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Britain’s unions, the “big society” in real life,

So says dissemblerStalin groupie and Guardian associate editor Seumas Milne.

The election of Len McCluskey as leader of Britain’s most important trade union should be a shot in the arm for anyone who wants to see… the development of a genuine political alternative.

Yes, Labour’s new paymaster – and “the mainstream left candidate” - is a man elected on a 16% turnout by just 7% of the Unite union’s total membership. Mr McCluskey’s greatest claim to fame is his role in the British Airways cabin crew strikes, which began a year ago, have cost the airline around 150 million pounds and have yet to be resolved. McCluskey was formerly a supporter of the totalitarian Trotskyist organisation Militant and is still enthused by class war sloganeering. When not quoting Ernesto “Che” Guevara and predicting a “final victory” over capitalism and private ownership, Mr McCluskey likes to reinvent British history: “We are all supposed to believe now that the 1970s was a horrible time. It wasn’t at all.”

His memorable lines include, 

There is no such thing as an irresponsible strike.


My political principles are clear. Capitalism has failed.

Mr McCluskey, who supported an organisation that planned to “abolish” capitalism, has weathered this failure remarkably well and now takes home a basic salary of £100,000. In June 2008, after tanker drivers rejected a pay increase of 6.8%, McCluskey – then Unite’s assistant general secretary - railed against Shell management, pointing out that they “have themselves enjoyed 15%-plus pay increases in the last year.” However, Mr McCluskey’s union predecessors - Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley– were spared similar opprobrium, despite salaries of £196,497 and £135,330 and despite them enjoying pay rises over three years of 56% and 62% respectively. Interviewed by the Liverpool Echo, Mr McCluskey “fondly” recalled that he had “led lots of strikes” and described his agenda as that of the “progressive left.”

Back to the future, people. A Seventies revival looms.

Previously in MilneWorld: 123.