Letter No 53  by Mike Allott: back to directory

23 May 2013

Uniting to help Ed Miliband transform Britain

Len McCluskey denies any "breach of party rules" over his union's strategy in seeking to influence Labour party panel selections (Mandelson's argument is about politics not procedure, 21 May). He insists: "Unite's aim is simple to recruit members to the party and then encourage them to endorse union-supported candidates in one-member, one-vote selections."

But perhaps McCluskey forgets that the integrity of Labour's modern constitution is underwritten in the 1997 election-winning manifesto, which affirmed: "We have changed the way we make policy, and put our relations with the trade unions on a modern footing where they accept they can get fairness but no favours from a Labour government. Our MPs are all now selected by ordinary party members, not small committees or pressure groups."

It is also significant that this was the first party manifesto to have been pre-ratified, under OMOV, by its then record 400,000 members. At the same time, the party rule book was updated to ensure union affiliates agreed to "accept the programme, policy and principles of the party". This same obligation was placed on individual members, together with new restrictions on the operation of "factions" within the party.

I am sure McCluskey well knows that these "procedures" were introduced in order to avoid a repeat of the Militant-style entryism which almost destroyed our party during the 80s. It is precisely for this reason that the behaviour of parties-within-a-party (surely) has to be subjected to the closest scrutiny. It is the prime responsibility of Labour's ruling national executive committee to provide a strategic direction for the party as a whole. It is they who will now presumably decide what constitutional implications exist, if any, for McCluskey's version of local bloc voting

Mike Allott

Eastleigh, Hampshire