The vote that could ruin Keir Starmer – and the Labour Party with him

Unite has driven Labour into an electoral wilderness during the last decade. The forthcoming internal union election could define the party’s future, writes Peter Mandelson

Thursday 17 June 2021 14:00
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<p>Len McCluskey, current general secretary of Unite the Union</p>

Len McCluskey, current general secretary of Unite the Union

The great unmentionable in Labour’s chances of recovery is the long dark shadow cast over the party by Unite the Union, the party’s largest donor and power broker. It is time for those who care deeply about the party’s future to speak out.

In the coming weeks, an internal union election will be taking place to choose Len McCluskey’s successor as general secretary of Unite. Four candidates look set to be on the ballot paper. Three are different varieties of Leninist and Trotskyist. Steve Turner, who was officially endorsed by the hard left grouping the United Left, will battle it out with national organiser Sharon Graham and Unite’s current head of legal, McCluskey’s favoured candidate, Howard Beckett. They have so far failed to agree who is best to challenge the one serious candidate, Gerard Coyne, who is promising to clean up the union and root out the mismanagement and corruption that have become endemic in the union.

This is not just about Labour, though. With £300m in its general fund, Unite could be a huge force for good for working people, using its collective strength to promote fairer rewards, better job security and equality of respect for those it purports to represent in the workplace. This is particularly true of the private sector, where union membership has fallen to catastrophically low levels, despite intermittent signs of improvement in the last couple of years.

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