Britain’s largest trade union has decided to reduce its funding to the Labour Party.
Unite’s executive council on Tuesday voted to cut its affiliation to Labour by 10%, or 50,000 affiliates. It is understood the move could reduce the union’s funding to the party by just under £1m.
Unite will instead use the money to fund other organisations, although it stressed it would still remain Labour’s largest trade union affiliate.
Unite has been Labour’s biggest financial donor and the union’s general secretary, Len McCluskey, was one of the strongest allies of ex-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
However, Mr McCluskey has recently warned new Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer over the direction of the party.
He has also expressed anger at the party’s decision to reach a settlement with antisemitism whistleblowers.
Announcing the union’s decision, Mr McCluskey said: “Unite is and will remain the biggest affiliate to the Labour Party, something that we are very proud to be.
“We know that it is this union’s financial support and dedicated activists that help ensure that the Labour Party is not just election-ready but sustained between elections.
“But we also want to use our political funding to support and nurture the newer voices in our movement.
“There are some very talented thinkers and energetic organisations out there who could do with our assistance – and the Labour Party needs their enthusiasm and ideas too.”
In an interview with the BBC ahead of Tuesday’s vote by Unite’s executive council, Mr McCluskey said there was “a lot of anger” over Labour’s decision earlier this year to reach a settlement with a group of whistleblowers who contributed to a TV investigation into its handling of antisemitism claims under Mr Corbyn’s leadership.
Mr McCluskey said his members thought “it was an absolute mistake and wrong to pay out huge sums of money to individuals who were suing the Labour Party based on the Panorama programme when Labour’s own legal people were saying that they would lose that case if it went to court, so we shouldn’t have paid them anything”.
And, in a warning to Sir Keir over the future direction of Labour, Mr McCluskey added: “We give significant money to the Labour Party and I well remember, when I first took over as general secretary of this union 10 years, my members everywhere were saying ‘why are we giving the Labour Party so much money?’.
“Because they felt that New Labour was letting them down.
“There will be that demand again – I have no doubt if things to start to move in different directions and ordinary working people start saying ‘well, I’m not really sure what Labour stands for’.”