Forthcoming Unite elections

JVL has addressed the appeal below to the three left candidates standing in the election for General Secretary of Unite the Union – Howard Beckett, Sharon Graham and Steve Turner.

A covering letter from JVL secretary Glyn Secker said: “With respect and in solidarity we felt it important to express our concerns about the possible splitting of the left vote for the Unite General Secretary position and the consequences this may have. We understand that the ballot papers will be printed this week and that therefore there is very little time for a resolution. We are urgently calling on you to do all in your powers to prevent such a split.”


If the three left candidates continue to run against one another for the Unite General Secretary post and split the left vote it is very possible that this would gift the position, and thereby the most powerful union in the country, to the right wing candidate. This will be a major setback for the left, not only in the union but in the whole of the labour movement, including the Labour Party.

The consequences not only for Unite’s members, but for millions across the country, will be severe. It will be the nail in the coffin for the whole Corbyn project and a setback of massive proportions for millions in poverty, ground down by austerity. It will enable the right to dominate the trade union movement, to consolidate their control of the Labour Party and to complete their project to destroy the left. And this would happen just when the left is reasserting itself in Unison and with the prospect of a fightback at Labour Party conference.

We call on the three left candidates to reach an agreement on basic principles and on one candidate of the left. If a joint agreement proves impossible we call on each of them to consider stepping aside in the interests of the movement, to leave one left candidate.

Comments (11)

  • Steve McKenzie says:

    The loss of Unite to the right wing would be a catastrophe.
    It will be a battle to win the election with one left candidate standing.
    With three we will clearly lose

  • John Bernard says:

    “The left” and “the Labour Party” are not synonymous if indeed they ever were. Personally in the absence of Beckett being the sole candidate, I’d be happy to see the nail being hammered into Labours coffin and we can then dispose of the rather sully notion that Labour is remotely viable as a left wing party – let’s build an alternative!!

  • John Coates says:

    The pivotal importance of Unite in the Labour Movement and the Labour Party cannot be over-emphasised.
    As a Unite member (with membership of Unite’s former constituent unions going back to 1969), I fully support the JVL call for one left candidate in the forthcoming election for General Secretary.
    Anything else risks a split in the left vote and the election of a right-wing candidate.
    This would be a tragedy for the Labour Movement at this time.
    To go into this election with three candidates claiming left credentials is self-indulgence of the worst kind.
    If the three candidates cannot address and resolve this obvious crisis facing the future of Unite, then they must look to their own conscienses
    in the event of a right wing victory.

  • Terry Barry says:

    The nominations equals votes rationale for selecting a candidate is invalid. If there was any validity then there wouldn’t be a problem running against Coyne because all three candidates would beat him easily.
    The criterion for selection should be who would our enemies least want to see as leader. Starmer, the BBC and Luke Akehurst don’t want Howard Beckett which is a big clue. The primary justification for me is that HB is a political giant and would inspire people as a leader with socialist ideas. He is a real fighter, which is exactly what we want in these troubling times. It’s HB for me.

  • Doug says:

    You have just summed up how we all feel, if those candidates cannot see how pivotal this election is then they are in the wrong party
    Time to take one for the team lads and lasses
    Can you find out more on how they turned it around, a lot to be learned for the wider movement

  • John says:

    Absolutely. This is a real test of politics. Who on earth do they think they are?

  • Julie Hope says:

    So important that there is only one left candidate. If necessary toss a coin but something must be resolved now.

  • Malcolm Ede says:

    A “one left” candidate for the UNITE General Secretary position is imperative.
    My understanding is that the “right” candidate wishes to disband the Unite Community Branches which have been instrumental in campaigning for the NHS and opposing austerity.

  • TR says:

    Ego will prevail

  • William Barnett says:

    Turnout in the 2017 Unite GS election was 12% and with such low numbers it is probably reasonable to assume that many who voted were also individual LP members and that Labour’s internal left/right politics affected the result.
    However, it does not follow that the same conditions still apply today or that the result in 2021 has significance only because of its importance to the Labour Party.
    The election of a ‘left wing’ GS who could exert pressure to slow, or reverse, the authoritarian drift of the Party would be preferable to a do-nothing right winger but will not, of itself, be sufficient to rebuild Labour to provide the direct, radical, and effective opposition that is urgently required at this time.
    Other organizations must now step into the void left by Labour’s descent into irrelevance. The unions are the obvious candidates and Unite can play a major role if it chooses to, but only if it can mobilize sufficient support amongst grassroots members. 12% doesn’t cut it.
    Whoever becomes the next General Secretary will have an impact on national events (assuming they want this), dependent upon on their support base amongst the Unite membership, including the ‘non-political’ 88%.
    Rather than reducing the ‘left’ candidate list all 3 should remain in the race and test their ability to enthuse the membership.
    I personally doubt that doing this would automatically hand the election to Coyne; but even if it did the risk is worthwhile as the potential gain from having a genuinely activist GS with solid membership support would far outweigh the risk of losing a bit of influence over the Labour Party in its current state.

    (FYI I am a member of Unite Community but an ex-member of the Labour Party)

  • James Dickins says:

    Very sensible, as always, from Jewish Voice for Labour. I hope that the three current left candidates will agree, and that two of them will step down, endorsing the remaining one.

Comments are now closed.