Beckett pulls out of Unite general secretary race and endorses Turner

Sienna Rodgers
© Andrew Skudder/CC BY-SA 2.0

Howard Beckett has pulled out of the Unite the Union general secretary race and endorsed Steve Turner, leaving two left candidates in the contest against challenger Gerard Coyne.

After prolonged negotiations and deadlines repeatedly pushed back, Beckett – who placed third in the numbers of branch nominations received by candidates – has withdrawn from the union leadership election.

Beckett and Turner have issued the following joint statement:

Throughout this contest, we have both been committed to one thing above all – developing further the role our union has played since its foundation as a fighting back, progressive, campaigning force for working people throughout Britain and Ireland.

It is clear that developing that unique role requires the unity of the left in our union, and of all those representatives and members in the workplaces and beyond who have made Unite a union to be proud of.

Howard Beckett has decided he will support Steve Turner as Unite’s next general secretary. Both recognise the vision and strengths of their respective campaigns and Steve Turner recognises the key manifesto commitments and energy generated by Howards campaign. They will both work to implement a blended manifesto, taking the best ideas from both candidates, when Steve Turner becomes general secretary. Howard Beckett will campaign alongside Steve for the next two months to present a joint programme which includes greater support for workplace representatives, important new communications initiatives including Unite TV, upgraded education and training for members, an independent and progressive political voice, and a new structure for the union reflecting the diversity of our nations and regions.

Our programme recognises the central importance of organising and leverage to winning for members in struggle and building the union. We will also put greater resources into ensuring a bigger role for women and black members in the union and greater support in the workplace.

Steve Turner warmly welcomes Howard Beckett’s support and appreciates his decision to stand aside. As general secretary two of the most important people in his team will be Howard Beckett and Sharon Graham and the structures of Unite would reflect this.

On this basis we look forward to taking a united message of positive change to our members up and down Britain and Ireland over the next two months, building on Unite’s strengths while adding much more to what we can offer to working people. We are proud of our union, and look forward to shaping its future together.

In exchange for withdrawing from the election, which uses first-past-the-post rather than a preferential voting system, Turner has promised to implement a “blended manifesto” adopting Beckett’s ideas.

The move from Beckett today leaves Turner and Coyne to battle it out, as well as Sharon Graham, the executive officer for organising and leverage at Unite, who will be staying in the race as a left candidate.

Reacting to the news, Graham said: “The announcement of the Turner/Beckett ticket, along with the Gerard Coyne candidacy, now completes the Westminster Brigade. I am the workplace candidate and will be standing to ensure the voice of Unite members is heard.”

In the nominations stage of the contest, Turner won the most number of branches, followed by Graham, Beckett and Coyne in that order. All secured the more than 5% of branches required to reach the ballot.

Although Coyne placed last in nominations, when he ran for general secretary in 2017, he secured 187 nominations but won 41.3% of the vote. Len McCluskey had 1,185 nominations and 45.5% of the final vote.

Commenting after Beckett withdrew today, Coyne said: “We now have a Communist Party candidate, a Socialist Worker Party candidate and myself in the Unite election. I’m happy to be the mainstream candidate for the members.”

He added: “I am looking forward now to the main contest, in which members of Unite will decide whether their union needs real change or more of the same. It’s now clear that if you vote Turner, you get Beckett.”

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