‘A randy union chief’ – Len McCluskey

forty-one quotes by and about
Len McCluskey
born 1950
General Secretary, Unite the Union, 2010–

‘I was very much a child of the Sixties. Revolution was in the air.’ – Len McCluskey (2009) [i]

‘Liverpool when I was growing up in the Sixties was a place of revolution – music and fashion, but also social awareness and politics. When I worked on the docks from 1968 it was only a year after reforms had stopped the bosses being able to hire and fire as they saw fit.’ – Len McCluskey (2011) [ii]

‘There must have been twelve to fifteen dead bodies neatly laid alongside one another with their faces covered. I went along picking up the covers because I was worried about my son. I was in a trance. I ended up cradling one young lad who later died. The medics took me away in a state of shock. It was traumatic and my shock turned to anger. Anger at the police and anger at the authorities, including the Labour government. Justice has still not been given to the 96 who died.’ – Len McCluskey, remembering Hillsborough (2010) [iii]

‘Trade unionists are the people in this land who create the wealth of our nation and who are responsible for the very fabric of the civilised communities in which we live.’ – Len McCluskey (2013) [iv]

‘His temperament is rather erratic. He can be very personable, charming and, yes, intelligent at times. But he can also fly right off the handle.’ – anonymous union official, on Len McCluskey (2013) [v]

‘The local official appointed by the TGWU to lead the union’s campaign in support of [Liverpool] council is Mr Len McCluskey, district secretary for the union’s white-collar section on Merseyside. Mr McCluskey describes his task as being “to raise the consciousness of our private sector membership in order that in the event of any major industrial action they will be tuned to the arguments and wish to participate in defence of the city council”.’ – The Times (1985) [vi]

‘Despite strong opposition from Ron Todd, the union’s leader, the executive voted 20–17 two weeks ago to appoint McCluskey as the £20,000-a-year national secretary of the union’s 126,000-strong general workers’ group. McCluskey, district secretary of the union’s white-collar section on Merseyside, is not a supporter of the Trotskyist tendency but Militant sources describe him as friendly and sympathetic.’ – Sunday Times (1989) [vii]

‘I certainly supported Militant, and Derek [Hatton] and Tony [Mulhearn] were close friends. I would never deny that or condemn them. Some people have put it around that I was a member. I never was. I joined the Labour party in 1970 and remained a member. In the end I decided that Militant was too sectarian from a political standpoint to be effective. But I believe that on the chief issues they were right.’ – Len McCluskey (2010) [viii]

‘The Transport and General Workers gave McCluskey a cut-rate £90,000 home loan to buy a two-bedroom flat after he walked out on his wife and son. McCluskey, 43, now lives in Muswell Hill, London, with lover Paula Lace, 37, while his dumped wife Ann, 42, tries to pick up the pieces in Crosby, Merseyside.’ – Sunday Mirror (1994) [ix]

‘Randy union boss Len McCluskey, who dumped his wife to set up home with his mistress, has fathered a love-child by ANOTHER woman. The TGWU national secretary saw colleague Jennifer Sandle, 34, give birth to son Calum in Southampton in 1991. We told last week how McCluskey, 43, used a cut-rate £90,000 union loan to set up home with Paula Lace, 37, in Muswell Hill, London. Liverpool wife Ann, 42, said yesterday: “He was two-timing both of us.”’ – Sunday Mirror (1994) [x]

‘When the Unite union elected its new leader last month, it’s unlikely that the 101,000 members who voted for Len McCluskey actively sought to put an idiot in the position. But to judge from Mr McCluskey’s track record and his behaviour this week they have indeed managed to find someone who makes Fred Kite seem moderate and sensible by comparison.’ – Stephen Pollard (2010) [xi]

‘It’s people’s duty to protest if they feel the government of the day is doing something wrong.’ – Len McCluskey (2011) [xii]

‘We are talking about developing a coalition of resistance with church groups, with student groups, with community groups and retired members’ organisations so that we can start to develop the kind of narrative that expresses people’s concerns, and in that context civil disobedience.’ – Len McCluskey (2011) [xiii]

‘I can see someone from News International fifth row back. So if any riots break out and you want to take out your anger, feel free.’ – Len McCluskey (2011) [xiv]

‘There is a view that strikes are a waste of time, but I reject that. When people feel something is wrong, we have to protest. What else are we supposed to do?’ – Len McCluskey (2012) [xv]

‘The attacks that are being launched on public sector workers at the moment are so deep and ideological that the idea the world should arrive in London and have these wonderful Olympic Games as though everything is nice and rosy in the garden is unthinkable. Our very way of life is being attacked.’ – Len McCluskey (2012) [xvi]

‘Unite is not going to see itself rendered toothless by passively submitting to unjust laws.’ – Len McCluskey (2015) [xvii]

‘We will always support our members and if that takes us outside the law, so be it. We will have to live with the consequences – but so will the government.’ – Len McCluskey (2015) [xviii]


‘The soul has been sucked out of it by the New Labour cuckoos in our nest.’ – Len McCluskey, on the Labour Party (2010) [xix]

‘I’ve read Tony Blair’s memoirs. They are not the memoirs of a Labour prime minister. They are the memoirs of a partner at JP Morgan and a friend of Rupert Murdoch.’ – Len McCluskey (2011) [xx]

‘Here we are, twelve years into the stewardship of a Labour government, which is on the brink of handing the country over to the Tories, and yet organised labour is no better off in terms of union legislation. It is an indictment of our Labour leaders, as they walk away to take cosy jobs in the City, that we will be left without the weapons we need in the face of another Tory onslaught.’ – Len McCluskey (2010) [xxi]

‘No cuts to jobs; no pay freezes; no cuts to pensions and no cuts to services. If we want to cut debt, then there is another way to do it. Dump the identity card scheme completely, tax the spivs and speculators and the rich elite, close the loopholes that cost £35bn per year in tax avoidance and stop the wars of intervention and get out of Iraq and Afghanistan.’ – Len McCluskey (2009) [xxii]

‘I’m not for leaving the Labour Party, but I’m not going to continue the line of just handing over millions of pounds without it demonstrating it is changing.’ – Len McCluskey (2010) [xxiii]

‘Labour cannot simply be the party that cuts a little less than the Tories. That will not win the next election.’ – Len McCluskey (2011) [xxiv]

‘If there are people in the Labour Party who just see us as a cash cow, the dotty aunt and uncle who should be kept in the attic and just brought out to sign cheques, then that’s not going to happen.’ – Len McCluskey (2012) [xxv]

‘We have been taken for granted by people who welcome our money, but not our policy input, who want to use our resources at election time but do not want our members as candidates.’ – Len McCluskey (2013) [xxvi]

‘Step back from the brink of a ruinous division. Don’t let Blairite diehards be your back seat drivers.’ – Len McCluskey, to Ed Miliband (2013) [xxvii]

‘Our members are not interested in how you eat a bacon butty, only that you bring home the bacon for working people.’ – Len McCluskey, to Ed Miliband (2014) [xxviii]

‘I say to Peter Mandelson, Alan Milburn and John Hutton: stick to counting your money, and stop stabbing Labour in the back. And I say to Ed Miliband – have the courage of your convictions and ignore these blasts from the past.’ – Len McCluskey (2015) [xxix]

‘If the Labour manifesto is a pale shade of austerity, then I believe Labour will be defeated at the next election.’ – Len McCluskey (2014) [xxx]

‘I fear for the existence of the Labour party. None of us know what would happen after a defeat of that nature. And it won’t necessarily be the normal process of the leader stepping down, and a new leader taking over. I wouldn’t rule anything out. In extraordinary times, extraordinary things happen.’ – Len McCluskey, on the consequences of a general election defeat for Labour (2013) [xxxi]

‘Capitalism has failed.’ – Len McCluskey (2009) [xxxii]

‘If socialism can be seen to be delivering for the peoples of Cuba and Venezuela, where does that leave neoliberalism?’ – Len McCluskey (2010) [xxxiii]

‘When it was the Soviet Union, Russians and Ukrainians mixed happily together.’ – Len McCluskey (2014) [xxxiv]

‘Members of the Unite union have backed a motion calling on Labour to offer voters an in/out referendum on Europe. Len McCluskey, Unite’s general secretary, said not offering a referendum would damage Labour’s chances at the election.’ – Guardian (2014) [xxxv]

‘He was a hero to me and to millions more not only because of what he advocated – social justice, democracy and peace – but because of the way he advocated it, with passion, decency and without malice against anyone.’ – Len McCluskey, on Tony Benn (2014) [xxxvi]

‘I am not a supporter of going back to mandatory reselection or other changes designed to intimidate or undermine Labour MPs. But I also believe that we need to issue a clear warning to those who are advocating the PLP being used as a lever to force Jeremy Corbyn out.’ – Len McCluskey (2016) [xxxvii]

‘I say to the merchants of doom, in the words of Shakespeare’s Henry V, if you have no stomach for this fight, depart the battlefields.’ – Len McCluskey (2016) [xxxviii]

‘Len McCluskey said Mr Corbyn was the victim of “a cynical attempt to manipulate anti-Semitism for political aims” that was “got up by the right-wing press aided and abetted by Labour MPs. Once the mood music of anti-Semitism dies down, then next week and the week after there will be another subject.”’ – Western Mail (2016)[xxxix]

‘There’s nothing wrong with criticising the leadership if you have a particular view – but it should be less feral, less hysterical and more constructive.’ – Len McCluskey (2018) [xl]

‘I look with disgust at the behaviour of the Corbyn-hater MPs who join forces with the most reactionary elements of the media establishment and I understand why there is a growing demand for mandatory reselection.’ – Len McCluskey (2018) [xli]

see also:


[i] Liverpool Echo 18 December 2009

[ii] Liverpool Echo 23 September 2011

[iii] Daily Mirror 25 November 2010

[iv] Daily Telegraph 23 September 2013

[v] quoted Independent 6 July 2013

[vi] Times 13 August 1985

[vii] Sunday Times 24 December 1989

[viii] Liverpool Echo 18 December 2009

[ix] Sunday Mirror 20 March 1994

[x] Sunday Mirror 27 March 1994

[xi] Express 22 December 2010

[xii] Times 12 January 2011

[xiii] Guardian 13 September 2011

[xiv] Independent on Sunday 2 October 2011

[xv] Western Mail 8 September 2012

[xvi] Birmingham Mail 29 February 2012

[xvii] Herald 14 July 2015

[xviii] Western Mail 30 September 2015

[xix] Guardian 25 June 2010

[xx] Guardian 29 September 2011

[xxi] Liverpool Echo 18 December 2009

[xxii] quoted Guardian 15 March 2010

[xxiii] quoted Independent 6 July 2013

[xxiv] Independent 26 September 2011

[xxv] Huddersfield Daily Examiner 31 March 2012

[xxvi] Western Mail 25 July 2013

[xxvii] Western Mail 9 July 2013

[xxviii] Nottingham Post 2 July 2014

[xxix] Herald 3 February 2015

[xxx] Western Mail 3 April 2014

[xxxi] Guardian 10 September 2013

[xxxii] quoted Sunday Telegraph 21 March 2010

[xxxiii] Sunday Telegraph 21 March 2010

[xxxiv] Independent 13 March 2014

[xxxv] Guardian 2 July 2014

[xxxvi] Guardian 14 March 2014

[xxxvii] Daily Telegraph 9 February 2016

[xxxviii] Herald 28 September 2016

[xxxix] Western Mail 2 May 2016

[xl] Herald 22 May 2018

[xli] The Journal 27 April 2018

One thought on “‘A randy union chief’ – Len McCluskey

  1. ” … we can start to develop the kind of narrative that expresses people’s concerns, and in that context civil disobedience.”

    It’ll be interesting to hear what McCluskey says when a left-wing Labour government is in power and facing extra-Parliamentary action.


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