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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Battle for Unite begins

by New Worker correspondent

THE RACE for post of General Secretary of Unite the union is now well underway. All four candidates have jumped over the barrier of obtaining 172 branch nominations to make the final ballot. There are three ‘left’ candidates of various hues, all senior full-time officers of the union including two Assistant General Secretaries. In order of nominations: Steve Turner came first with 525; Sharon Graham came in with 349; and Howard Beckett had 328.

The Birmingham based right-wing ‘moderate’ candidate Gerard Coyne has in comparison only 196, but this does not mean that he is doomed to a humiliating defeat. In the 2017 contest he was only narrowly beaten by McCluskey in a three-horse race after securing about a tenth of the nominations of the victor. Although the pool of union members who cast their vote in elections is a fraction of the whole membership, it is considerably larger than those who attend branch meetings called for the purpose of nominating for high office.


The NCP and the Morning Star support Turner, the official candidate of the United Left. the union’s broad left movement. Sharon Graham is an independent who has a personal following plus the support of the Socialist Workers Party and the Socialist Party of England and Wales. She also can be expected to pick up some of the ‘women’s vote’ beyond those particular ultra-left constituencies. Beckett, a solicitor, is McCluskey’s favoured successor, who formed his own left platform after losing out to Turner in the United Left.

It is likely that we will hear more of his allegedly colourful past relating to his legal activities with unions in north of England in the coming weeks. Coyne also has a colourful past in the union, which will doubtless become a talking point. He regards himself as the “Change” candidate, calling his rivals the “continuity candidates”.

On Monday night the three left candidates had a discreet meeting in Manchester to discuss the possibility of one of them presenting a united left front against Coyne – but previous statements by the three and the absence of any news from them on Tuesday makes it safe to assume that all four will be battling it out to the bitter end. Ballot papers will be issued in early July, and it will be an August Bank holiday treat for the victor.

As a side note, it is worth recording that just after the recent election of a right-wing General Secretary in public service union Unison, the left secured significant gains on the union’s National Executive Committee giving them 42 of the 68 seats. This could mean some interesting times both within the union and with regard to relations with the Labour Party.