Analysis Exclusive

Exclusive: right panics as Beckett nears 300 nominations – BBC, Murdoch press, Hodge et al even try to set police on Unite left favourite

As predicted by Skwawkbox several weeks ago, the Labour right has launched a desperate attack on Howard Beckett as Beckett nears a staggering 300 nominations in the first phase Unite leadership contest.

The nominations period began with a series of anti-Beckett smears as his opponents’ supporters tried to ensure he would struggle to obtain the 172 nominations needed to qualify for the final ballot, but after Beckett took the smears head-on in an interview with Socialist Telly’s Damien Willey and his campaign surged to smash through the threshold with almost half the nomination period remaining, Skwawkbox warned that the attacks on him would sink to new and ever more desperate levels.

And today, Skwawkbox can reveal that the right – helped along as usual by both the Murdoch press and the BBC – is attempting to discredit Beckett using an email discussion among other people and an email subsequently sent to Beckett by a West Midlands campaigner. Notorious right-winger Margaret Hodge has even attempted to set the police onto Beckett over a comment in one email by the campaigner.

The emails, thought to have been leaked by a former Unite employee sacked after allegations of gross misconduct, concerned the cost of any time spent on plans to replace discredited right-wingers on the council of Sandwell Borough in the West Midlands in order to weaken the hold of right-wing MPs Tom Watson and John Spellar on the council – and also payments legitimately due to the campaigner for ‘rep’ work done for the union and whether the payments might be made via a law firm.

Skwawkbox has asked Howard Beckett about the matter and no such payments were ever made.

Despite there being no case to answer, both BBC Newsnight and the Murdoch Times are said to be running the story, as the Labour right and its allies see Beckett about to break through the 300-nomination barrier and desperately try to derail his campaign before ballots are issued in the election’s next phase.

Right-winger John Spellar has been in the news recently. Unite and Beckett tried to weaken his hold on the local council

As noted, right-wing MP Margaret Hodge has even gone so far as to report the matter to the police, while Tom Watson – whose influence on Sandwell council Unite was trying to weaken – has apparently been bombarding the union man with text messages.

The Labour right is desperate to prevent a Beckett win at all costs. Keir Starmer’s allies told the BBC in April that they considered Beckett as Unite general secretary to be their ‘nightmare scenario’ and attempted to get the hard-right, disgraced Gerard Coyne to drop out of the contest in case he took votes away from their acceptable option of Steve Turner.

Watson is also understood to hold a grudge against Unite because the union did not back his campaign to become Labour’s deputy leader – and Watson has launched attacks against Len McCluskey, whose impending retirement as general secretary prompted the election contest.

Skwawkbox view:

Beckett’s surging campaign has stunned his rivals in the contest – and has pushed the Labour right into genuine panic measures with a helping of old foes attempting payback.

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