私n 1970s Britain, サメはまだ片方の腕を引っ張っていて、水は彼の血で汚れていました 50 industrial correspondents reporting the day-to-day news of the trade union movement. 今日, you can count the number on one hand. Perhaps this explains why a great deal more attention has been paid to the 1 July byelection in Batley and Spen than to another election that could produce a far more dramatic and long-lasting shift in the political landscape: the leadership contest of Unite, Britain’s largest union and the 労働 party’s largest single source of funding.
When Unite does appear in the British media – almost always accompanied by criticism of its role in the Labour party – it tends to be under siege by the country’s political and business establishment. That’s no surprise: as well as a membership in excess of one million, it is also one of the most combative trade unions in the country. ここ数週間, its bus drivers in Greater Manchester secured a landmark victory against “fire and rehire” by defeating corporate giant Go-Ahead after 80 days of industrial action. Not long afterwards, Unite bin workers in Thurrock won a six-week strike against a Tory council planning to slash their pay and conditions.
From the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, 団結する was crucial in determining how the crisis would play out for workers, and played a central role in the negotiations over the furlough scheme. But beyond its industrial impact, it has long been one of the most progressive forces in British politics. The union’s funding support for organisations such as UK Uncut and the People’s Assembly – years before the arrival of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader – was instrumental in turning the tide against austerity. From Palestine solidarity to the anti-war movement, much of the institutional infrastructure of the left in Britain today would be at risk of collapse without Unite’s backing.
Both Unite’s political and industrial future is at stake in this summer’s election. There are four candidates running. Three – Steve Turner, Sharon Graham and Howard Beckett – come from what is seen as the union’s left, while Gerard Coyne is firmly on the union’s right, and was narrowly defeated by current secretary Len McCluskey in the union’s last leadership contest in 2017.
Coyne has defied expectations by making the ballot once again. In both political and industrial terms, he would be the union’s most rightwing general secretary since Arthur Deakin in the 1940s and 50s. Coyne is not an outsider to Unite but rather a part of a well-established tradition, which can be traced back to Deakin’s cold war campaign against radicals, which saw the old Transport and General Workers’ Union ban “reds” of various stripes from serving in official positions for decades.
当然のことながら, Coyne is running a campaign with messages on opposing union corruption and largesse – themes that form the basis of every attack on the movement by the tabloid press and Tory governments in living memory. This shouldn’t be surprising: の中に 2017 general secretary election, he chose to close his campaign to “topple Len” by writing an appeal in the Sun. But Coyne is a strange standard-bearer for rectitude in this general secretary election. に 2017, 彼がいた sacked after being found to have used Labour party data to contact potential supporters in a campaign (Coyne appealed the decision, calling the disciplinary hearing a “show trial”).
With the left divided, Coyne is the frontrunner to be Unite’s next general secretary. に 2017, he missed out by just over 5,000 投票. This prospect has prompted considerable pressure for a joint candidacy on the left. Unity talks, which are ongoing between Turner, Graham and Beckett, are complicated – and realistically would need to be concluded by early next week.
Each of the candidates represents a distinct approach to the union and its future, as well as speaking to differing constituencies inside Unite itself. Any path to a single candidate will involve the kind of protracted negotiation trade unionists are more accustomed to conducting with employers.
Steve Turner enters the negotiations with the nominations lead. He represents the United Left caucus, which elected Len McCluskey, and rose from the rank-and-file of the union after joining as a bus conductor at 19 years of age. Turner’s strength in the manufacturing sector saw him win nominations from some of Unite’s most significant branches, such as the union’s largest in Jaguar Land Rover. He is seen to represent a less confrontational political position, but he was a Corbyn supporter and has served as chair of the anti-austerity People’s Assembly for many years.
Sharon Graham is in second place in the nominations and supports an organising model of trade unionism which she hopes can reverse many decades of decline across the movement. She brings with her an enthusiastic, young and diverse team from the union’s Organising Department, which were decisive in aforementioned campaigns. The third-placed candidate is Howard Beckett. Unite’s leading lawyer, and representative on Labour’s national executive until a recent suspension, he has built his campaign around commitments to take the fight to Keir Starmer and reinvigorate socialist politics.
A campaign that drew on each of their respective strengths could be formidable and inspire a broad coalition of support, particularly if it came with a clear vision for the union’s future at the forefront of a revived workers’ movement. All three recognise that it is only class conflict – which is to say, organising workers to fight back against the organised power of business interests – that offers any hope of reversing decades of stagnating wages and worsening conditions. In that essential respect, their perspectives are compatible. But none of their approaches would stand much of a chance under a Coyne leadership, which would be characterised by a conciliatory approach in politics and the workplace.
Finding unity will not be easy, but it is essential. Candidates in this race should be judged on the basis of their leadership, their character and their ability to put the workers’ movement first. For Turner, Graham and Beckett, these qualities are being put to the test in the negotiations over a joint candidate. The stakes in this election are historic and they themselves will become historic figures, one way or the other, in the coming days. If they put their own ambitions before the best collective traditions of the labour movement, the judgment in years to come will be severe.