It sounds like the race to be next Unite boss could be heading for a big upset as The Mirror and Huffington Post report the far-left Sharon Graham, an overlooked outsider, looks set to steal a win. According to The Mirror, a sample of 8,000 votes spread across 22 tables showed her to have the largest pile on each. They point to a “formidable” grassroots campaign…
Back when Guido did his last runners & riders article, Sharon was seen as “unlikely to take the top prize this time”; which would more likely go to either the Unite establishment candidate Steve Turner, controversial left-wing McCluskey ally Howard Beckett, who dropped out to back Turner, or the Starmerite “right” candidate Gerard Coyne. The final result isn’t out until Thursday.
Sharon’s platform has included saying the union’s “obsession with the Labour party needs to end”:
“We need to move beyond the internal struggles of the Labour Party. Labour will likely be in opposition for most of the next decade and workers can’t afford to wait.
As General Secretary I make no bones about saying that I will not be giving out blank cheques to any politician or political party.”
Her offering won over the hard left Socialist Worker, who have argued her campaign “reflects a thirst for change in Unite.” She also won backing from the SWP and Socialist Party, something she praised…
The reaction inside Labour to the speculative news is interestingly split; on the one hand she’s on record saying “Keir Starmer has failed workers” and is threatening to cut off funding. On the other if she’s promising to move away from internal Labour politics she may prove quieter on some rows, which may save face for Starmer. A Labour insider tells Seb Payne “The moderates haven’t won, nor have the communists”…
Howard Beckett has pulled out of the race to be Unite’s next general secretary, according to Sky News. Matt Zarb-Cousin has been one of the first out of the blocks to commend the move, congratulated Beckett “for putting the movement first”.
Skwawkbox “thanks him for the hope he brought”. As if he is some sort of modern-day Nelson Mandela…
Beckett and Steve Turner have issued a joint statement, in which Beckett announces he will support Turner for Unite’s next general secretary:
“Howard Beckett has decided he will support Steve Turner as Unite’s next General Secretary. Both reconginse the vision and strengths of their respective campaigns and Steve Turner recognises the key manifesto commitments and energy generated by Howards campaign. They will both work to implement a blended manifesto, taking the best ideas from both candidates, when Steve Turner becomes General Secretary. Howard Beckett will campaign alongside Steve for the next two months to present a joint programme which includes greater support for workplace representatives, important new communications initiatives including Unite TV, upgraded education and training for members, an independent and progressive political voice, and a new structure for the union reflecting the diversity of our nations and regions.”
“Steve Turner warmly welcomes Howard Beckett’s support and appreciates his decision to stand aside. As General Secretary two of the most important people in his team will be Howard Beckett and Sharon Graham and the structures of Unite would reflect this.
On this basis we look forward to taking a united message of positive change to our members up and down Britain and Ireland over the next two months, building on Unite’s strengths while adding much more to what we can offer to working people. We are proud of our union, and look forward to shaping its future together.”
Guido sources say a deal will have been done to give Beckett a position that means McCluskey’s financial shenanigans will remain buried…
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…
There was a packed room for the Unite Parliamentary Branch nomination meeting just now. Despite the presence of members of the Labour leader’s office including Corbyn’s trade union liason official – Nancy Platt – and the thumbscrews being applied by Karie Murphy and Jon Lansman with a crowd from Momentum’s HQ who don’t even work in parliament, the result was 35 to 25 in favour of the moderate candidate, Gerard Coyne. A symbolic defeat for Len McCluskey….
Karie Murphy, the courtesan in the court of Corbyn who runs his office, is usually coyly described “as a close friend of Len McCluskey”. Loyally she is campaigning for him to keep control of Unite in the leadership election. Labour staffers are often card carrying members of the union. Some of whom have been put under pressure over the Parliamentary Branch’s nomination in the election. A co-conspirator emails:
“Karie told me that voting for Len will help my chances of getting a job in Unite or the Leader’s office. It’s put me off voting at all to be honest.”
Another Unite member and staffer said:
We all thought staff would be left to make their own decision on who they want to run Unite, but I’ve been put under massive pressure to vote for Len and I’m really worried about what will happen if I don’t.
Unfortunately this exactly what we expected given the culture in Unite, and we’re expecting more of the same at the nomination meeting on Thursday.
The Unite Parliamentary Branch’s nomination meeting is later today. Karie will be watching…