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Labour's main union backer can't see party winning election - report

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LONDON (Reuters) - The leader of Britain’s biggest workers’ union has said he couldn’t see the opposition Labour Party winning a June 8 parliamentary election, a remarkable statement from one of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s most powerful supporters.

Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, told Politico it would be a success for Labour if it could hold onto 200 seats in the 650-seat House of Commons -- or 29 fewer than the party currently holds.

“The scale of the task is immense. People like me are always optimistic ... things can happen. But I don’t see Labour winning. I think it would be extraordinary,” McCluskey was quoted as saying.

He blamed what he described as media bias against Corbyn, a veteran left-winger who after decades on the rebellious fringe of the party unexpectedly became Labour leader in 2015 on a wave of enthusiasm from grassroots party members.

Corbyn remains popular with the party membership and his campaign events attract large and fervent crowds, but he has lost the confidence of most of Labour’s members of parliament and has extremely low popularity ratings among the broader electorate.

Opinion polls suggest Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party is up to 20 percentage points ahead of Labour ahead of the June 8 election.

Politico quoted McCluskey as saying working class voters who plan to vote Conservative for the first time will do so “because their mind is being turned by the constant attack of the media on Jeremy Corbyn and the image that they’ve pinned on Jeremy.”

McCluskey said his own support for Corbyn was rock solid and he praised Labour’s election manifesto, which was launched on Tuesday and promises renationalisation of some services and measures to curb corporate excess.

If Labour were to win 200 seats, that would represent its worst result since 1935.

Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; editing by Guy Faulconbridge