Len McCluskey: Unite ‘angry’ over payouts to Panorama whistleblowers

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Len McCluskey: Unite ‘angry’ over payouts to Panorama whistleblowers

Union leader says it was an 'absolute mistake and wrong to pay out huge sums of money to individuals who were suing the Labour Party'

Len McCluskey on Newsnight
Len McCluskey on Newsnight

Unite boss Len McCluskey said members are “angry” over payouts to Panorama whistleblowers, as his union cuts affiliation funding to Labour.

He made his comments on Tuesday speaking to BBC Newsnight after his Union’s executive decided to slash money it gives to the party, warning leader Sir Keir Starmer not to move it too far from the left.

This comes after Labour paid “substantial damages” and issued a public apology to ex-staffers who appeared in a Panorama expose into its handling of antisemitism, in July.

Speaking on Newsnight, the trade union leader said: “There’s already some anger at the fact that the Labour Party paid out significant sums of money to individuals involved in that Panorama programme.”

Asked why, he said: “They are angry because they thought it was an absolute mistake and wrong, to pay out huge sums of money to individuals who were suing the Labour Party based on the Panorama programme, when Labour’s own legal people were saying that they [the whistleblowers] would lose that case if it went to court, so we shouldn’t have paid them anything.”

Community leaders criticised the moved, with a spokesperson for the Jewish Labour Movement saying: “Len McCluskey’s decision to withhold funds from the Labour Party over its financial settlement with the Panorama whistleblowers shows how skewed Unite’s priorities are.”

Meanwhile, Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl said: “It is hugely ironic, and doubly shameful, that the leader of a trade union which exists to protect workers’ rights, should attack the Labour Party for compensating workers who were harassed, humiliated and in one case nearly driven to suicide by the actions of their employers while trying to do their job”.

After the payout was announced, ex leader Jeremy Corbyn branded it a “political decision, not a legal one”, while McCluskey said there was “no doubt” Unite, which is Labour’s biggest financial donor, would review its financial support for the party.

McCluskey told Newsnight: “I think funding arrangements is undoubtedly an issue that may come up” when he meets the executive next week, but “I don’t see at the moment any dramatic move to disaffiliate from the Labour Party.”


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