Last Thursday evening, Stephen Walker of Skwawkbox and Socialist Telly said in response to implications made by Owen Jones on Twitter that neither Skwawkbox nor Socialist Telly had ever received any money from Howard Beckett or Unite.
“Owen you may be watching… That’s bollocks. We’ve never received a penny from Howard Beckett, never received a penny from Unite”, said Walker.
The Red Roar was surprised to hear this statement from Walker, as it was widely reported earlier this year, and explicitly stated by Unite, that the union and Walker would both be financially liable for a case they lost to Anna Turley, former Redcar MP.
Turley sued Walker and Unite for libel after Unite refused to apologise over an article on Skwawkbox which accused Turley of dishonesty in her application to join the union. The judge in the case rejected Unite and Walker’s defence that Turley had been dishonest. Turley won the case and was awarded £75’000 in damages.
That is an amount that Walker may have theoretically been able to cover in part. But, in addition to those damages, a judge ruled that Turley should also have her £1.3-million legal fees ‘jointly’ paid for by Unite and Walker.
A spokesperson for Unite said after the ruling on the legal fees that Unite and Walker would be ‘jointly liable for the legal costs’. The Red Roar has no idea about Stephen Walker’s financial position but suspects that he would not be covering a majority of the £1.3-million cost, something which is implicitly accepted by Unite’s spokesperson’s statement.
And given that the article which led Turley to bring the libel case against Unite and Walker was published by Walker on his platform, Skwawkbox, it’s clear that Unite’s members’ money has been used to defend a man who recklessly attempted to taint the reputation of a then sitting Labour MP who had made clear that she would have simply been happy with an apology.
Unite members are justifiably angry and see the millions of pounds in legal fees and damages as a complete waste of money. It is for these embarrassing tales that all sides of the political spectrum, including the likes of Owen Jones and Jon Lansman, are calling on him to stand down in favour of one of the two other hard-left candidates for general secretary, both of whom secured a substantially higher number of branch nominations. Beckett has, as of the publishing date of this article, failed to do so.