As the contest heats up for the next general secretary of Unite, the Beckett/Turner ticket has been criticised for associating with Jennie Formby who has entered the gutter with negative attacks on Gerard Coyne.
While Beckett and Turner have probably not enjoyed costly vanity projects like Unite TV being highlighted to members or indeed the failure of the current executive in racking up a £100m bill for a luxury hotel in Birmingham, up to now all candidates have avoided personal attacks.
This is partly down to the very clear election guidelines that were set out at the start of the contest, namely rule 36 which states:
“While campaigning in the election it is legitimate to criticise the procedures and policies of the union as an entity or the policies put forward by other candidates in their campaign. However, it is not permissible to make personal attacks on individual candidates or on employees of Unite.”
However, as journalist Lee Harpin has pointed out, Jennie Formby, former Labour general secretary and Beckett’s campaign chief, has been sharing a Facebook group attacking Gerard Coyne. The group entitled ‘Gerard Con’ goes on to attack Coyne for his record and has also shared tweets from Formby calling him a ‘disgrace’. Despite Formby trying to promote it as much as possible, the group has not taken off – with only 130 likes at the time of writing. However, this does not take away from the personal abuse that is in clear breach of the rules.
Now this may not be a huge surprise if Beckett was still in the race, considering his abhorrent calls for Priti Patel to be deported. However, since Turner did a deal with Beckett for the latter to drop out of the race in exchange for a ‘blended manifesto’ and the promise of influence for Beckett in a Turner administration, this type of behaviour does reflect on Turner and how he is operating.
If Formby is now formally part of Turner’s team then this is an obvious breach of the rules. But even if she is not formally involved, as the former campaign chief of Beckett, and prominent backer of Turner due to the two candidates’ grubby deal, the Turner campaign is implicated regardless.
Despite his establishment credentials, Steve Turner has tried to paint himself as the change candidate. It remains to be seen whether he will distance himself from this kind of campaigning that has become all too familiar from the McCluskey years.