Last week, Len McCluskey, The General Secretary of Unite, made a big play of sending out a letter to, he said, all Unite members in Falkirk West (Unite’s still unable to distinguish Falkirk the Westminster Constituency from Falkirk West the CLP). The purpose of the letter was to criticise the Labour Party for putting the constituency in ‘special measures’. Unite had done nothing wrong. Any suggestion that anything un-towards had gone on in Falkirk involving Unite officials was simply outrageous.
Except McCluskey’s letter wasn’t sent out from London to a ‘Unite members in Falkirk’ distribution. It was sent out from Glasgow to all members of Falkirk West CLP. Long standing members of the local party who were not members of Unite wrote to ask how Unite had acquired their data and whether they had breached the Data Protection Act. Here’s what they’ve just received back……
So, let’s see. Falkirk West, chaired by Unite’s chair in Scotland, hands over the Falkirk West CLP membership data to Unite. Unite then uses the data to conduct it’s campaign in favour of its own place-person. Frankly, if that is a breach of the DPA then it’s not going to shock anyone acquainted with selections. BUT, then it all goes pear-shaped and Unite is embroiled in a huge crisis about to involve the cops.
The UK general secretary, beginning to flap, writes an important letter to all Unite members in Falkirk to say there’s been no abuse of information or anything else. He rings Pat Rafferty, well-coiffed Scotland Secretary of Unite. “Pat, you’re the leader of the crack Scottish operation’, he says; “I need you to act with your usual efficiency and sort this whole disaster out”. “OK, boss, consider it completely screwed”, says Pat. Len thinks Pat’s joking. So does Pat.
But Pat gets confused again. He accidentally sends out the letters intended for Unite members to all Falkirk Labour members, thereby exposing the data sets he’s holding and also compromising them at the same time.
See here for more evidence of the quality of Unite’s Scottish operation, but you’ve got to hand it to Pat Rafferty for bagging a 70k job – most folk get promoted just the one place above their level of competence.
It might just be me, mind, but my reading of the letter suggests that Len and Pat are drawing lines around their own personal liability. It looks to me like they’re moving to insulate themselves as far as they can from some folk. If I were one of those folk, in Falkirk say, I’d be looking for support here. Perhaps even from the Chair of the Scottish Labour Party? That’s Jackson Cullinane. Uh, but wait, Jackson’s full-time job is as Pat Rafferty’s Political Officer at Unite Scotland – that might not help.