Andrew Sparrow from the Guardian quoted my New Statesman article yesterday, picking up on a growing movement behind a new party of the left.
Interestingly, he drew parallels between this trend and Len McLuskey giving his strongest hint yet that he is questioning Unite’s link with Labour.
In the light of Shaheen’s article in the New Statesman about a new party to the left of Labour (see 3.54pm), it is worth flagging up, for anyone who missed it, what the Unite general secretary Len McCluskey was saying at the end of his interview with John Harris in the Guardian on Saturday.
[McCluskey] mentions the four senior Labour figures who quit Labour in 1981 and founded the Social Democratic Party. “There were things happening in the Labour party that they profoundly disagreed with, and they left and created their own party. Now, that’s politics for you…”
And does he think that might happen to the people he calls Blairites?
“Or it could be the outcome for those individuals on the left of the party who believe, ‘Well, we’re getting nowhere.’”
“I’m the general secretary of Unite. In our rule book, we’re affiliated to the Labour party. And for that to change, our rules would have to change. We’re not there yet. But the Labour party has no God-given right to exist. Ed Miliband’s challenge is to demonstrate to ordinary working people – including trade unionists – that it’s their party.”
This is a big moment, in other words.
“It’s absolutely huge.”
And he doesn’t rule out Unite eventually taking its ball elsewhere?
“I wouldn’t rule anything out,” he says. “In extraordinary times, extraordinary things happen. In my view, students of politics in 50 years’ time may well look back on this period and realise just how incredibly important it was.”
Though he is working hard for a Labour victory in 2015, he thinks this will be possible only with “a radical alternative to austerity”. If the Tories win, he tells me, “I fear for the existence of the Labour party. None of us know what would happen after a defeat of that nature. And it won’t necessarily be the normal process of the leader stepping down, and a new leader taking over.” As he says, extraordinary times.
McCluskey has dropped vague hints before about Unite leaving Labour, but this was his clearest hint yet that he’s considering the idea.
Coupled with today’s news that GMB is slashing it’s funding to Labour by £1.1 million, this spells worrying signs for Miliband.
It could potentially reinvigorate the left, however, as unions may look to fund other parties, forcing Labour to compete for their funding by, for once, actually listening to the concerns of working people. This is good for the left and good for democracy,