It’s been a while since this site covered the antics of Len McCluskey’s Unite trade union.
From their success in sinking Labour’s proposed union reforms and their continued infiltration of local government at taxpayers’ expense, to their fight with HMRC about millions in underpaid taxes, Unite is a magnet for scandal.
No story is as worrying, though, as the union’s attempt to take over Falkirk Labour Party. After the inquiry into the affair was called off due to a lack of evidence, it seemed that the story would simmer down.
On the surface, the row at the Grangemouth oil refinery might seem like a traditional story of a militant trade union destroying jobs and industry through blind inflexibility. In many ways, it is – McCluskey’s team brought 800 workers terrifyingly close to redundancy, only being forced to back down when the plant’s owners made clear that without reform they would have to close it down entirely.
But the common theme of Unite’s politicking runs through that tale, too.
While the company and the union disagreed about many things (such as the end of what must be one of the last final salary pension schemes in the private sector), the strike threats actually came about because of the decision to investigate whether Stevie Deans, a Unite official at the plant and the Falkirk CLP Chairman, had been organising the alleged Falkirk conspiracy on work time.
Now that the threats of strikes and closures are over, all eyes are back on exactly what Unite were up to. It has emerged that not only was Deans running Unite’s Falkirk takeover on company time, he left quite the paper trail in doing so.
The firm have handed 1,000 emails to the police which, according to the Sunday Times, looks like
“A blueprint of how a union can hijack a constituency.”
The details released so far are explosive – from allowing Deans himself to persuade key witnesses against him to withdraw their evidence, to bringing in Tom Watson as an “intimidating” presence when one of those involved faced Labour’s internal investigators. One email shows that Karie Murphy, Unite’s preferred candidate in Falkirk was acutely aware of the risk of them being seen as “some hotbed of union ballot riggers”.
That Stevie Deans has today resigned from his job at Grangemouth rather than fight his suspension over the allegations is a sign of quite how damning these new revelations are.
Miliband is compromised by his reliance on union money, but even he cannot allow the influence of McCluskey and his henchmen to continue. Whatever they touch becomes engulfed in scandal, factionalism and undue political influence – and at the moment, their hands are all over the Labour Party.