Union candidate warns Keir Starmer not to abandon leftist policies | Unite
One of the main candidates for the head of Labor’s most generous union has warned Keir Starmer against any attempt to abandon the left-wing pledges he endorsed when he started his leadership.
With thousands of Unite members ready to vote this week to decide on its next general secretary, Steve Turner, the leading leftist candidate, said Starmer must “keep his promise to the members” by resisting demands to relocate the party. to the right in the wake of its stalled performance.
Starmer has previously been accused of abandoning promises of leadership designed to show he was upholding many of Jeremy Corbyn’s key policies, covering issues such as nationalization and raising taxes. Turner said while relieved by Labor’s victory in the Batley and Spen by-elections, the party should not be “kidding” about its performance under Starmer. “Labor must find their voice, sharpen their attacks on this appalling government – to allow people to see real opposition and a party that speaks for them and for them,” he said.
“Keir must also keep his promise to the members. He was on a show that saw union members give him their vote. He can’t just throw this away because [former New Labour architect] Peter Mandelson doesn’t like it. To do so is to insult those who place their trust in him, and it is not a good place to be a leader.
His warning comes ahead of a crucial week in the contest to replace Len McCluskey. This represents a major fork in the road for the union, with huge implications for Starmer and Labor.
Unite was firmly in the hands of his left wing under McCluskey, who was instrumental in tackling Corbyn’s challenges. Unite has also cut funding for Labor under Starmer.
Turner said the union, Labor’s most generous donor, would not simply remain silent and “only appear when the checkbook is needed” under his leadership. “It’s up to Keir now to show he got the message, that he understands that the party is in big trouble in our hearts and our union communities. Batley gives the party some space, but he can’t there can be no complacency in winning a victory with a handful of votes. “
Turner’s main rival is Gerard Coyne, who narrowly missed out on Unite’s leadership victory in 2017 and was a major critic of the union’s strong involvement in Labor and its spending plans. He describes himself as a moderate who wants to reduce interference in work. He said he wanted to change an “aggressive culture” within the union that suppresses dissent.
He said he wanted to open the union over concerns over the cost of building a hotel and conference center in Birmingham. “If you have a culture of openness and you open the shutters and let the light in, then you don’t have to defend yourself aggressively,” he said. “When we got involved in a high profile lawsuit that ended up costing the union over £ 2million, where is the blame? A Unite spokesperson insisted that Coyne supported the hotel project.
Coyne said he did not reject Unite’s involvement in Labor politics, but said he was concerned about the extent to which the “pendulum has swung”. He said: “It has been characterized that my message about not being the driver in the backseat of the Labor Party absolves us of any involvement in politics. I’m not suggesting in any way that we go completely off the field here. It’s about where you focus, as general secretary.
“We will have our concerns and I will speak as loud and clear about those concerns as any Secretary General. But whether you do it constructively or do it shouting from the rooftops and criticizing the party, these are two different things. “
Both candidates said their top priority would be to increase union membership and influence in the wake of the pandemic. A third candidate in the race, senior official Sharon Graham, surprised many with the level of approval she received from local branches. She claimed to win support from all wings of the union, but is also seen as a rival leftist candidate for Turner and has been backed by the Socialist Party.