Sharon Graham wins!

It’s not very often these days that I get to report some good news for a change, but at last the Unite the Union General Secretary election appears to be over and seemingly from out of nowhere Sharon Graham has won it.

She’s exploded what a lot of people felt. That she had no chance, that she should’ve stepped down when Howard Beckett did, that only one left candidate should run else we risk letting the right winger, laughably referred to by the lamestream media as a centrist – centrist to them, he won’t rock the boat – win.

I’m guilty of surmising the same, I’ll admit it. I was from the start an advocate of Howard Beckett, was devastated when he stood down, but understood why, that under the appallingly bad First Past The Post system the Unite election was taking place under, the risk of Gerard Coyne winning with the left vote apparently split, was a clear and present danger. I’m a Community member, I’d be slung out under a Coyne leadership along with thousands of others. This was after all why Howard stepped down, I understood why he got behind Steve Turner, who had the most nominations and that left many wondering why Sharon wouldn’t step aside.

Of course anyone wanting to stand should be able to, that’s good for democracy, but under such an unsuitable, archaic system, the right is favoured in such circumstances and this really needs to be addressed.

However as things have turned out that has not been the case. the two left candidates have come first and second so despite a split, the right winger still came last! Rupert Murdoch’s candidate, Keir Starmer’s candidate came last, the Labour To Win candidate came last and the right is kept out of any controlling role in our Union.

Sharon Graham ran a clever campaign, she got her data together and she’s reaped the reward.

As for Steve Turner’s campaign, behaving like the heirs apparent to the crown of McCluskey has blown up in their faces. Even with the support lent by some of Beckett’s supporters it wasn’t enough. Many would not be persuaded to back another candidate after their favourite bowed out, but without them, Steve Turner, the guy who got the most nominations, would certainly have come last, only just pushing Gerard Coyne into third place. The whole, ‘Steve got the most nominations, so the left must rally around him’ myth has been busted. The nominations process has always been a poor indicator and those defending this argument were just plain dishonest, just playing to their favourites and for many big name mouthpieces as my Socialist Telly colleague Steve Walker of Skwawkbox has laid out in recent articles, some supposedly lefty commentators have been left with reputations well shredded over this. The left is strong, a surprise has been sprung, I wish Sharon Graham well and look forward to seeing what she’s got in store for us.

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From Beckett or Bust to voting for Steve Turner: Why I believe it’s the right thing to do.

Beckett or bust, Beckett or bust, Beckett or bust. I was singing that line, pushing that hashtag, I felt so deflated after the guy I felt with the most exciting manifesto, the guy absolutely hammering the mainstream media, shaming them, which as an independent left media chappie spoke absolute volumes to me, pulled out. It’s that whole inspiration thing again.

I’d resolved to not vote in the Unite contest, I’d spat my dummy, I’d thrown my wobbler, but ultimately Howard Beckett’s decision was his own and for some weeks now I’ve felt that that was that.

Even if I’d decided to step away from this contest though, it was carrying on regardless.

I think the break has done me good, looking at other issues was a welcome distraction and I think some perspective was needed. Turnout in these Unite elections is always appallingly low and sadly that’s not good for democracy and it also emboldens the minority within the union, just as it does in political parties and that can lead to disastrous results.

Gerard Coyne is still on the ballot. The right winger. The guy who in 2017 had the English Defence League out leafleting for him, the guy who misused Labour Party data he had no right to, the guy who wasted Unite funds on pointless legal actions to overturn Len McCluskey’s win, a guy who ended up being sacked from his paid position in Unite as a result of his gross misconduct and made an absolute mess as West Midlands Regional Secretary for Unite, a position Howard Beckett actually took over and had to clean up! Here’s what Howard said recently, speaking out about this very subject:

“He used data to try and influence our trade union General Secretary election and he was dismissed for it. Well, I followed him into the West Midlands, as the replacement regional secretary, and there hadn’t been a political school in 15 years in the West Midlands. Whenever I went in there, there was no connection between the communities and the workplaces. There was no lay structures. There was no idea of decentralisation in order to empower people. So any narrative that you hear from Gerard Coyne about supporting the nation’s or supporting decentralisation is not the truth in respect of his own record, trust me in respect of this. Steve Turner has signed up, not only to the decentralisation platform, not only one that believes in regions, but also one that says that there will be an assembly of the nations, that Ireland, Scotland and Wales will come together to share their experiences, to talk about federalism, to talk about our own union structures. This is about delivering our union for the future. This is about safeguarding everything that we build over the last 10-12 years about making sure that we stand up to employers not returning to the days of repudiation, about making sure that we take those disputes, like blacklisting that John mentioned, about making sure that we, when we talk about resources for our reps, that we are talking about modern resources. Whenever we talk about giving a message to the next generation, that we understand the importance of being ambitious about how we deliver that message. About the importance of our role in society, about making sure that our political narrative does not go away and we continue to talk for people and continue to say to people, that politics run through everything that we do in society and anyone who talks about less politics and more workplace does not understand the principles of collectivism and trade unionism, does not understand that the reason why the NHS has been privatised is because of the politics of society. The reason why we take precarious work is because of the politics of society, the reason for fire and rehire is because of the politics of society. Distinguishing between our roles, our industrial roles, our community roles, our education roles, our legal role, or our political role is fascile and defeatist and brings division where division is not necessary. Our union is best whenever it is working as one, where no departments work in silos, where we work together, where we create lay structures to give activists the opportunity to come through where we as officials understand that we are only the custodians of what lay activists want us to deliver. That’s the union that we are fighting for right now. And I’m saying to all of you, firstly, to thank you, to give you my love, and also to say to you that I trust that Steve Turner will deliver on this, I trust on his individual commitments that he’s made to me. I believe that he is the best of the three candidates who are standing. I think we as a campaign took the right moral decision to support his campaign to make sure that the right wing do not win this union. I believe that Sharon should have stepped down once an agreement was reached between Steve and myself and that’s why we have to fight like we’ve never fought before, to make sure that this left vote is not split, to make sure that we deliver where we know that we’re strong, to make sure that the union remains in the hands of a left wing General Secretary going forward and to make sure that we fight for everything that we believe in. Thank you. Solidarity.”

Quite frankly, with a track record such as Coyne has got, how he was even allowed to stand is beyond me, but more terrifyingly is the fact the hopelessly outdated First Past the Post system which has made such a mockery of our parliamentary democracy is the same used in this Unite election. So he has every chance of winning.

This is the guy Union buster and proud boaster of determining our General Election results for the last 40 odd years, Rupert Murdoch and his hateful rag The Scum are endorsing. Why wouldn’t they? Where we are reviled by that awful publication, Coyne has written for it.

Another who writes for that odious rag and attends Murdoch bashes is right-winger Jess Phillips, she who laughs when her own party loses. She’s done a mailshot for Coyne, I do hope he’s not breaching GDPR rules by using Labour Party data again! Another backing him is Tom Watson remember him? Least said the better in all honesty, you all know the score there I’m sure.

Frankly despite Gerard Coyne’s odious opinions, his right wing associates and his billionaire backers – ever noticed how all those ads he puts out are paid for promotions? – its what he’d do to our union that’d be most harmful. He’d give Keir Starmer free reign to carry on wrecking Labour with his dire, bland, stands for nothing idea of leading. He’d waste our dues on such a man and if anything drive him further right. When our members are in need of their Union, he’d repudiate action. He’d abandon us. And for Community members such as myself? We’re worth nothing to him. The most politically motivated, active members along with retirees and he’d bin the lot of us by scrapping community membership.

Everyone should be in a Union, but a Union led by Gerard Coyne would be pale imitation of what trade unionism should be about, a union for the few and not the many. Standing together, in solidarity, collectivism, supporting one another as our numbers make us stronger. This man would drive us apart, weaken us and get a pat on the back from the worst elements of our society.

So you can see, when he unfathomably got onto the ballot, it really did give Howard Beckett pause for thought. He felt, with three left candidates on the ballot, that the risk of the Union falling to Coyne was too great, the risk of splitting the left vote was too great and so he decided to stand aside.

That’s stand aside mind you, not stand back.

He joined another campaign, he’s fallen in beside Steve Turner and Turner has embraced that, so much so that he’s agreed to adopt some of the biggest and best parts of Howard’s manifesto as his own. As a gesture of good faith both to Howard and to us, he’s made them legally binding. What we’ve seen is two campaigns effectively join forces, what we’re actually witnessing is the solidarity and collectivism that so much of trade unionism relies on and its happening in an election between candidates. Ambition and egotism have been set aside to instead offer a transformative vision of what can be for our Union, for the sake of our Union.

So am I still saying Beckett or Bust? Yes I am. But by voting for Steve Turner now, we’re getting Beckett too, but more importantly what he stands for. Devolution of power to regions and nations, the £50m strike fund, tackling racism, an international solidarity fund, a promise to never repudiate strike action and abandon our members in need, Unite TV will become a reality, expand Unite’s remit to gig economy workers, regional member units, a leadership school to find the true working class councillors and MP’s of the future and a helluva lot more.

Not voting at all, as far too many of our members do, is exactly what a shark like Gerard Coyne wants. It’s incumbent on all of us as members of Unite to ensure we cast that ballot when it drops through the door and encourage our colleagues and comrades to do so as well. Lets get turnout up here, we can bloody well do it, it only takes a conversation or two. Unite represents such a wide breadth of professions, for it to be lost, divided, failed would be a bitter blow for workers rights in this country, already under attack as they are by this wicked regime running the country.

So I will be casting my vote. I will be voting for Steve Turner I am endorsing him for whatever my word is worth. I hope lots of you will be doing likewise with me as soon as that ballot paper drops.

It only takes a little cross and then you bung it in the post. So when it gets there, put a cross in the box. Get it posted. Do it now. For the sake of our union.

Cornish Damo provides this site and its content free of charge, but in order to continue doing so, to continue to rant and write and tell it like it is, impartially, independently and free of outside influence, your donations are essential. If you can afford to do so without hardship, please consider supporting my work via one of the options on the support us page.

Thank you for your solidarity and for supporting alternative media holding power and the mainstream media to account.