Analysis Breaking

Breaking: Graham wins Unite GS contest as Turner apparently concedes

Turner campaign fails abysmally despite transfer of Beckett votes in celtic nations, Community section and elsewhere – consequences of Turner’s reluctance to challenge Starmer?

New Unite general secretary Sharon Graham

Sharon Graham will be the new general secretary of Unite, winning a tight union ballot on a low turnout, ahead of the McCluskey-backed Steve Turner, who ran a dire low-profile campaign, failing to secure the backing of supporters of Howard Beckett, who had dropped out of the contest to reduce the division of the vote against Gerard Coyne, the right-winger backed by the Murdoch empire and the Labour right. Right-winger Gerard Coyne is expected to come third.

A statement circulated to Turner’s supporters in his name concedes the result:

So at the end of a couple of long days it appears that Sharon has got it! Count is tomorrow but from the sorting today that’s clear that’s the case and Coyne is last! The issues we raised have not gone anywhere and will be the major challenges for our movement over the coming years. Sorry it didn’t work out for us but we did our best and had a fantastic campaign we can be very proud of. Thanks for everything and we’ll make a formal statement tomorrow when it’s all over but thought you should know now. S

The actions of a number of previously-respected left figures in stitching Beckett out of the contest in favour of Turner failed to convince union members that Turner could be trusted to take the union forward, with the low turnout supporting Skwawkbox’s prediction that if Beckett stepped down many of his supporters would simply abstain.

With such a low turnout, Beckett’s dominance among members in the celtic nations and Unite’s 20,000-strong Community section and their above-average engagement and consequently their higher turnout, it’s likely that Beckett supporters still played a leading role in Turner’s vote tally – yet the London man and his lacklustre team were still unable to turn this, along with the support of outgoing general secretary Len McCluskey, into a win.

In other words, Turner would have come last without the ‘Beckett vote’, behind even the appalling right-winger Gerard Coyne.

With the count well in progress, the projected numbers are:


Sharon Graham – 45,000
Steve Turner – 39,000 (down 20k from McCluskey in 2017)
Gerard Coyne – 35,000

Rather than accept that Beckett saved him from even greater humiliation and that Turner’s own lack of support was decisive, however, early signs are that his campaign is going to try to blame Beckett and his supporters for the loss – in essence, though the words won’t be used, for making his efforts look drab by comparision.

The result has also discredited Unite’s branch nomination process. Turner led the reported nominations by a distance and lost, while of all the candidates only Howard Beckett named all the 350 or so branches who voted to support him and union members in various branches complained that nominations for other candidates had been declared by their branch executive without consulting them. Change is urgently needed to create a process fit for purpose.

Further revelations on those issues will follow, but for the moment Skwawkbox congratulates Ms Graham on her win and urges her not to let her ‘Back to the workplace’ campaign lead to adverse consequences for Unite Community members, who are not in work and are in many cases full-time carers, disabled themselves and/or in voluntary work.

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