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15/10/2010 - Labour Leadership Contest: Were we spot-on?

IN THE aftermath of the Labour leadership election we make no apology for re-visiting a key figure in that contest in the shape of the now resting political director of Unite, Charlie Whelan.

Last month as the ballot papers were going out we had a brief look at the career of Mr Whelan who has held jobs as diverse as foreign exchange dealer and union official and has dallied with communism and to this day is said to still admire Che Guevara.  We commented that with Whelan being the political director of Britain’s biggest union Unite that he could well play the role of kingmaker in the contest.

So how did our prediction fare? Well, Ed Miliband won the contest and he was the preferred choice of Unite.  His narrow win over his brother was delivered by the votes of union members as the majority of Labour Party members and MPs went for David.  The Labour electoral system gives votes to trade union members who pay the political levy and this has come in for some criticism in Labour circles as some believe that not all of these voters actually support Labour!

On Saturday, 9 October, an interview with Mr Whelan appeared in The Times as part of their coverage of the change at the top of the Labour Party.  He is quoted as saying “I’m not going to go around crowing. But it was clear that the union vote turned out for Ed Miliband”.  He pointed to the database created by Unite prior to the general election, (see the article Where now for the establishment unions? posted here on 2/6/10 for more on Unite’s electoral machine), that was employed in the leadership contest to launch a “massive canvassing operation on behalf of the younger brother”.  The objective of the big unions, said Mr Whelan, was to stop David Miliband and thus break with New Labour.  Mr Whelan also made mention of the Labour voting system: “I do think the voting system is flawed. There are people getting several votes – I have two votes, one as a Labour Party member, one as a trade union member.  Some people have many more.  It’s ridiculous”.

With the new Labour leader have apparently gained his crown at the expense of his elder brother with the help of the establishment unions it will be interesting to see how much he remains in their debt.  Will he be his own man or will he dance to the establishment unions’ tune? Solidarity will be watching carefully and keeping you informed.