Ballot papers for the General Secretary election in Unite will be dispatched to Unite members from today – Monday 5 July. It is in the interest of Unite’s members, and of wider society, that Steve Turner is elected.
A victory for Turner would mean the largest currently left-led trade union in Britain would continue to be led by the left.
A victory for Gerard Coyne would objectively aid the Tories and Labour right-wing. The left within the Labour Party and the TUC would suffer a significant setback. All of the large unions affiliated to Labour would be led by the right and the largest left-led union which is not affiliated to Labour – the NEU – would find itself more isolated within the wider labour movement.
A Coyne win would allow Keir Starmer to radically restructure the Labour Party and expand the purge of party members. It is already being reported (here) that if Coyne wins a special Labour conference is being considered for next spring, to tear up the leadership election rules. Currently MPs in effect determine who gets on the ballot paper and then members have a significant role in the actual vote for Leader. The Labour right wants MPs to not only control the nominations process, but also to have a disproportionate say in the final vote.
This Unite General Secretary election will be difficult for the left to win as labour movement politics has shifted significantly to the right since Labour’s general election defeat in 2019 and Jeremy Corbyn stood down as Labour Leader.
This is a first past the post election so, to defeat the right, there ought to be only one left candidate on the ballot paper. Turner achieved the highest number of branch nominations – 525.
Howard Beckett has correctly withdrawn in order to back Turner.
Unfortunately Sharon Graham and her supporters have not taken the same position as Beckett, and are risking handing control of the union over to the right-wing. Graham got 349 branch nominations so has little chance of winning. This is a serious sectarian error that could impose a defeat on the entire labour movement.
The Graham campaign is also mistaken to counterpose a union’s workplace organisation to its political strategy. It is not possible to defend jobs, pay and conditions simply with the former, the latter is also absolutely necessary. The campaign’s emphasis on apolitical trade unionism is an economistic error that would weaken the union, not strengthen it.
It is essential that the union engages with politics, attacks the government whose policy framework is responsible for destroying jobs and slashing pay, and fights for Labour to support that stand. Turner is entirely correct to attack the Tories and press the Labour Party to oppose the government.
In advance of last Saturday’s (26 June) Peoples Assembly demonstration Turner said:
“This government is rotten through and through ….
“This government’s shocking mishandling of this crisis has seen UK deaths and an economic hit that are among the worst in the world.
“… Labour, find your voice and oppose it”
It is vital that everything possible is done to maximise the support for Steve Turner. He is currently an Assistant General Secretary of Unite and Chair of the Peoples Assembly. Materials for his campaign can be found here.