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He joined the Communist Party in 1948, having become disillusioned with the lack of progress of the 1945 Labour government. McCluskey was a particular devotee of Willie Gallacher, so much so that he gave his son both the names of the Communist MP as middle names!
A member of the TGWU, he was associated with the drive to democratise and renew that union within the engineering and car industries from 1955 that was led by Frank Cousins and Jack Jones, then the Midlands regional secretary and previously the Coventry district secretary of the T&G.
McCluskey was a long time member of the
The factory he was most associated with was the Coventry engine plant located in the Humber Road, part of the Stoke suburb of the city, which was variously owned by Rootes, Chrysler and Peugeot.