LBC radio presenter, CNN political commentator and ‘For the Many’ podcast co-host, Iain Dale is busy at the Edinburgh Fringe. Between 31 July and 11 August, Iain is interviewing a different high-profile guest each day. It's an interesting line up which includes Kirsty Wark, Nicola Sturgeon MSP and Neil & Christine Hamilton (see the graphic for more details).
On Thursday I had the pleasure of seeing this self-confessed 'Thatcherite' interviewing 'Red' Len McCluskey (pictured) the general secretary of Unite the Union.
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s biggest trade union and there's not really a service or industrial sector they don't have a member in. Len has also been a prominent and powerful backer to Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn.
The evening started with news on the proposed Edinburgh bus strike scheduled for the following day. The workers at Lothian buses were postponing the strike to consider and vote on proposals from management. Len told us that the problem was not just about pay but the 'agressive management style' of their employer. This touched on a theme that Len returned to again and again in his interview - the need to treat workers fairly and give them respect.
Len is an engaging, humourous and well informed man. His fiercesome reputation amongst some is the result of standing up for the rights of his members and workers generally. Yet he is also a practical man who is prepared to work with others to get results (as he has with some Conservative ministers). This despite the fact that he said he would never have a Tory friend and made a mock spitting action when the name of Margaret Thatcher was mentioned. A man of strong principles then but as we saw with his work to get electric cars made in Britain by Jaguar Land Rover at its Castle Bromwich plant a man who will make compromises if it serves the overall interests of his members.
A lot of ground was covered in this interview: the Dock Len once worked on, how he became interested in politics, his attitude to Brexit and Scottish independence to name just a few. Len always had a position clearly based on reason which he could articulate persuasively. Whether you agreed with him on these positions or not this was something which is often absent from poltical discourse. As I remarked to my companion, "people should listen more to trade union general secretaries!".
The interview should be out on podcast soon and we will link to it when it does.
You can buy tickets for future interviews here.
Reviewed by Pat Harrington