The nominations race is hotting up. There are three which seem to be of particular consequence, for different reasons.
First, the huge JLR car plant in Solihull nominated Len McCluskey. This is the union’s biggest branch, with over 10,000 members – it is the country’s largest factory. If any extra significance were needed, it is of course in the heart of Gerard Coyne’s West Midlands region, where he has been top official for more than fifteen years. JLR must constitute nearly ten per cent of the region’s total membership. How Coyne let such a prize slip is a reflection not only of his campaign, I would think, but of his stewardship of the region down the years. This nomination is spelt humiliation.
Second, the branch in Barrow for workers building nuclear subs also went McCluskey. This strikes to the core of Campaign Coyne in a different way. It shows that members are voting on industrial delivery, not party politics. It is a fair bet that Barrow workers are not paid-up Corbynistas, so their support for McCluskey suggests that his strong backing for them in terms of preserving their jobs has seen off Coyne’s anti-politics rhetoric.
Third, a win for the challenger – Unite’s parliamentary branch, mainly composed of MP’s secretaries. This went for Coyne, 35 to 25 according to social media. Hardly surprising, since many of those members work for the Labour MPs who are the driving force behind Campaign Coyne. Still, it is a branch and all candidates would rather win it than not. What is even more surprising is that the Coyne camp trumpeted it as a significant win for their man, apparently oblivious to the fact that strong backing for their avowedly apolitical candidate from the union’s only political professionals branch tended to cut against their main message of “take Unite out of politics”. It maybe that Gerard Coyne would do better with fewer press handlers – one who can stick to script is more use than three or four (latest count) working to a different plan.
In other news, the construction rank-and-file group (the only non-official industrial grouping in Unite of any significance) voted to support McCluskey. They don’t have a nomination in their own right, of course, but they will influence views in Unite’s construction sector, which has doubled in size under McCluskey thanks to the UCATT merger. Coyne was never in the hunt for this support, but it is a real blow to Ian Allinson’s faltering campaign. He trailed up to Glasgow to pitch his case, but came away empty-handed. I don’t know whether his opposition to all major new construction projects was a factor, but it should have been.
On the big picture, claims from the various campaigns would indicate that nominations across the union could be as much as 4-1 for McCluskey. Other, less well-informed bloggers who let their partisanship dull their analytical faculties, will tell a different story, but Unite Observer believes that barring something extraordinary, the proverbial fat lady will soon be clearing her throat for the final aria.