Unite union leadership election was flawed, claims loser Gerard Coyne

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The man who lost the contest to lead Britain's biggest trade union is challenging the result, claiming the full weight of the Unite machine was used against him.

Gerard Coyne, who was defeated by incumbent Len McCluskey for the post of general secretary of Unite, denied he had timed his move to highlight divisions in the Labour movement ahead of the General Election.

Mr Coyne, who was suspended from his job as a Unite regional officer the day before the result was announced in April, polled 53,544 votes to Mr McCluskey's 59,067. A second challenger, Ian Allinson, polled 17,143 and the turnout was just 12.2%. 

Mr Coyne told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The union machine was used against me and, as this is not North Korea, we are a democratic country and it is a democratic organisation, then I have the opportunity to call out the activity and the use of machine to an independent arbiter and that is what I am doing today." 

Asked about the timing of the challenge, he said: "This isn't to remind people of the splits in the Labour machine, that is not the case at all. 

"What we are doing is exercising our right to legally challenge what I believe is a flawed election. 

"The truth is that this is more dictated by timescales set down in statute and legal timescales rather than anything to do with the General Election."

A Unite spokesman said: "Unite members will be deeply disappointed that Mr Coyne has chosen this critical moment in the fortunes of the Labour movement to launch an unnecessary attack on his own union, something which can only help the floundering Tories.

"It is regrettable that he has decided not to use the union's internal procedures, which include the office of an independent election commissioner to review complaints, and further deplorable that he has notified the media before anyone else of his intentions.

"Unite is fully confident that the conduct of the general secretary election conformed to both the law of the land and the rules of the union.

"We will of course co-operate fully with the certification officer and respond to the specific issues raised when we have sight of them."