As reported by Huffington Post, Unite the Union have been accused of stitching up the rules for the process of electing the next General Secretary which kicked off yesterday. However, following the Executive Council meeting it appears that the branch nomination threshold is now lower than was feared by some Unite activists.
Under the rules any candidate still must obtain nominations from 5% of the branches but changes implemented since the last election mean that geographical branches who have 50 or more employees also now have nomination rights. This has led to an increase of branches required to reach 5%, however, this is lower than was initially feared with only 174 branch nominations needed in order for any candidate to get on to the ballot.
After the 2017 contest saw Len McCluskey scrape through, the Unite leadership decided to change the rules, leading to it becoming much more difficult for challengers to get a place on the ballot.
As Howard Beckett himself seemed to explain, the branch nominations threshold changes were implemented with the intention of restricting access for Gerard Coyne and aiding the hard left. However, this now appears to have failed with the updated 174-branch requirement less than what Gerard reportedly received in the 2017 contest. And after Howard, Len’s apparent preferred successor, failed to gain the United Left nomination – and with growing questions into the Birmingham hotel project– his campaign is in trouble.
Despite close ally Jennie Formby offering her full support to Howard, Steve Turner is the hard-left front runner. The United Left machine is now firmly behind him along with further support from the Communist Party.
That is not to say that the new rules have not imposed further restrictions on the process. Firstly, many Unite grassroots members are outraged that the nomination threshold has been put up at all, particularly as Unite have previously called for lower thresholds in the Labour leadership elections. This, combined with the fact that it is claimed only elected Unite officials are allowed to request nomination packs for the new branches, means that it gives status quo candidates the advantage. Finally, despite the current general secretary not being too afraid of personal attacks, the draconian rules prevent any candidate from criticising Len or any other staff member during the process.
With Gerard Coyne now having a fighting chance of getting on the ballot, the question remains whether Howard will stick to his promises and leave Unite with only one hard left candidate in either Sharon Graham or Steve Turner.