UNITE leader Len McCluskey yesterday demanded an investigation into claims made by two journalists in an article in The Times newspaper that senior civil servants had told them that they believe Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is ‘too frail’ to become prime minister.
Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, the leader of the largest union in the UK said: ‘No wonder British journalism is held in such low esteem throughout Europe. It was a disgraceful thing. It was fake news, it was lies. It was distortions.
‘Jeremy Corbyn is as fit as a fiddle. He’s one of the strongest individuals I’ve ever met. People 20 years younger can’t keep up with him. There’s nothing wrong with Jeremy.’
McCluskey added: ‘First of all, I don’t trust the two journalists. But if there’s an element of truth that civil servants have made these comments, then the head of the civil service has to conduct an investigation. It’s a clear breach of a code of ethics. But I don’t trust them.’
McCluskey went on to refute a poll quoted by Marr claiming that the majority of Unite members favour a second referendum, saying: ‘Here’s the truth: my union constantly talks to 20,000 Unite members across all sectors.
‘I have 300 constitutional committees, none of whom are seeking a second referendum. I have 100 convenors from all our top manufacturing companies who met in March, none of whom are seeking a second referendum.
‘I don’t need YouGov or the Public Vote people to tell me how my members are thinking.’
Marr persisted: ‘Okay. When did your union decide to be pro-Brexit?’
McCluskey responded: ‘Our policy conference, our policy conference that brings together representatives of over a thousand people from every sector of our economy.
‘Nobody campaigned more or put more money into the remain referendum than Unite.
‘But – and this is an inconvenient truth to some people – we lost. And having lost you have to accept a democratic result and try to negotiate the best deal possible.
‘That’s what trade unions do. There is no panic, there is no panic to do anything. We’ve got a policy conference coming up in less than 12 weeks. Let Jeremy Corbyn consult.
‘My message to Labour MPs and to our Labour members is Jeremy’s done okay so far, so let’s trust him to consult and see what emerges.’
Marr came back with: ‘The Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, has said this morning, “we need to move now”. Maybe there needs to be a little of urgency, if not panic at least urgency on this.’
Marr warned: ‘Your position is losing inside the Shadow Cabinet visibly, if Jeremy Corbyn goes with that and changes the position to a referendum now and to campaign for a referendum in which you backed remain, what do you do?’
McCluskey replied: ‘Andrew, you’re wrong. The position of the Shadow Cabinet 100 per cent is they want a general election. That’s my position.’
Earlier, appearing on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme, Shadow Chancellor McDonnell had insisted: ‘We need to move now’ in changing the party’s position to explicitly calling for a second EU referendum in which it would campaign for Remain.
McDonnell admitted that he was ‘a little bit’ frustrated that the position had not been clarified at the end of last Tuesday’s Shadow Cabinet meeting, which was described by those present as ‘fractious’.