Union leader offers to be SNP’s ‘critical friend’ in Scotland – and Labour should act on his words

Len McClusky, leader of Unite [Image: Sean Smith for the Guardian].

Len McLuskey’s offer to the SNP is potentially very useful, as it will give him an opportunity to monitor that party’s behaviour against its leaders’ words.

This Blog has pointed out, several times, instances where Nicola Sturgeon has contradicted herself, simply to gain political advantage (most often against Labour, despite the fact that Scotland’s woes are entirely caused by Tories).

McLuskey is not the kind of man to let this kind of behaviour pass.

His advice to Scottish Labour is also good – and should be taken as a warning to right-wingers and Blairites who still remain in the Labour Party.

They had their chance. They blew it – along with a huge amount of support for Labour.

Now they can either swallow their pride and do what they can to restore the trust they shattered, or they can shuffle of somewhere their views are more readily accepted.

The Unite leader, Len McLusky, has stated his willingness to be a “critical friend” to Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP government, while urging the Labour partyto apologise for the party’s “betrayal” of Scottish voters.

McClusky told delegates at Unite Scotland’s first policy conference in Clydebank, West Dumbartonshire, on Sunday: “Nicola Sturgeon and her team have reached out to trade unions – including on vital issues like blacklisting – and we would be letting our members down if we responded anything other than enthusiastically.”

While insisting that “Unite remains a Labour union, here in Scotland as across all of Britain”, he cautioned: “Preferring a Labour administration cannot mean being blind to reality, or ignoring the opportunities that we have to advance Unite members’ interests.”

Acknowledging that more than two-thirds of Unite Scotland members voted for the SNP in last May’s general election, McClusky added: “Being a friend does not mean being an uncritical friend. We can and should demand more from the SNP. Nicola’s government should not be hiding behind procedural niceties in relation to the trade union bill.” (The Scottish government recently failed in its attempt to secure a legislative consent motion in Holyrood, which would have allowed MSPs to vote against the bill’s application north of the border.)

McClusky, who will meet the first minister and SNP leader for the first time later on Sunday, added: “I’ll be saying to Nicola when I meet her later – don’t just oppose this wretched bill, but block it in Scotland. And while you’re at it – end the council tax freeze and really go the extra mile to lift the cloud of austerity from the lives of the people of Scotland.”

McClusky suggested that Kezia Dugdale must also apologise to Scottish voters who were alienated by “the ideology of New Labour”.

Speaking to journalists before his conference speech, he explained: “The ideology of New Labour effectively alienated large swaths of the Scottish working class, which manifested itself quite dramatically last May. Kezia [Dugdale] has to effectively say: ‘Labour is under new management, we apologise for betraying you, and we will start from scratch to try and build that trust up.’’

Revealing that internal polling had found 65% of Unite Scotland members supported the SNP at the last general election, compared with 80% voting Labour historically, he said: “The SNP stole most of the radical clothes that historically should have belonged to Labour. The truth of the matter is that in Scotland the SNP seemed to lots of people as a more social democratic party than Labour.”

Source: Union leader offers to be SNP’s ‘critical friend’ in Scotland | UK news | The Guardian

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11 thoughts on “Union leader offers to be SNP’s ‘critical friend’ in Scotland – and Labour should act on his words

  1. Joan Edington

    As a Unite member, I’ve not always seen eye-to-eye with McClusky, but I was impressed by his insistence that the union stayed neutral during the referendum in 2014. It would have been easy to be pushed by Labour to go with Better Together but he held fast. Although Labour get support from the unions via political levies, he realised that a huge chunk of his Scottish membership no longer supported the party.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Are you saying Labour tried to strongarm Unite into supporting Better Together?
      I haven’t seen any evidence for this. It would be interesting to read.

      1. Joan Edington

        No, I didn’t mean that at all. What I meant was that, with the traditional connection between Labour and the unions, I had expected Unite to back Better Together, as most other unions did, I believe. I was pleasantly surprised that they stayed neutral and left their membership to make up their own minds.

      2. Joan Edington

        As I have just said, No. My original post may have been a bit ambiguous but I never intended to say that the Labour Party used coercion in any way, only that I thought unions would all feel that they ought to support Labour’s stance, which was with Better Together. My use of the words “held fast” was more to do with not following the other unions.

  2. David

    McClusky should be cautious when dealing with any political party with ‘National’ or ‘Nationalist’ in its title. It’s a word which can stir up very nasty actions in a party.

    1. Joan Edington

      What party has the word Nationalist in it’s name? That word is only used by the media or ignorant people, when wanting to slag the SNP as far as I know, in the UK.

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        For clarity, the initials “SNP” stand for Scottish NATIONAL Party.
        It is, however, a nationalIST organisation.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I hadn’t deleted anything of yours.
      I will now, though.
      Don’t think you can ever push This Blog into publishing your views with nonsense claims like that.

Comments are closed.