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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Opportunity knocks

Sharon Graham has won the election to be the next general secretary of Unite. She succeeds the 70-year-old veteran Len McCluskey, who prolonged his stay at the top table but finally stepped down this year after 10 years in office. Unite’s first woman leader received almost 5,000 more votes than her nearest rival in a three-horse race that ended this week. She will now take over from Len McCluskey as leader of the second biggest union in the country.

As usual these days the race to the top was, in practice, confined to three full-time officers and the factions they head. Whilst all three claimed to be following in the footsteps of Len McCluskey the only one who had their old chief’s blessing was Steve Turner – and that was only grudgingly given after Len’s chosen man, Howard Beckett, dropped out when he realised he couldn’t win. Turner – the official broad left ‘United Left’ candidate – came a credible second whilst Gerard Coyne – the right-wing ‘moderate’ – was well behind in third place.

Sharon Graham coyly says she’s “not a member of any Unite or Labour faction – other than my own supporters group”, which though technically true masks the fact that her ‘Workers Unite’ group has built up a very powerful left-leaning platform supported by some Trotskyist movements within the union and focused on grass-roots issues to get the vote out.

Turner relied on a run-down broad left machine that simply could not cope with the demands of social media or the lock-down restrictions imposed on public work during the campaign, while Coyne mistakenly hoped that the backing of the Murdoch press and dog-whistle support from Starmer & Co would be enough to turn the tables on his ‘left’ rivals.

Sharon Graham says: “My slogan all along has been ‘Back to the workplace’ to build the union to fight for jobs, wages and conditions.” Let’s hope she does so.