Hard-left outriders have, in recent days, been pushing for a reconciliation between the three hard-left candidates in the Unite general secretary election. Steve Turner, who has received criticism for being able to reach across the Labour party for support, is ahead of more hardline Sharon Graham and Howard Beckett in terms of the number of branch nominations received.
Hard-left commentators— such as Jon Lansman, Owen Jones, Ronan Burtenshaw and Aaron Bastani— have been desperate in trying to get Unite’s hard-left to coalesce around one candidate as, in Burtenshaw’s words, “funding support for the entire infrastructure of the British left [would be] cut off” if Gerard Coyne wins the contest.
Yet despite Beckett promising that they would lock the door until the three hard-left candidates agreed, news this week would seem to suggest that despite their best efforts all three are still heading to the ballot paper with Gerard Coyne.
Yet the Red Roar is not to surprised that Len has not been able to persuade these hard-left candidates as of yet to agree to play nice when you consider the Union’s track record in recent years.
In 2018 Unite funded multiple disgraced candidates, such Steven Saxby, a vicar who was suspended from the party during his candidature for alleged sexual harassment; Claudia Webbe, who was suspended in 2020 and is now awaiting trial for harassment; Jane Aitchison who defended comments about celebrating the death of former prime minister Tony Blair; and David Prescott, who was suspended from Jeremy Corbyn’s office in 2017 for harassment allegations. Saxon, Webbe and Prescott have all denied the allegations against them.
Unite’s reckless use of members’ funds will not come as news to anyone in the union or who has been following the general secretary race or union news over the past 18 months. Howard Beckett came under fire earlier this year for his part in overseeing and defending the mammoth sum of nearly £100-million of union funds that were splashed on building a 4-star hotel in Birmingham.
In reality, the choice between the three left candidates doesn’t offer the radical change that is required. It would be a return to the status quo in which Unite funds campaigns for failed candidates who get themselves suspended from the Labour party and splashes members’ cash on wasteful vanity projects and defending conspiracy theorists in court.
What Unite needs is a change of leadership so the union has a chance of being run by someone who values members’ money and prioritises their interests; not someone who would follow McCluskey’s lead and throw away union funds on factionalism and self-aggrandisement.