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Of course Unite is taking an outsized interest in Labour’s campaign. It’s paying for it

The snap election means that only Labour's largest affiliate has the spare cash to help run the campaign. 

By Stephen Bush

One of the consequences of Theresa May’s surprise decision to call an early election is that the political parties are all struggling to get match-fit in time for the election on 8 June.

Compare with the last contest – Labour had hired Spencer Livermore to run the election campaign in the autumn of 2013, while Lynton Crosby switched to running the Conservative campaign in November of that year as well.

Labour have filled their big vacancy at the top of the campaign, with Andrew Murray, chief of staff at Unite, drafted in to coordinate the 2017 campaign. Murray is a controversial appointment, both due to his historical membership of the Communist Party, which he only left earlier this year, and because he has no direct experience of a general election campaign. The appointment has some insiders suggesting that Jeremy Corbyn is staffing his campaign with an eye not on the general election but on the battle for control of the Labour party afterwards.

But Unite’s outsized role in the running of the campaign has two more mundane reasons: money and willingness.

On the latter, the expectation among Labour’s professional class, regardless of how politically close they are to the leadership, is that the result will be a very bad defeat. One loyalist said that running the campaign would be a “bloody great asterisk” on their CV, while another described it as a “thankless task”. And for obvious reasons, even Corbynsceptics willing and available to do the job would be unacceptable for the leader’s office.

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Because the general election was just two years ago, most of Labour’s affiliated trade unions are still out of cash from that campaign. Others extended themselves to fight the local elections this year or the year before, with decisions on campaign spending largely taken before Theresa May announced the early election on 18 April. Unite is committing an outsized share of spending in the general election because it still has funds available, but that means that its leadership will take an outsized interest in how that money is spent.