The left-wing leader of the country's biggest trade union has been narrowly re-elected, 24 hours after his rival for the general secretary post was suspended.
Len McCluskey announced his victory in the race for the leadership of the Unite union on Friday afternoon, after a bitter internal battle that saw his challenger – the less radical Gerard Coyne, currently the union's West Midlands secretary – suspended for as-yet-undisclosed reasons.
Coyne said in a statement that the result was a vote of no confidence in McCluskey's leadership and accused the union's leadership bullying and intimidating him during and after the polls had closed.
According to the Press Association, McCluskey won by a margin of 5,500 votes with a turnout of just 12.2% across the union membership.
Coyne's statement said: "It has been a very close count and the ballot sends some very serious messages to Unite.
"I am proud to have run a campaign that faced up to the issues that concerned members. Unite needs to change, and it needs to put its focus back where it belongs: looking after the real interests of the members of the union.
"It's been a hard and robust campaign. The union machine consistently attempted to bully and intimidate me, something that has continued even after the close of the polls."
Coyne added that many members contacted him to complain that they either didn't get their ballot papers in time for their vote to be counted or weren't sent one at all.
"This was a vote of no confidence, with falling turnout and a halving of Len McCluskey's previous vote. It's time that all those involved to reflect on the message that the union's membership are sending to the organisation," he said.
McCluskey is a supporter of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and the Unite election mattered greatly to the party – with a £1.5 million annual donation, it is Labour's single biggest donor. Coyne is seen as more sceptical of Corbyn's leadership and was last year disciplined by McCluskey for giving a speech to a group of centrist Labour MPs.
Unite acting general secretary Gail Cartmail said: "I congratulate Len McCluskey on his victory and would urge the entire union to pull together in the interests of our members, and not least to work for a Labour victory in the general election.
"The turnout in this important election can give no cause for satisfaction and, while the tone of the campaign will not have helped, the underlying reason remains the archaic and expensive balloting system imposed on trade unions by law.
"The sooner we can move to secure and secret workplace and online voting the better for union democracy."
Patrick Smith is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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