Len McCluskey: Scottish Labour stagnation makes Westminster victory ‘impossible’

Former Unite general secretary Len McCluskey urged Labour in Scotland to back a second independence vote.

29 March 2022

Labour’s “stagnation” in Scotland could make the idea of the party winning the next Westminster election “impossible”, a former trade union chief has warned.

Len McCluskey, who spent a decade leading the UK’s largest union, urged party chiefs north of the border to “grasp the nettle” and back holding a second independence vote.

He made the plea as he called on Anas Sarwar’s Scottish Labour to adopt a more “imaginative approach” to policy, warning that without a chance of tack “Labour could be lost to another generation in Scotland”.

Westminster rules mean the Tories do not need to hold another general election until December 2024, but Mr McCluskey, speaking during a visit to Scotland to promote his recent autobiography, believes the vote could take place in October next year.

Speaking to PA Scotlan, he said: “The reality is that if an election is called next year, as we stand at the moment, Labour will make very few if any gains in Scotland, therefore the idea of a Labour overall majority in Westminster is impossible.

“Labour can not win an overall majority in Westminster without Scotland.

“It can achieve a hung parliament, and as a minority it can form a government, although to do that Keir Starmer would have to win back the red wall seats in England and I struggle to see how he is going to do that.”

Mr McCluskey, who was closely aligned with previous Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said he was “deeply worried about the Labour Party under the leadership of Keir Starmer”, accusing the UK leader of “attacking” the left wing of the party.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar’s party is ‘out of touch’ and ‘stagnating’, former Unite general secretary Len McCluskey claims (Andy Buchanan/PA)

The former Unite general secretary added: “The Scottish Labour Party is in a worse position that the rest of the national Labour Party, the Scottish Labour Party is stagnating and has done for a while now.

“It is completely out of touch with ordinary working class people in Scotland, we have lost thousands, droves and droves of Labour voters have moved over to the SNP.

“And that has been going on for some years now, Scottish Labour weren’t listening to the trade unions, they certainly weren’t listening to me when I was general secretary and telling them to wake up and smell the coffee.”

Mr McCluskey said he had predicted Labour would lose “significant numbers” of seats in Scotland in the 2015 election – when it ended up with just one MP.

And he claimed since then “nothing” has changed within the party.

Prime Minister’s Questions
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will struggle to win the next general election, Mr McCluskey says (PA)

“I believe Scottish Labour really needs to grasp the nettle, they need to talk about independence question,” he stated.

“They should support a second referendum, even if they are not declaring at this stage whether they support independence or not.

“But they have to have an imaginative approach, they should, in my view, embrace the concept of federalism and devo-max, to try to breath some new life back into the party, otherwise Labour could be lost to another generation in Scotland.”

He continued: “I know comrades in Scotland can say, ‘what the hell has it got do to with you, keep your nose out’ but Scotland is very close to my heart.

“I come from Liverpool, I’ve got Scottish blood in me, and all my life I have looked up to Scotland and the radicalism of Scotland. It breaks my heart what is happening at the moment, as all I see is stagnation.

“That is what is stamped on the foreheads of literally all the leaders of Scottish Labour. And I appeal to them to rub that stagnation off, start to talk about imaginative, radical alternatives.”

A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “We have a good relationship with our trade unions and are doing the hard work necessary to rebuild the Scottish Labour Party.

“Mr McCluskey is a private citizen and is entitled to his views on a range of issues.”

More from Perspective

Get a free copy of our print edition


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed

Your email address will not be published. The views expressed in the comments below are not those of Perspective. We encourage healthy debate, but racist, misogynistic, homophobic and other types of hateful comments will not be published.