Starmer will be ‘ditched into dustbin of history’ unless he changes approach, Unite boss tells LBC

21 March 2021, 13:07

By Joe Cook

Labour leader Keir Starmer will be “ditched into the dustbin of history” if he continues to turn “Labour into a party of the establishment”, Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey has told LBC.

The powerful union boss, who was a strong supporter of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, told Swabrick on Sunday: “At the moment nobody quite knows what Keir stands for, nobody quite knows what Labour stands for.”

“He will be the next prime minister in 2024 - not an overall majority but a hung parliament - if he wins back the red seats by arguing on the radical platform that he was elected on.

“He was elected to make the moral case for socialism, he was elected on ten pledges that people said were Corbynist.”

Watch: Sir Keir Starmer clashes with Boris Johnson over nurses' pay at PMQs

Mr McCluskey was highly critical of Sir Keir’s approach, saying he had “missed the opportunities” during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The truth of the matter is at that the moment, the direction that we are travelling, that he seems to be taking us down, is to turn Labour into a party of the establishment.

“If that happens he will not become prime minister in 2024, he will be ditched into the dustbin of history.

“I am urging Keir to look at his pledges, to reject the siren voices of the ghouls of New Labour and to stick to the radical policies that will win back the Red Wall seats.”

Read more: Labour targets 1% NHS pay rise as it launches May elections campaign

One of these Red Wall seats - Hartlepool in County Durham - is currently up for grabs, after Labour MP Mike Hill quit last Tuesday.

Labour has come under criticism from sections of its membership for selecting a male candidate for the by-election from a shortlist of one.

Pressed by Tom Swarbrick on the issue, Mr McCluskey said: “I don’t think it is at all democratic, if that is Keir’s and Dave Evans’ - the new general secretary - if that is their definition of democracy it is not mine or even a pretence of it.

“I hope we win, I think it will be very, very difficult,” he added.

Watch: Lifelong Tory voter backs Keir Starmer due to 'leadership qualities'

The Unite leader said his relationship with Mr Starmer used to be “great”, but “has broken down after what he did on the Jeremy Corbyn situation”.

The Islington North MP was suspended from Labour in October for claiming the scale of anti-Semitism in the party was "dramatically overstated for political reasons", less than an hour after the Equality and Human Rights Commission published a report on anti-Semitism in the party.

Read more: Sir Keir Starmer accuses Tories of offering 'roadmap to yesterday' in economy speech

Len McCluskey was a strong supporter of Jeremy Corbyn during his time as Labour leader..
Len McCluskey was a strong supporter of Jeremy Corbyn during his time as Labour leader.. Picture: Isabel Infantes/EMPICS Entertainment

Mr McCluskey accused Sir Keir’s team of breaking an agreement to reinstate Mr Corbyn as a Labour MP. The former leader was instead readmitted to the party but was only permitted to sit as an independent in the Commons.

The union boss told LBC, that in his opinion the Labour leader “knows that there was an agreement arrived at”.