Labour: Left has to 'regroup' says Len McCluskey
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Mr McCluskey was a close ally of former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn during his time as Leader of the Opposition. After more than ten years as Unite the Union’s General Secretary he is standing down. The trade union this year confirmed that Mr Beckett, Mr Turner, Sharon Graham and Gerard Coyne were in the running to take over.
Mr Beckett and Mr Turner are largely regarded as prodigies of Mr McCluskey, the three of them having heavily criticised Sir Keir and called for him to return to the policies seen under Mr Corbyn; while Ms Graham and Mr Coyne have largely been supportive of the new Labour leader.
In a twist of events, Mr Beckett terminated his campaign in order to join forces with Mr Turner and consolidate the vote of the left to ensure a vocal critic of Sir Keir and his move towards a new Labour is challenged by Unite.
It is worth noting that Unite is Labour’s biggest single donor.
Last year, under Mr McCluskey’s watch, it pulled the plug on 10 percent of Unite’s funding to the Labour Party, amounting to around £150,000, in reaction to Sir Keir’s suspending Mr Corbyn, among other things.
In a joint statement, Mr Beckett and Mr Turner said they would produce a “blended manifesto, taking the best ideas from both candidates”.
They added: “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 Howard’s campaign.”
While Ms Graham is also considered a left-wing candidate, she refused to step aside.
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Speaking to Sky News, she 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. The union must return to doing what it says on the tin – fighting for jobs, pay and conditions.
“The two other candidates offer no more than the settling of old scores and the interest of Westminster politics.”
Mr Coyne claimed Mr Beckett’s support for Mr Turner would make “no difference”.
In a brutal snub to the pair, he 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.
“I am the only candidate who would change the culture of the union, make its financial affairs transparent, improve its internal democracy and end the ill-judged attempts to drive the Labour Party from the back seat.”
If Mr Beckett and Mr Turner are successful in their joint bid, Sir Keir will likely be hounded by Unite in the years to come.
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Last week, Mr Turner warned him against any attempts of abandoning his leftwing pledges made at the start of his leadership.
He said Sir Keir must “keep his promise to the members” by resisting demands to shift the party to the right in the wake of its below par electoral performances.
Mr Turner added: “Keir also has to keep his promise to the members.
“He stood on a programme that saw trade union members give him their vote.
“He can’t just bin this because [former New Labour architect] Peter Mandelson doesn’t like it.
“To do so is to insult those who put their trust in him, and that’s not a great place for a leader to be.”
Crucially, Mr Turner said Unite, under his leadership, would not simply remain silent and “only appear when the cheque book is needed”.
Mr Beckett has also pitted himself as one of Sir Keir’s most vocal critics, going as far as to call for him to step down as leader.
He was recently suspended from the Labour Party after he wrote a tweet calling for Home Secretary Priti Patel to be deported in response to the Home Office’s detaining of two Indian immigrants in Glasgow in May.
In a later apology posted on Twitter, he said: “My earlier tweet, deleted after half an hour, was never intended to be literal.
“My intention was to emphasise that racist policies should be rejected and have no place in society.
“The wording was wrong, offensive and I apologise unreservedly to Priti Patel. No one should be deported.”
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