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Howard Beckett pulls out of Unite leadership race to endorse Steve Turner

HOWARD BECKETT has pulled out of the Unite general secretary race and endorsed Steve Turner, leaving two left candidates to take on right-wing choice Gerard Coyne.

After prolonged negotiations, Mr Beckett — who came third in the number of branch nominations received by candidates — withdrew from this summer’s first-past-the-post election today.

In exchange, Mr Turner, the union’s United Left candidate who topped the branch nominations list with 525 endorsements, promised to implement a “blended manifesto” which adopts some of Mr Beckett’s ideas.

In a joint statement, the two Unite assistant general secretaries said that they looked forward to taking a “united message of positive change” to members during the campaign.

The withdrawal leaves Mr Turner and Sharon Graham, the executive officer for organising and leverage at Unite, as the two left candidates vying to replace Len McCluskey, who is stepping down after 11 years as leader.  

Ms Graham was second in the branch nominations list with 349 local groups backing her, while Mr Coyne, who lost to Mr McCluskey in 2017, scraped past the required threshold with 196 endorsements.

Earlier this week, the Communist Party of Britain and Jewish Voice for Labour joined calls for there to be a single progressive candidate, warning that a split in the left vote could gift control of Labour’s biggest financial backer to the right.

Mr Beckett and Mr Turner’s joint statement said: “Throughout this contest, we have both been committed to developing further the role our union has played since its foundation as a fighting back, progressive, campaigning force. Developing that unique role requires the unity of the left.

“[Mr] Beckett has decided he will support [Mr] Turner as Unite’s next general secretary. Both recognise the vision and strengths of their respective campaigns. They will both work to implement a blended manifesto, taking the best ideas from both candidates.

“[Mr] Turner warmly welcomes [Mr] Beckett’s support and appreciates his decision to stand aside. 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.”

Ballot papers will be dispatched to more than one million Unite members from July 5, with a result due on August 26.

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