The battle to control the Labour party’s largest affiliated trade union will soon be underway, as assistant general secretary Howard Beckett has declared his intention to stand for election when Len McCluskey steps down.
Howard Beckett has confirmed that he will stand against fellow Unite assistant general secretary and left candidate Steve Turner in the upcoming election to succeed Len McCluskey as general secretary.
The union’s left-wing, the ‘United Left’, had attempted to pick a single candidate – either Howard Beckett or Steve Turner – by balloting left-wing members last month.
After winning the ballot, it was assumed Mr Turner would be the only candidate for general secretary from the union’s left. However, the closeness of the ballot (Turner won by just three votes) seems to have persuaded Mr Beckett to press on with his campaign.
Supporters of Beckett have also suggested some irregularities with the ballot, which may have been a factor in his decision.
New: Allies of Howard Beckett produce a dossier outlining systematic “violations” in the United Left ballot process
Includes suggestion that a dead person (“RIP”) may have been sent a ballot
They are demanding a re-run of a key contest in the race to succeed Len McCluskey 1/2 pic.twitter.com/ODj6oDJeQL
— Gabriel Pogrund (@Gabriel_Pogrund) July 19, 2020
The news that Howard Beckett intends to stand for Unite is will send shockwaves through the Labour party, as the union’s current assistant general secretary for politics and legal has been a vocal critic of Sir Keir Starmer in recent months.
Steve Turner has been seen as a more welcome general secretary for Labour, as he has made it clear that he had no interest “a public spat with the leader of the Labour Party”.
He also added that he would not attempt to move the party back to the Corbyn era, nor would he support a “war of attrition” inside the party.
In contrast, Howard Beckett has recently criticised the Labour leader for punishing the working class for the coronavirus crisis, as well as making no secret of his support for former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, saying: “an attack on Corbynism is an attack on all of us”.
Beckett has also been critical of Starmer’s sacking of prominent left-wing figures Rebecca Long-Bailey, Ian Lavery and Richard Burgon from the shadow cabinet.
Part of Beckett’s manifesto includes using union funds for a new ‘Unite TV’ venture, which some circles in Labout fear will result in reduced donations to the party itself.
Here is my manifesto for change
-£50m strike fund
-Expand Unite to Gig & Care
-Membership Rate reform
-Regional Welfare Fund
-Decolonise Unite assets
-Regional Member Units
— Howard Beckett (@BeckettUnite) July 17, 2020
More recently, Howard Beckett has been at the forefront of Unite members’ battle against British Airways redundancies:
- Unite’s Howard Beckett says thousands of loyal BA workers are being “forced out of the jobs they love”
- Unite’s Howard Beckett hits back at “morally wrong” BA after break down of redundancy talks
- Unite’s Howard Beckett slams “cynical” and “opportunistic” BA for cutting staff wages during coronavirus pandemic
As well as Mr Beckett and Mr Turner, Unite executive officer Sharon Graham is also thought to be standing in the Unite general secretary election. The union’s former West Midlands regional secretary Gerard Coyne, who lost to Len McCluskey in the last vote in 2017, is also rumoured to be standing again as a centre-left candidate.