Lessons must be learned from Unison fiasco
The likely candidates in the battle to become general secretary of Unite when incumbent Len McCluskey retires all have Facebook pages. At the moment, there are four prospects – including one disgraced right-winger coming back for another try after failing in 2017.
The other three candidates at the moment are Howard Beckett, Steve Turner and Sharon Graham – but the mix risks potential disaster for the union and the Labour movement.
In the recent Unison general secretary election, SKWAWKBOX urged members to support Paul Holmes, the grassroots working-class candidate who was clearly the candidate with the greatest engagement with members of the union’s ‘rank and file’ – and said that the candidacy of Roger McKenzie would split the left vote and allow right-winger Christine McAnea to maintain the right’s stranglehold on the giant union.
Sadly, the prediction was correct – the insistence of McKenzie and ‘spoiler candidate’ Hugo Pierre split the vote and allowed McAnea to win – and she started her career as general secretary with a shameful attack on left unions in the hostile media. Had a single – and the strongest – left candidate stood, the political landscape of the Labour movement and the whole UK would look very different today:
And now Unite, the biggest union in the UK and Ireland, faces a similar threat. Gerard Coyne, the right-winger who ran a dirty campaign of smears and data breaches in 2017, stands to profit if the left does not unite around one candidate – and it appears there is only one stand-out prospect: Howard Beckett.
An examination of the extent to which union members and the Labour movement engage with his social media output shows that he is streets ahead of anything offered by others – including the dire Coyne. While Coyne’s page has narrowly the most followers – likely a legacy of his 2017 fiasco – Beckett’s stands out a mile on both the total number of people engaging with his output and the performance of each individual post:
Beckett’s page has published 70% more posts than his main rival Steve Turner – but has seen 614% more engagement. Each Beckett post achieves almost nine times more engagement than the next-strongest candidate. Similar metrics appear to apply on Twitter, but more will follow on that topic.
Beckett also stands out for as a ‘signpost not a weather-vane’. Where others have moved to accommodate the Labour right or been silent on many aspects of the government’s failings, Beckett has taken on the Establishment fearlessly: both the Tories for their actions and inaction – and Labour’s current right-wing leadership for its abuse of members and failure to oppose.
The lesson from the Unison debacle is clear: the left needs one candidate in the Unite election – and it has to be the best candidate, the one most people feel they can engage with, identify with and get behind.
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