment that has led the charge against the working class and trade unionism for generations.

Such behaviour is what happens when values are trashed by ambition.

Indeed, we have had unprecedented interference from Labour Party politicians in this election. Incredibly, the Labour candidate for West Midlands Mayor, whilst enjoying the backing of the Unite union, entered into an agreement for mutual support, not with Unite but, with the Gerard Coyne campaign.

They are trying to turn Unite's democracy into a party political football. It won't be allowed to happen but it at least provides Unite members with a looking glass to what the future of a union led by an agent of the right wing would look like.

So I'll continue to campaign on the ground and in the workplaces - today I'm with health visitors in Hull and steel workers in Scunthorpe - whilst my opponent can continue to tour the TV studios attacking his own union.

His campaign and that of the union-hating establishment will fail.

The men and women at the sharp end want a focus on jobs, investment and protection at work. They don't want their union democracy turned into a low-budget remake of The Godfather and they certainly don't want the politicians taking over the union.

Sensible Labour politicians - and there are many - know it too. That is why they have told Tom to put a sock in it. As the great Clement Attlee told a truculent and over-talkative minister - "a period of silence from you would be most welcome."

Len McCluskey is campaign to be re-elected as Unite's General Secretary