Unite reported to cops over claim it 'covertly' targeted Corbyn foes
4th June 2021

Unite trade union reported to police by LABOUR MP over claims it was ‘covertly funding political activities’ targeting opponents of Jeremy Corbyn when he was party leader and not declaring the spending

  • Margaret Hodge alleges that Unite union failed to declare political spending 
  • Claims it attempted to force out figures including Deputy Leader Tom Watson
  • Unite’s Howard Beckett said last night the claims were ‘laughable, risible’

The Labour party’s largest donor has been reported to police over claims it covertly funded a plot to force Jeremy Corbyn’s critics out of the party when he was leader.

Margaret Hodge, a leading critic of the hard Left former leader, alleges that the Unite trade union failed to declare political spending used in attempting to unseat moderate MPs.

She claims that the union, led by Corbyn’s close confederate Len McCluskey, attempted to force out figures including Deputy Leader Tom Watson in 2018.

The Times said emails it had seen showed activists saying they wanted to be paid for moving against ‘right-wingers’ like Mr Watson via the legal firm, Thompsons.

If true such payments could breach legal requirements for unions to declare political spending. 

Both Unite and Thompsons deny any wrongdoing. Howard Beckett, a frontrunner to replace Mr McCluskey as general secretary, said last night the claims were ‘laughable, risible’. 

But Ms Hodge last night claimed the emails raised questions about his fitness to lead the union, as he is in charge of its legal department.

She said: ‘I have recently seen emails suggesting that Unite top officials have been covertly funding political activities. Keeping this secret from its hardworking members.

If true, this is unlawful. In these emails, it appears Unite officials, including Howard Beckett, were deliberately orchestrating the deselection of longstanding Labour MPs.

Margaret Hodge, a leading critic of the hard Left former leader, alleges that the Unite trade union failed to declare political spending used in attempting to unseat moderate MPs.

She claims that the union, led by Jeremy Corbyn’s close confederate Len McCluskey, attempted to force out figures including Deputy Leader Tom Watson in 2018.

Howard Beckett, a frontrunner to replace Mr McCluskey as general secretary, said last night the claims were ‘laughable, risible’

‘They reportedly did this by funnelling money through their solicitors, who might not have been aware this was being planned.

‘Unite members have a right to see how their fees are spent & top officials have a duty to be open & transparent with their accounts…

‘It makes me question whether Howard Beckett is fit to lead one of Britain’s biggest trade unions.’

The row threatens to reignite the bitter Labour civil war between the left and moderate wings of the party, which has continued to bubble despite Mr Corbyn resigning after the horrific defeat in the 2019 general election. 

Leading leftwingers have begun to demand his successor Keir Starmer change tack after further election defeats in former Labour heatlands.

Mr Beckett last night told the BBC’s Newsnight that Ms Hodge was ‘making a political stunt’.

‘She’s obviously doing it because of the fact that there’s a Unite General Secretary election, she opposes my candidature, she supports someone else in the race and she should be spending her time on her constituents and not engaging in such ridiculous political stunts,’ he said.

Tom Jones, head of public affairs at Thompsons Solicitors told the Evening Standard: ‘We were not aware of, nor involved in, any of the discussions referred to, and have no knowledge or record of any such payments being made via our firm.’

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