McCluskey-Coyne palaver suggests this has been a slow news day

Len McCluskey [Image: Gareth Fuller/PA].

Seriously – what is all this fuss about?

As far as I can tell, Len McCluskey made a few, very reasonable, speculative comments about what the Labour leadership might do if the polls continue to (mis)represent their party as unpopular in a couple of years’ time – and lots of other people started throwing their toys out of the proverbial pram.

Mr McCluskey’s rival for the leadership of the union Unite, Gerard Coyne, suggested he was behaving like a “puppet master” in making this suggestion. My question is: How?

Did the challenger take offense at Mr McCluskey’s claim that Messrs Corbyn and McDonnell are “not egomaniacs” and would not cling to power within the party if it meant there was no hope of victory? If so, why? Is it simply because those words don’t fit the narrative Mr Coyne is trying to create?

Mr Coyne had said that Mr McCluskey’s words were, in effect, a “public ultimatum” to Labour’s leaders – get better poll results or quit before the next election.

He was quoted as saying: “In 2015 and in 2016, he decided the Labour Party should be led by Jeremy Corbyn, and spent hundreds of thousands of pounds of Unite members’ money to make that happen.

“It is not in the interest of Unite’s members that the General Secretary should spend so much of his time and their money playing politics.”

Mr McCluskey responded by pointing out that “in 2015 this was a decision of our elected lay Executive Council, and in 2016 of our 600-strong Policy Conference, by a vast majority.

“To claim otherwise is to disrespect our membership and our democracy, while asserting that our union is a political ‘puppet master’ panders to the worst anti-Labour stereotypes of the media.”

It is also contradictory. Is Mr Coyne saying Mr McCluskey wants Corbyn to be leader – or to quit? He can’t say both.

Mr McCluskey went on to suggest a very good reason for such a contradiction – that his script might be written by “the failed plotters in the Parliamentary Labour Party”. Considering the bizarre shifts in their narrative during the so-called ‘Chicken Coup’ and the leadership election it spawned, this seems possible.

Also plausible is his claim that, for these MPs, “Unite would be collateral damage in their political project to bring back Blairism”. The entire membership of the Labour Party would have been “collateral damage” for these MPs last summer.

By this, I mean that they would happily have turned away the hundreds of thousands of new members who joined to support Mr Corbyn’s leadership and the direction he wished to take the Labour Party. Let’s face it – they suspended or expelled large numbers of the membership in a failed bid to rig the election, so they have ‘form’ in this respect!

This war of words seems a pointless exercise in self-defeatism – at least on Mr Coyne’s part.

All he has done is provide Mr McCluskey with several opportunities to batter him – on factual accuracy and on his own personal integrity. And he has also wasted everybody’s time.

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