Corbynite Len McCluskey urges Labour to back second Scottish referendum

Len McCluskey says he does not trust Keir Starmer

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Jeremy Corbyn’s ally and former Unite general secretary Len McCluskey warned Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar he had no choice but to back a Scottish independence referendum or it would be “impossible” for the party to win at the next Westminster election. Mr McCluskey, who spent a decade leading the UK’s largest union, urged party chiefs north of the border to “grasp the nettle” and back holding a second independence vote.

He made the plea as he called on Mr Sarwar to adopt a more “imaginative approach” to policy, warning that without a chance of tack “Labour could be lost to another generation in Scotland”.

Westminster rules mean the Tories do not need to hold another general election until December 2024, but Mr McCluskey, speaking during a visit to Scotland to promote his recent autobiography, believes the vote could take place in October next year.

He said: “The reality is that if an election is called next year, as we stand at the moment, Labour will make very few if any gains in Scotland, therefore the idea of a Labour overall majority in Westminster is impossible.


“Labour can not win an overall majority in Westminster without Scotland.

“It can achieve a hung parliament, and as a minority it can form a government, although to do that Keir Starmer would have to win back the red wall seats in England and I struggle to see how he is going to do that.”

Mr McCluskey, who was closely aligned with previous Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said he was “deeply worried about the Labour Party under the leadership of Keir Starmer”, accusing the UK leader of “attacking” the left wing of the party.


The former Unite general secretary added: “The Scottish Labour Party is in a worse position than the rest of the national Labour Party, the Scottish Labour Party is stagnating and has done for a while now.

“It is completely out of touch with ordinary working class people in Scotland, we have lost thousands, droves and droves of Labour voters have moved over to the SNP.

“And that has been going on for some years now, Scottish Labour weren’t listening to the trade unions, they certainly weren’t listening to me when I was general secretary and telling them to wake up and smell the coffee.”

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Mr McCluskey said he had predicted Labour would lose “significant numbers” of seats in Scotland in the 2015 election – when it ended up with just one MP.

And he claimed since then “nothing” has changed within the party.

“I believe Scottish Labour really needs to grasp the nettle, they need to talk about independence question,” he stated.

“They should support a second referendum, even if they are not declaring at this stage whether they support independence or not.

“But they have to have an imaginative approach, they should, in my view, embrace the concept of federalism and devo-max, to try to breath some new life back into the party, otherwise Labour could be lost to another generation in Scotland.”

Mr McCluskey, a key ally of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, stepped down from his role with Unite in August after becoming general secretary of the UK’s largest trade union in 2010 and was twice re-elected to the position.

Unite, with 1.2 million members, is Labour’s biggest donor.
Its support was vital to Mr Corbyn’s survival as Labour leader for four years and he appointed its officials to powerful roles in his office.

However, the union is now at a crossroads, as Sir Keir seeks to break away definitively from the Corbyn era and reduce Labour’s reliance on left-wing unions.

He continued: “I know comrades in Scotland can say, ‘what the hell has it got to do to with you, keep your nose out’ but Scotland is very close to my heart.

“I come from Liverpool, I’ve got Scottish blood in me, and all my life I have
looked up to Scotland and the radicalism of Scotland. It breaks my heart what is happening at the moment, as all I see is stagnation.

“That is what is stamped on the foreheads of literally all the leaders of Scottish Labour. And I appeal to them to rub that stagnation off, start to talk about imaginative, radical alternatives.”

A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “We have a good relationship with our trade unions and are doing the hard work necessary to rebuild the Scottish Labour Party.

“Mr McCluskey is a private citizen and is entitled to his views on a range of issues.”

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