As reported on Thursday in The Times, in 2018 Unite the union apparently spent time, energy and resources attempting to deselect sitting Labour MPs and councillors, during a turbulent and crucial political time, allowing the Conservatives to run rampant with their reckless agenda of austerity and a hard Brexit.
Emails obtained by The Times detail how Steve Price, a Unite activist in the West Midlands, explained to Howard Beckett, assistant general secretary and general secretary candidate, that he had been working across 59 constituencies doing work for Unite to push their political agenda within the party. The emails are from 2018, a time when the Labour Party and the unions should have had a focus on protecting the livelihoods and life chances of their members by standing up to Tory austerity and a right-wing focus on reducing worker power and increasing the proportion of the population in underpaid and insecure work.
Instead, these emails show that there was in Unite a concentrated effort to destabilise the only political party who could have helped working class families.
On Thursday night, the accusation was put to Beckett by Labour MP, Siobhain McDonagh, that Unite may have additionally been flouting trade union law by funneling payments for these damaging political activities, covertly, through a third party. Something that Price’s emails strongly suggest.
Beckett’s response was to menacingly warn McDonagh. ‘You need to be extremely careful’, he threatened, before attempting to mansplain to McDonagh, a 30 year member of a trade union, on the history of trade unions and the Labour Party: ‘I don’t know your relationship with the trade union movement but let me just give you a bit of history about the trade union movement’, he said aggressively.
Becektt has been in the union movement for half the amount of time as McDonagh, just 17 years.
These kinds of tactics from a man who wants to lead the UK’s biggest trade union are entirely in line with a culture at the top of Unite that the aforementioned emails show was centred on destroying anyone in the Labour Party who diagreed with them, with a total disregard for the effects that these actions may have on party and union members and their families’ livelihoods.