Len McCluskey

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Len McCluskey
Len McCluskey, 2016 Labour Party Conference 2.jpg
McCluskey speaking at 2016 Labour Party Conference
General Secretary of Unite
Assumed office
1 January 2011
Preceded by Derek Simpson
Tony Woodley
Personal details
Born Leonard David McCluskey
(1950-07-23) 23 July 1950 (age 66)
Liverpool, England
Nationality British
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Ann (1971-1994)
Domestic partner Jennie Formby
Paula Lace

Leonard David "Len" McCluskey (born 23 July 1950) is a British trade unionist who has been the General Secretary of Unite since 2011. He previously spent some years working on the Liverpool Docks prior to becoming a full-time union official.

Early life[edit]

McCluskey was born in Liverpool and went to the Cardinal Godfrey School in Everton.[1][2] After leaving school as a teenager, he went to work for the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company and remained there for the next 11 years.[1]

Trade unionist[edit]

McCluskey first became a trade unionist in 1968, while working on the docks.[3][4] He became a shop steward a year later, aged 19, and joined the Labour Party in 1970.[1] He became an officer of the TGWU in Merseyside in 1979 and was its campaign organiser throughout the 1980s,[3][5] during which he supported Militant tendency, but was not a member of it.[1]

McCluskey was elected as the National Secretary of the TGWU General Workers Group in 1990, and moved to London to work in the union's national headquarters.[1][3] In 2004 he became the TGWU's national organiser for the service industries.[3] In 2007, he was appointed as the Assistant General Secretary for Industrial Strategy of the newly merged Unite the Union.[3] He defines himself as being on the left of the union, and has been given the label of "Red Len" in the British press because of his involvement in Unite's dispute with British Airways.[5]

In 2010, McCluskey stood for election as General Secretary of Unite to replace joint-General Secretaries Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley, who had both announced their retirement. On 21 November 2010, it was announced that McCluskey had won the election.[3] Derek Simpson retired a few weeks later, in December 2010, and Tony Woodley followed shortly after that, leaving McCluskey to take office as the General Secretary on 1 January 2011.[5] In 2013, McCluskey announced that he would be running for re-election as General Secretary.[6] He was re-elected in 2013 with the following results posted. The full election results are as follows:

Len McCluskey: 144,570 votes.

Jerry Hicks: 79,819 votes.

Number of ballot papers found to be invalid: 1,412.

Total number of valid votes cast: 224,389.

Turnout: 15.2 per cent.

In 2013, McCluskey co-signed a letter which was published in The Guardian newspaper to announce his support for the People's Assembly movement.[7] He also gave a speech at the closing plenary of the People's Assembly Conference, held at Westminster Central Hall on 22 June 2013.

Falkirk Labour investigation[edit]

In July 2013, McCluskey accused Labour of "picking the wrong fight" over the selection of a prospective candidate in the Falkirk constituency. He described Labour party headquarters' handling of the matter as "nothing short of disgraceful".[8]

In November 2013, McCluskey denied fresh claims that his Unite Union had tried to prevent a Labour Party investigation into alleged vote rigging in Falkirk.[9]

Threat to split from Labour[edit]

In March 2015, McCluskey threatened to disaffiliate Unite from Labour and launch a new workers' party if Labour lost the 2015 general election.[10]

Personal life[edit]

McCluskey was married to Ann for 25 years, and the couple have an adult son.[11][12] After moving to London as part of the T&GWU national operation in 1991 whilst still married, his partner Jennie Formby (née Sandle), gave birth to a child at Princess Anne Hospital in Southampton.[1][3][11] In 1994, McCluskey made headlines after it was revealed that he had received a subsidized loan of £90,000 to buy a house with Formby in NW10, London.[12] McCluskey lives with his partner Paula Lace. In 2013, Jennie Formby was appointed Unite's political director on £75,000, replacing Steve (Stephen) Hart, who was the son of Judith Hart, Baroness Hart of South Lanark.[11]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Hernon, Ian (18 December 2009). "Ian Hernon speaks to union leader and ex-Liverpool docker Len McCluskey". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 21 November 2010. 
  2. ^ "Len McCluskey voted new leader of trade union Unite". Liverpool Echo. 2010-11-22. Retrieved 2013-07-11. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Len McCluskey chosen as new Unite leader". BBC News. 21 November 2010. Retrieved 21 November 2010. 
  4. ^ Waddington, Marc (25 October 2010). "City trade union stalwart Len McCluskey in running for top Unite job". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 21 November 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c Mann, Emily (13 September 2010). "Len McCluskey: Burning desire". New Statesman. Retrieved 21 November 2010. 
  6. ^ "Re-elect Len McCluskey - Unite 4 Len - Len McCluskey for Unite General Secretary". Unite 4 Len. Retrieved 2013-07-11. 
  7. ^ People's Assembly opening letter http://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/feb/05/people-assembly-against-austerity 5 February 2013, The Guardian Newspaper.
  8. ^ "BBC News - Unite chief says Labour 'picking wrong fight' over Falkirk". Bbc.co.uk. 2013-07-05. Retrieved 2013-07-11. 
  9. ^ "Len McCluskey denies thwarting Falkirk Labour probe". BBC News. 3 November 2013. Retrieved 3 November 2013. 
  10. ^ McSmith, Andy (1 April 2014). "Unite union boss Len McCluskey threatens to launch party to rival Labour". The Independent. Retrieved 2 April 2014. 
  11. ^ a b c Simon Walters and Glen Owen (21 July 2013). "Mother of union boss love child fixes MPs for Labour". Daily Mail. Retrieved 21 July 2013. 
  12. ^ a b Andrew Gilligan (20 March 2010). "British Airways strike: The rise of 'Red' Len McCluskey". Daily telegraph. Retrieved 21 July 2013. 

External links[edit]

Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Derek Simpson
Tony Woodley
General Secretary of Unite