MAKE no mistake — the artificial row being gleefully whipped up over the relationship between Unite, the Labour Party and Momentum is simply another stage in the campaign to remove Jeremy Corbyn.
Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson can huff and puff about “entryism” — as indeed he did ad nauseam last year, with his absurd suggestion that Labour’s hundreds of thousands of new members were being controlled by shadowy Trotskyist manipulators.
And he can hurl around irresponsible accusations, as he does when he pontificates that “we have never seen the biggest union organise a political faction within the Labour Party with the tacit approval of the leadership.”
But there is absolutely no evidence to suggest anything of the sort has occurred.
The remarks openly made by Momentum founder Jon Lansman at a branch meeting in Richmond, “secretly recorded” in a daring raid by the Observer’s bravest hacks, were utterly unremarkable.
But feigned outrage exploded nonetheless over Lansman’s hope that the Unite and CWU unions could affiliate to Momentum in the future.
Momentum has clarified that this is an “aspiration” for the organisation, and doesn’t reflect any existing agreement.
Unite, for its part, has made it clear that an affiliation would not be in the gift of general secretary Len McCluskey whether he is re-elected or not — it would be a matter for the executive council — that no discussion of affiliation is scheduled and that no meetings between McCluskey and Lansman have ever even taken place on the matter.
Back-bench rent-a-gob Jess Phillips might bluster that she will quit Unite unless McCluskey says no promise has been made to Momentum, but the union has already made explicit assurances about that.
Momentum is a left grouping of Labour members who want to organise to strengthen the left in the party, which is their right.
But such is the sense of entitlement on the Labour right that any challenge to their dominance is taken as an affront, any attempt to work collectively for change as a nefarious plot.
More serious is Watson’s bid to interfere in the Unite leadership election, with the ballot opening on Monday. Corbyn’s enemies in the Parliamentary Labour Party have never accepted his leadership.
From day one there have been attempts to overturn the expressed will of a big majority of Labour members.
Smear campaigns and constant negative briefings have chipped away at Labour support, co-ordinated resignations have sought to force the leader’s resignation, bids were made to keep him off the ballot paper when challenged and, when that failed, members were purged by the thousands and disenfranchised by the tens of thousands in a futile attempt to stop him winning.
Now they are targeting the trade union movement, knowing that the unions which founded the party are in many cases strong supporters of Corbyn — because 40 years of free market folly have rigged Britain’s economy in favour of the rich and against ordinary working people like their members.
Unite under McCluskey’s leadership has been consistent in backing Corbyn and in opposing the anti-democratic bids to unseat him, reminding Labour MPs that their job is to fight the Tories, not their own leader.
So McCluskey is in the firing line, as Watson and others seek to boost the campaign of his rival Gerard Coyne.
Coyne makes little secret of the fact that he would withdraw support from Corbyn — leaving Labour’s structures even more dominated by those hostile to the leader, with dire consequences for Britain’s left.
Such dirty tactics cannot be allowed to stand.
The unions provide support for a large number of Labour MPs.
They should all make it clear that interfering in their elections and using the media to trash their leaders will not be tolerated.