I’m not a member of a trade union but I should be.
As a freelance journalist, my employment situation is precarious — yet it still wouldn’t occur to me to join the National Union of Journalists. My reasons are both personal and political, but mostly practical: the NUJ talks tough but, in the end, seldom achieves more than a few quid extra in your redundancy package.
Still, the union movement seems bent on wooing me; at least that’s how I’m interpreting Gerard Coyne’s campaign to oust Len McCluskey as Unite’s general secretary. Coyne’s manifesto touches on expected areas — better value for membership dues; a Brexit focus on training and skills — but it is in the main a prosecution of McCluskey’s leadership.
‘Our current leader spends too much of his time and your money playing at Westminster politics,’ Coyne has said, before returning to his theme again and again. He insists — oh so innocently — that he has nothing against Jeremy Corbyn. Yet he knows the Labour leader has lost the Unite rank and file and that this can be hung around McCluskey’s neck like a millstone.