Labour Leaks exposed a ‘rot’ not just in the party, but in the union movement too

Labour Party logo

A number of shocking revelations have come to light thanks to the Labour Leaks scandal. These include high-level Labour staffers apparently seeking to undermine both the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and the party’s election campaign in 2017. But the fallout from the leaks has also exposed a struggle for the soul of some key Labour-supporting trade unions.

Division in Unison

As the Skwawkbox reported on 15 April, many Unison members have written to general secretary Dave Prentis demanding action over the Labour Leaks scandal:

On Tuesday, hundreds of Unison members – including more than twenty elected members of the union’s National Executive Committee – demanded action from general secretary Dave Prentis after two senior Unison officials were accused in the leaked Labour report that detailed sabotage of Labour’s disciplinary processes and electoral effects.

In an open letter, the members demanded a full investigation and firm action against any staff found to have undermined Labour

Prentis, however, had not commented on the matter on Twitter at the time of writing. Nor had the union’s official account. In fact, one journalist claimed that Prentis had given assurances to the senior officials in question:

‘Priorities’

On 16 April, Novara Media co-founder Aaron Bastani questioned the priorities of the GMB union’s Labour staff branch after a successful motion called for Labour general secretary Jennie Formby to “apologise personally” to current staff members whose names appeared in the leaked report. This seemed to be a way of placing responsibility on Formby for the leak and the backlash that staff members have reportedly faced in its wake.

The motion also insisted that “staff can no longer be confident that the general secretary has the safety and welfare of staff as her top priority”.

This focus reflected the content of a statement from the branch a day before.

The union nonetheless stressed in its ‘final comment until the completion of an independent investigation’ that:

The allegations in the leaked internal Labour Party document and the reported conversations are unacceptable.

Any racism or discrimination – on any side – based on race, gender, disability or political belief is utterly unacceptable.

Leaking an unredacted report, containing names and personal messages of employees and the names of people who made complaints about racism on the understanding of anonymity is unacceptable.

Formby has reportedly asked constituency parties not to share the leaked document.

Trying to block solidarity?

On 15 April, meanwhile, ITV reported that:

A handful of Labour staffers tried to stop the party’s Unite branch from sending letters of solidarity to the BAME [Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic] MPs who were named in a leaked internal report as victims of racism and racial profiling from colleagues at Labour HQ

Around 100 Labour Unite branch members were discussing how to react to the Labour Leaks scandal and most agreed they should send letters of solidarity to Diane Abbott, Dawn Butler, and Clive Lewis. This motion passed, but around a dozen staffers reportedly didn’t vote in favour of it.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has said of the leaks:

Let us be clear what the officials whose cynical, abusive and factional conduct has now been exposed were actually doing. In working for a Labour defeat, they were working for a Tory victory

He also slammed the “rancid, and very cruel, political culture” among such officials, while stressing that:

Some of the responses to the report have been deeply revealing.

The battle for the soul of the union movement

As one union organiser (who wishes to remain anonymous) told The Canary:

For many trade unionists, these ‘revelations’ are far from surprising. It has long been common knowledge that some unions are bereft of democratic decision-making. They are plagued by bureaucrats who operate at regional levels and who view the union movement as nothing more than steppingstones in their own personal careers; the interests of workers and members always come last. …

Fundamentally, what these revelations reveal is that there is a rot, not just in Labour, but within the union movement as a whole. And it is only by confronting this rot and the union oligarchies that the movement will advance. Serious discussions need to take place around whether these lumbering and mammoth unions are still fit for purpose in their current form.

Controversy hasn’t surrounded all union responses, though. Because some trade unionists have made clear statements calling for solidarity and suspensions:

The Labour Leaks have clearly opened a new chapter in the fight to democratise both the Labour Party and the UK’s trade union movement. Now that this is all in the public arena, we can never go back. And we shouldn’t want to.

Featured image via Rwendland

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. Like a dead fish, it rots from the head down.
      On the ground at grassroots level we knew this was going on but to finally see the proof is shocking. Starmer has one chance to sort this out quickly or else Labour in England will follow what happened in Scotland.

    2. a couple of observations on the leaks:
      In all the behaviour reported anti-semitism isn’t mentioned once just the “personal” stuff. The sort of thing you’d expect from a clique of 14 year olds. Although, it seems, people involved were “mishandling” the crisis it does seem odd that none of the anti-Corbyn tropes are used in their attacks.
      Some went onto to work for the People’s Vote…a group instrumental in changing Labour’s Brexit policy. Does this add weight to the rumours that this was done deliberately to cost Labour seats in the North?
      It also raises questions about their commitment to “the Corbyn project” or any other “project” they are involved in: one day Labour, the next day PV.
      The behaviour exhibited in the report doesn’t by enlarge use “politically” motivated languge to attack Corbyn and his supporters but it comes across as sociopathic.
      If Starmer is going to try and sweep this under the carpet he’s going to need a huge sweeping brush and a bloody big carpet.

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.