United Kingdom

Unite candidate accuses rival McCluskey of spending 'eye-watering amounts' of cash

A candidate to replace Len McCluskey has denounced the boss of union Unite for spending almost £100million of its money on a luxury hotel complex.

Gerard Coyne blasted the current leadership over costs which rose from £7million to £98million for a 170-room four-star hotel, conference centre and Unite offices in Birmingham.

Left-winger Mr McCluskey, 70, is to retire this year after 11 years heading Britain's second-biggest union. The hotel is called 'Red Len's Folly' by his critics.

Mr Coyne, who was narrowly defeated in a bitter leadership contest in 2017, said spending such 'eye-watering amounts' showed 'wrong priorities'.

It was not the union's job 'to be the backseat driver for the Labour Party' and he promised 'to empower our workplace reps and support our members through the troubled times to come – not to play political games or waste their hard-earned money.'

Len McCluskey General Secretary of Unite the Union, at BBC Broadcasting House for the Pienaar's Politics show on BBC 5 Live on December 15, 2019 in London

He added: 'I'm sick and tired of Unite messing about with Westminster politics.'

Launching his campaign, he said: 'Unite members and reps are crying out for change, not more of the same.

'Unite has spent nearly £100million building a hotel and conference centre in Birmingham. That's a clear example of the wrong priorities and the wrong approach.

'I will use the union's resources and energy to empower our workplace reps and support our members through the troubled times to come - not to play political games or waste their hard-earned money.'

In a video posted on Twitter, Mr Coyne further criticised Mr McCluskey as he declared it is not the job of Unite 'to be the backseat driver for the Labour Party, trying to control and run everything'.

Gerard Coyne (pictured in 2017) blasted the current leadership over costs which rose from £7million to £98million for a 170-room four-star hotel

He added: 'The leadership has seemed more interested in what goes on in the Labour Party than what goes on inside your workplace.

'They've spent eye-watering amounts on building a luxury hotel and conference centre, instead of building a strong union.'

Mr Coyne was narrowly defeated by Mr McCluskey in a bitter battle for the Unite leadership in 2017.

Mr McCluskey, who has been general secretary since 2010, has announced he will retire later this year, with the contest to replace him expected to conclude by the end of August.

The Birmingham hotel is widely seen as his legacy but is known as 'Red Len's Folly' by his critics.

Unite says the initial estimate was too low and rose after it was decided to add an extra floor and upgrade the establishment from a three-star rating to four.

It has also cited its determination to ensure employment practices on the site were up to its standards as another reason for the escalation in costs.

Football news:

Griezmann spoke with Hamilton and visited the Mercedes boxes at the Spanish Grand Prix
Barcelona feels that Neymar used it. He said that he wanted to return, but extended his contract with PSG (RAC1)
Aubameyang to the Arsenal fans: We wanted to give you something good. I am sorry that we could not
Atletico did not lose at the Camp Nou. Busquets' injury is the turning point of the match (and the championship race?)
Verratti injured his knee ligaments in PSG training. Participation in the Euro is still in question
Neymar's contract in one picture. Mbappe wants the same one
Manchester United would like to sign Bellingham in the summer, not Sancho. Borussia do not intend to sell Jude