As per the rumours swirling yesterday afternoon, the anti-Starmer Trot Sharon Graham has won the Unite General Secretary election, on a platform to cut political ties with the party:
Starmer’s man Coyne – who wrote an op-ed for The Sun during the course of the campaign – came last. Last night Labour insiders were putting on a brave face over the prospect of the result – let’s see how long that lasts…
There are three left-wing candidates for general-secretary of Unite, Britain’s biggest union and Labour’s main paymaster, vying to replace Len McCluskey. They are Howard Beckett, Sharon Graham and Steve Turner. The moderate candidate is Gerard Coyne.
Despite Steve Turner winning the most branch nominations, the other two left-wing candidates are unwilling to stand their campaigns down, both arguing that they each have the best chance of beating the Coyne campaign.
Howard Beckett, who has the implicit backing of Len McCluskey and Karie Murphy, is running a noisy social media-led campaign supported by the alt-left media. Currently suspended from the Labour Party, he is a lawyer who sold his law firm for a £2.6 milion to Thompson Solicitors, Unite’s main law firm for industrial litigation, in a deal brokered by McCluskey. That dodgy deal made Beckett, the far-left’s candidate, a millionaire.
Beckett became Unite’s legal director after the transaction, overseeing the multi-million losses resulting from backing Swawkbox in their defamation case against Anna Turley. McCluskey is supporting Beckett, say rivals, because he has done McCluskey’s dirty work over the years and will ensure his mentor’s financial shenanigans don’t get exposed by his successor.
Sharon Graham would become Unite’s first woman general secretary, and has the support of the vocal minority of dedicated Socialist Worker Party activists who managed to secure her more nominations than Howard Beckett. The trots are running a slick campaign on her behalf, as you’d would expect from the experienced Unite organiser. Opponents say a Unite led by Graham would be a wildcard. She might expose the goings on of the McCluskey era, or she might focus on bringing down the Tory government.
Steve Turner is supported by the Communist Party and is the “official” left candidate. He is said to feel betrayed by Len McCluskey’s support for Beckett: after all, he ran Len’s campaign for general secretary – twice. Starmer is said to expect him to win, and sees him as someone who will be pragmatic in his relationship with the Labour Party, since he has previously said he has “no interest in a public spat with the leader of the Labour Party.” Beckett, on the other hand, wants to cut funding for the party.
Turner is the establishment left’s candidate, backed by the likes of the Owen Jones and many of the union’s top officials. McCluskey might be worried that murky financial dealings could be exposed if Turner won. He won by far the most branch nominations. If a deal is brokered by McCluskey for Turner to be the left’s single candidate, it would probably require a promise that Beckett would be given a finance job and a guarantee that nothing would come out about past financial misdemeanours. That’s still the most likely outcome.
Gerard Coyne is the “right-winger” of the race, at least in union terms. Starmer’s man for the job. The moderate narrowly lost to McCluskey for the role back in 2017, 41.5% to McCluskey’s 45.4%. He surprised the other candidates by winning enough nominations to go to the vote, because McCluskey and allies had deregistered a lot of the branches that supported him last time. Splitting the left vote between the other three candidates will work to Coyne’s advantage under FPTP and be the first bit of luck Starmer’s had…
Ballot papers will be sent out to more than one million Unite members at the beginning of July and the result will be declared at the end of August.
The nominations for the successor to Len McCluskey as the powerful Unite union boss have closed. The hard left vote has split between Steve Turner and Howard Beckett, Sharon Graham came a credible second in nominations and the moderate Gerard Coyne came fourth. They go to the next voting round having all passed the nominations threshold. None of this is that indicative of who will win in the end because most Unite members are not left-wing fanatics, don’t even vote for the Labour Party and certainly don’t turn out to boring branch meetings. Turnout is usually a small percentage of the claimed mass membership. Starmer will be hoping that a split left-wing vote will give the moderate victory…
The battle to lead Unite is now well underway, with the four top candidates for General Secretary fighting to control the ideological direction of Labour’s biggest and most influential paymaster. Under McCluskey’s leadership, the union lurched leftward, pumping £3 million into Labour’s 2019 campaign and working in close alignment with the Corbyn team. He’s been far more critical of Starmer – claiming the party now ‘lacks authenticity‘ and is heading for “the dustbin of history” – so the upcoming election is seen as a chance for Starmer to wrest influence away from Labour’s far left. It’s also an opportunity to mend the union’s image, after McCluskey faced calls for an inquiry into the spiralling costs of a hotel contract awarded to his personal friend. Team Starmer will be paying close attention to the results…
Nominations close on 11 June, with the results to be declared on 26 August. 174 nominations are required to secure a place on the ballot, up from 50 in the previous contest – a change which McCluskey’s opponents claims is a “stitch-up” by the leadership. In any case, here are the runners and riders for the job:
Steve Turner – One of the union’s current assistant general secretaries. Sources tell Guido he’s the favourite to win unless Gerard Coyne manages to clinch enough nominations, which could swing it in Coyne’s favour. Just about managed to win the endorsement of the United Left faction of the union (narrowly beating Howard Beckett), so has the momentum on his side for the moment. Owen Jones also backs him, although Jones has since deleted his endorsement tweet because he wanted to ‘phrase it differently‘. Sits on the left of the union, though claims he has “no interest a public spat with the leader of the Labour Party.” Starmer’s team think they could work with him if necessary.
Howard Beckett – The troublemaker. Made the headlines today after putting out a tweet calling for the deportation of Priti Patel. The far-left’s favourite candidate. Backed by Skwawkbox, Socialist Telly, and The Canary. Led a left-wing walkout of Labour’s NEC last year after Starmer blocked the nomination of Corbynista Ian Murray to the chairmanship. Also supported cutting Unite’s donations to Labour by £150,000, with speculation that he could move to make further cuts should he win. Starmer’s nightmare candidate, though today’s headlines could derail him.
Sharon Graham – Looking to break the glass ceiling and become the first female general secretary. Positioning herself on the industrial wing of the union by leading a campaign for Amazon workers’ rights. Runs Unite’s Organisation and Leverage unit. Keen to distance herself from internal Labour disputes. Seen as a rising star within the union, though unlikely to take the top prize this time.
Gerard Coyne – The “right-winger” of the race, at least in union terms. Starmer’s man for the job. Narrowly lost to McCluskey for the role back in 2017, 41.5% to McCluskey’s 45.4%. According to his supporters, he already has over 200 nominations, which could make the race against Turner a competitive one. Splitting the left vote between the other three candidates could work to Coyne’s advantage under FPTP…
A Labour Police and Crime Commissioner has resigned with immediate effect from his role, following the instigation an investigation into misconduct and potentially unlawful practices. Barry Coppinger, Labour’s Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland resigned at mid day today, citing ‘ill health’.
Over the summer various freedom of information requests and subject access data requests revealed that Coppinger’s media advisor was offering political advice, promoting courses of action for the benefit of the Labour Party rather than policing. Following the revelations, routine deletion of data began. Every Friday Coppinger would delete his WhatsApp messages as a matter of policy. In his resignation letter, Coppinger claims the deleting was “due to storage capacity limits”. Interesting, therefore, that he should choose to resign following
Tory candidate Steve Turner tells Guido that “I believe a criminal investigation has been instigated looking into Mr Coppinger’s recent actions in potentially hiding further incriminating messages around his personal actions in the role of PCC.” Not a good look for Labour when the next PCC elections are in May, set to coincide with Mayoral and devolved elections…