Analysis Breaking comment

Former backers AWL turn on ‘dishonest’ ‘demagogue’ Sharon Graham

Group says concerns that didn’t prevent it backing apolitical candidate in Unite leadership election have been borne out by Graham’s performance

The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL) backed Sharon Graham to be the Unite union’s general secretary last year despite the clear warning signs – and explicit warnings from Socialist Telly, Skwawkbox and others – that Graham intended to leave Keir Starmer a clear field to gut and corrupt the Labour party. Now, in a u-turn after seeing her performance in the role over almost a year since she defeated her Starmer-supported rival Steve Turner’s drab campaign, the group has admitted it was strongly warned internally as well but went ahead anyway.

Rightly attacking Graham’s refusal to flex Unite’s massive muscle in the Labour party and movement, AWL tries to distance itself a little from its conclusions and the consequences of its actions by saying the article it has published – written by the apparently pseudonymous ‘Ann Field’ – attacking Graham’s performance and ethos is one of a ‘range’ of opinions it welcomes. But the group’s own conclusions are clear from its introductory paragraph:

Workers’ Liberty supported Sharon Graham in last year’s Unite the Union general secretary election. At the time, however, we sharply criticised her approach to labour movement political struggle and political representation (and this was among the reasons why a significant minority of our Unite group argued against backing her). Unfortunately those criticisms are being borne out and reinforced by current events.

Emphasis added

The article criticises Graham for abdicating her and Unite’s responsibility to use its heft within the party as a major donor and affiliate to drag Keir Starmer kicking and screaming into some positions less disastrous and cowardly than those he has demonstrated so far – but also for threatening to cut Unite’s funding of the party.

But of course, that threat is the logical outcome of Graham’s determination not to use Unite’s power and influence to prevent Starmer’s destruction of the party – a determination of which Graham has never really made a secret, given that she campaigned on ‘tak[ing] Unite out of Westminster’: extricating Unite from its supposedly unmerited ‘interference’ in Westminster politics, despite the obvious idiocy of the idea that a union can properly serve its members without attempting to influence politics and law in their interests.

That proposition was wrapped up in Graham’s claim that Unite wasn’t fighting for its members in the workplace before her tenure – a claim that she has continued to push as she has promoted herself relentlessly since taking up the job, despite its obvious falseness.

So the AWL has finally woken up and turned on its former protégéé. But it can’t say it wasn’t warned.

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