McCluskey rival scorns crusader fetishist – but where did flyers come from?
UNITE leadership challenger Gerard Coyne’s “dog-whistle politics” was blamed yesterday for attracting the support of the far-right English Defence League (EDL).
EDL activist Roy Higginson was photographed distributing Coyne campaign leaflets outside the Vauxhall plant in Ellesmere Port, Merseyside, on Thursday morning.
He complained that “lefties mobbed up and tried intimidating me” before he was asked to leave by security and the police.
Mr Higginson is campaigning for the election of Mr Coyne, republishing his campaign material on social media while also attacking socialists.
His Facebook account reveals a long history of EDL activism including video footage of an event organised by Mr Higginson to smear Muslims. Mr Coyne sought to distance himself from the right-wing extremist.
But a source close to the campaign of Len McCluskey — the current general secretary of Unite — told the Star that it was no surprise that he had attracted support from “neo-fascists.”
Mr Coyne, Unite’s West Midlands regional secretary, came under fire recently after he angered Unite members by writing an article in anti-trade union newspaper the Sun.
And in an echo of allegations used to smear former National Union of Mineworkers president Arthur Scargill, he attacked Mr McCluskey over a supposed loan to buy a house in London.
The source said: “Coyne has been running an anti-union and anti-Unite campaign that will attract people that want to attack the union.
“He has said some dodgy stuff around free movement which is like a dog whistle to these people.
“We know neo-fascists have an interest in infiltrating and undermining trade unions and have a history of trying.
“But questions need to be asked as to how he got hold of Gerard Coyne’s election material and why he feels he has the blessing of his campaign.”
Unite recently called on the Trade Union and Labour Party liaison organisation (TULO) to investigate allegations of outside interference in its election after Labour MP John Spellar made allegations over “irregularities” in the union’s branches.
Union acting general secretary Gail Cartmail said Mr Spellar must “explain how he came to be in possession of private branch and member details of Unite the union.”
The Unite4Len campaign said that the engagement of members of extreme groups is “alarming” and accused Mr Coyne’s team of trying to inflict “maximum damage” to the union.
A spokeswoman said: “Cosying up to a group that peddles division and fear and violates the principles of the trade union movement really would represent a new low for the Coyne campaign.”
She highlighted Mr McCluskey’s record on fighting racism, preventing apartheid-friendly ships from entering Liverpool docks as a young steward and said Mr Coyne faced “very real questions about his commitment to an anti-racist, tolerant society.”
“Unite members will rightly be appalled that Len’s opponent is now being said to be relying on the far right to advance his campaign to discredit Len and their union,” she added.
In a statement Mr Coyne said he condemned “the racism of this abhorrent man” — saying there is no place for this in Unite.
Mr Coyne added that Mr Higginson “should be thrown out of our union.”