All change at Britain’s biggest union, not only with a new general secretary to be announced at the end of November. I’m also told that Charlie Whelan, the Brownite ultra, is set to leave in February to move on to new pastures – possibly of a media nature.
The story is somewhat complicated by the fact that the former spin doctor says it is nonsense and that he will be in the job until his death. But my sources are good enough to report it anyhow. We’ll find out in the next half year who is telling porkies.
Whelan was Gordon Brown’s head of press in the 1990s but went into exile early on in Labour’s first term after getting involved in the Mandelson/Robinson home loan scandal. (Blair blamed him for leaking the story to the press). When Gordon Brown became prime minister in 2008 Whelan returned to Westminster in the role of political officer for Unite. From this berth he acted in a key role for Brown as enforcer, aide and adviser.
During the general election campaign the Tories tried to make Whelan the story by focussing on Brown’s links with the unions and Unite in particular; with only limited success. He in turn accused the Conservatives of an “anti-union witchhunt“.
Apparently Whelan will leave the union next February, in what is said to have been a long-planned departure. It’s not clear whether this would have been the case if Labour had won the general election; presumably not.
UPDATE: Yes, he is leaving and his denials were tripe.