Mudslinging not winning

Valentine’s day must have been a depressing affair in the Coyne household.

Gerard kicked off the day with a novel approach to staying out of Westminster politics – giving an interview to the Bristol Post’s parliamentary correspondent, in which he claimed Unite members at the city’s Rolls Royce factory had told him there was a need for a change of direction in the union, and that he would achieve that.

This was coupled with possibly the most defeatist message to ever pass the lips of a would-be union general secretary – that aerospace industry workers needed to “face up” to a hard Brexit and “hope for the best”.

This extraordinarily pessimistic approach to defending members’ jobs in these challenging times was followed by the usual mudslinging about Len McCluskey’s age and that tired old Westminster politics line again.

Such fighting talk clearly resonated with the Rolls Royce members, who wasted no time in nominating, er, McCluskey.

Breaking news that Vauxhall parent company General Motors was looking to sell its European business to Peugeot then gave Coyne’s three-strong press team the opportunity to prove yet again that quantity doesn’t deliver quality.

Or maybe it was a deliberate demonstration of Coyne’s determination to take the union out of politics that caused him to issue a press release calling on McCluskey to tell “business secretary Sajid Javid” that there could be no job losses at the UK car manufacturer.

Unite’s leader would not, presumably, have thought of that demand without Coyne’s help when he met with the actual business secretary, Greg Clarke, the next day.

Such stunning incompetence was followed by an extraordinary claim to Irishness by the challenger for GS, in order to justify warning the Irish government not to use Brexit as an excuse to attack living standards.

“My name is a bit of a giveaway,” he quipped, before going on to warn the Irish negotiating team not to get involved in an economic war with Britain.

It’s difficult to argue with that. But if Coyne was half as prepared to counsel the UK government against a hard Brexit, rather than just hoping for the best, as he is to telling Ireland what to do, his message might be more persuasive.

But then he didn’t say he would keep Unite out of Irish politics, only Westminster ones.

The clue to how this election contest is unfolding, with Len McCluskey’s twitter feed claiming over 800 nominations at their close on Friday, is definitely in Gerard’s name.

The original Gaelic of Coyne is O’Cadhain, from the word cadhan, meaning wild goose. Which Gerard and his PLP backers are undoubtedly now chasing.


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