The Unite boss is Britain’s best-known trade union leader and is up for re-election.
As Britain’s best-known trade union leader, bearded Len McCluskey is used to brickbats as well as bouquets.
The prominent Unite leader has developed a public Zen-like calm to flick aside assassins and chuckles a lot for a Scouser who, inside, is obviously furious his enemies play the man, not the ball.
Hard as nails yet personally engaging, the firebrand dubbed “Red Len” who started out on Liverpool’s docks is a far more sophisticated operator than he is often portrayed.
To champion the car industry and UK manufacturing, McCluskey is forging an unlikely close working relationship with Business Secretary Greg Clark .
“I can only take people as I find them,” he told me on his way to meet workers and management in the big 650-job Cummins engine plant in Darlington.
“His predecessor, Sajid Javid , I found a difficult man to talk to when raising anything about manufacturing strategy. I find Greg Clark more open to discussion and eager to seek common ground.”
Unite is discussing when Clark, the son of a Middlesbrough milkman, will speak about the future of motor manufacturing at a union conference. The Minister put the brakes on a proposed appearance on the weekend just gone.
McCluskey’s immediate priority is re-election as Unite’s general secretary.
Ballot papers will this week be posted to the union’s 1.3 million members in areas as diverse as agriculture, finance, NHS , local authorities, defence, transport and factories.
He is the red-hot favourite after securing six times as many branch nominations as main challenger Gerard Coyne, the West Midlands secretary who is on the right of the union.
But McCluskey’s calm is briefly replaced by molten anger when asked about attacks from within on himself and the union.
McCluskey accuses his enemies – including Labour deputy leader Tom Watson, who has gone from friend to foe and he has described as the puppet master pulling Coyne’s strings – of “trashing” Unite to use the union’s election to undermine Jeremy Corbyn .
“It’s been shameful and I’m disappointed at the poisonous lies, smears and innuendo, aided and abetted by our right wing media,” says McCluskey.