Len McCluskey has sent a letter round the membership and it’s message is clear: if you want to discuss how the union spends its money – on Len – then you are part of the enemy. It is simply not acceptable.
How the union spends its members money on its leaders is absolutely a legitimate issue in this election and when Len McCluskey attempts to describe any such debate as “propaganda, lies and smears”, he is treating the membership with contempt.
Of course, Len is hiding behind the fact that these stories have mostly appeared in newspapers generally hostile to the union movement. But that is not a good enough excuse – after all it was such newspapers – the Daily Telegraph and the News of the World – that were crucial in exposing the Communist-inspired ballot rigging in the ETU in the 1960s. Shooting the messenger is not an antidote to truth.
So, here are some of the facts that Len McCluskey is so anxious that we do not discuss. The allegation is not that he is breaking the law or anything similar – but that our money is not being used well.
Len McCluskey owns a flat on Borough High Street in central London. He bought it for £695,500 in February 2016. And £417,000 (60%) of that came from members of Unite.
Unite say this is a good use of members’ money because it represents an “equity share” – in effect Unite should get back 60% of the capital value of the property.
But, actually, unless Len is paying rent on that 60% of the property it represents anything but good value – it is, in fact, an enormous interest-free loan to Len McCluskey.
And – according to Zoopla – the property could be rented out for £2100 a month, so Len ought to be paying members of Unite £1260 a month for their share of the property. If he is not – and there is no evidence to suggest he is – then that’s effectively another £25,000 on his salary before tax.
If we are not allowed to discuss what our union’s leader is being paid – out of our money – what are we allowed to discuss?