Respect Corbyn’s authority, trade union leaders warn MPs

By Conor Pope

The general secretaries of 10 of Britain’s largest trade unions have signed a joint statement giving their continued support to Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.

Signatories to the letter include Unite’s Len McCluskey, Unison’s Dave Prentis and the GMB’s Tim Roache – the three biggest unions, and all Labour-affiliated.

They say that their members will be “looking with dismay at events in parliament” and call on Labour MPs to “respect the authority of the party’s leader”. They raise concerns that divisions in the party will have a negative electoral consequences, and say that “the only party that can win for working people is a strong and united Labour Party.”

The general gist of the statement was agreed during a meeting of the general secretaries of Unite, Unison, GMB and CWU this afternoon. It is clearly intended to be viewed as a backing of Corbyn’s leadership, but after hours of wrangling over the wording, it is less effusive than some may have expected.

The unions stop short of condemning any challenge to Corbyn’s position, instead saying that a run against him must be “through the proper democratic procedures”, and “urge all Labour MPs to abide by those procedures”. They also make no comment on Corbyn’s performance as leader, instead simply noting that he is “the democratically-elected Leader of our Party”.

However, the Corbyn camp will see this as a victory, and a sign that union leaders are still acutely aware of a huge pro-Corbyn feeling among their activist bases.

You can read the full statement here:

The current crisis within the Parliamentary Labour Party is deeply regrettable and unnecessary. Last week’s vote to leave the European Union presents the entire labour movement with unprecedented challenges. Above all, we need to be fighting to preserve our members’ jobs, already under threat in several industries and across the public sector as a consequence. The government is in crisis, but already serious debates are taking place and decisions being made which profoundly affect the interests of working people.

Under these circumstances, our members and millions of others will be looking with dismay at the events in parliament. It cannot be right to seek to denude the Labour front bench at this time, when the government more than ever needs to be scrutinised and held to account by an effective and united opposition that does the job it is paid to do.

Jeremy Corbyn is the democratically-elected Leader of our Party who secured such a resounding mandate less than ten months ago under an electoral procedure fully supported by Labour MPs. His position cannot and should not be challenged except through the proper democratic procedures provided for in the Party’s constitution. We urge all Labour MPs to abide by those procedures, and to respect the authority of the Party’s Leader.

While we have stated that we believe a Leadership election would be an unwelcome distraction at this time of crisis, if one nevertheless occurs through the proper procedures we would expect all parts of the Party to honour the result and pull together in the interests of the country, and working people in particular. The only party that can win for working people is a strong and united Labour Party.

Len McCluskey, General Secretary, Unite the Union

Dave Prentis, General Secretary, UNISON

Tim Roache, General Secretary, GMB

Dave Ward, General Secretary, CWU

Brian Rye, Acting General Secretary, UCATT

Manuel Cortes, General Secretary, TSSA

Mick Whelan, General Secretary, ASLEF

Matt Wrack, General Secretary, FBU

Ronnie Draper, General Secretary, BFAWU

Chris Kitchen, General Secretary, NUM