Unite fails to donate to Labour since Sir Keir Starmer's election as leader

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Harry Yorke
·2 min read
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Len McCluskey 
Len McCluskey

Labour’s biggest trade union backer has failed to make any donations to the party since Sir Keir Starmer was elected leader, The Telegraph can reveal.

In a sign of growing disillusionment with Labour’s shift to the centre, Unite has not donated to the party since March, despite releasing a £3m war chest to the party to fight last year’s general election. 

The figures stand in stark contrast to the first eight months of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, when Unite gave more than £1.5m in funding, according to records published by the Electoral Commission. 

On Thursday evening a Unite source told The Telegraph: “There’s no mad rush to get the cheque book out.”

However, despite Sir Keir’s determination to reduce Labour’s reliance on the trade unions, figures show that 90 per cent of Labour’s income, excluding taxpayer funding and membership fees, has come from them since he was elected.

Of the £6.3m publicly declared since April 4, £3.95m has come from short money, the annual payment given to opposition parties, while £2.1 million has come from unions including Unison, GMB and the Communication Workers Union.

And while Labour has launched a charm offensive to win back wealthy donors, just £199,000 has been donated by private individuals during that period. 

In comparison, under Mr Corbyn the central Labour Party received £5.1m from trade unions during his first 244 days in charge, while individuals donated £627,000. 

Senior Unite sources suggested the union had deliberately withheld the funding in protest at Sir Keir’s shift away from his predecessor’s agenda. 

They claimed that as a Labour affiliate, Unite had until recently released funding in advance on a quarterly basis, but had chosen not to do so since Sir Keir’s election. 

Labour declined to comment when approached by The Telegraph.

It comes two months after Unite’s executive voted to cut its affiliation money to Labour by 10 per cent, with senior figures lashing out at Sir Keir over the party’s decision to pay damages to anti-Semitism whistleblowers interviewed by BBC Panorama. 

Speaking before the meeting, general secretary Len McMcluskey, a close ally of Mr Corbyn, suggested the union could cut its funding further if the party continued to drift towards more moderate policies.

In recent weeks, tensions have escalated following the decision by Sir Keir to withhold the Parliamentary whip from Mr Corbyn, after he refused to retract and apologise for claiming that anti-Semitism in Labour had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons.”

Hitting out at the move, Mr Mcluksey accused the Labour leader of “capitulating to external pressure,” adding that he risked "destroying the unity and integrity of the party". 

"I urge Keir Starmer in the strongest terms to pull back from the brink,” he said at the time.