Updated: Saturday, 24th February 2018 @ 8:49am

Leigh unite against own MP: Biggest union branch in Burnham's constituency back Corbyn for Labour leader

Leigh unite against own MP: Biggest union branch in Burnham's constituency back Corbyn for Labour leader

| By Kim Reader

The biggest union branch in Andy Burnham’s Greater Manchester constituency is urging all trade unionists and Labour Party members to vote for Jeremy Corbyn in the leadership race.

Leigh’s Unite the Union branch want all Labour and union supporters in the area, who are eligible to vote, to back the left-wing veteran instead of their own MP.

They are also calling on people to support a concerted grassroots campaign in the neighbouring constituencies of Wigan and Makerfield to get Corbyn elected.

Branch chair Stephen Hall said they are backing Corbyn because he is the only candidate offering policies that are not just a ‘milder version’ of what the Tories are proposing.

He said: “Jeremy Corbyn clearly has a big appeal, or otherwise YouGov wouldn't have him down as the likely winner.

“What has little appeal, we believe, are policies which are basically just a milder version of what the Tories are proposing and doing.”

According to a YouGov poll of Labour Party members, published earlier this week, Corbyn is now the frontrunner in the leadership race with 43% first preference to Burnham’s 26%.

He is also predicted to win by 53% to 47% when Yvette Cooper’s and Liz Kendall’s second and third preference votes are redistributed as they are eliminated.

If there is one thing we learnt from this year’s general election, however, it is that opinion polls in the lead up to votes are not always entirely accurate.

But for Mr Hall and the rest of Unite, the YouGov findings are evidence of Corbyn’s public appeal, especially to young voters, who at the moment often fail to turn out.

“Contrary to the claims that Corbyn will put most voters off, and prevent the party regaining power at the next General election, the evidence so far is, he is the only candidate who garners cheers on televised hustings – even to non-Labour audiences,” he said.

“He is also, the only candidate, in our view, putting forward policies which can possibly win over the six out of 10 young people who didn’t bother to vote at all in 2015, as well as potentially able to win back the many former Labour voters who have deserted Labour to vote for other parties, because they became almost indistinguishable from the Tories.

“Thousands are joining Labour to back Corbyn, few are joining to back any of the others.

“We think Corbyn is the best candidate, and the one whose policies and aims, closest represent the views and aspirations of our members, and we intend to do what we can to help him get elected.”

One of the main reasons Unite feel there has been this surge of support for Corbyn is that the views of Burnham, Kendall and Cooper ‘do not reflect their views as the country’s biggest trade union’ – and, indeed, as Labour’s single biggest funder.

They feel that what Corbyn stands for is ‘almost entirely in keeping’ with what they feel the party should be fighting for nationally – a view exemplified by the vote on the Welfare Bill this week.

Mr Hall said: “Harriet Harman has asked members not to choose ‘somebody who we feel comfortable with’ but someone who can ‘command the confidence of the country’.

“The trouble with this message, however, is despite their rhetoric, neither Burnham or Cooper, or rank outsider Liz Kendall, in our view, has shown any evidence that they can command any confidence outside of the Labour Party.

“Or is capable of leading an effective opposition to the Tories, as evidenced in the vote on the Welfare Bill this week.

“Or is capable of rallying voters, and leading Labour back to power.”

The decision of the Leigh branch to support Corbyn over their constituency’s MP, Burnham, was discussed at length with regards to Unite’s national policy.

Mr Hall added: “We discussed the Labour leadership issue at length at our last branch meeting and fully support our union's policy nationally, which is to back Corbyn.

“We think every Unite member, and every other trades unionist who who is eligible and wants to take part, should do so, and should support our union's call to back Corbyn.”

Image courtesy of See Li, via Wikimedia, and University of Salford Press, with thanks.