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ALL FOUR candidates to replace retiring Unite general secretary Len McCluskey have made it onto the ballot paper, the union announced today.
United Left candidate and current assistant general secretary Steve Turner led the way with 525 branch nominations, followed by executive officer Sharon Graham on 349.
Howard Beckett, another assistant general secretary, gained 328 nominations and former Midands regional organiser Gerard Coyne, regarded as the right-wing candidate, garnered 196.
Fears that a four-horse race could hand victory to Mr Coyne in the first-past-the post election, potentially overturning Unite’s political strategy over the last decade, has led to growing pressure for two of the other three candidates to withdraw to avoid splitting the left vote.
Mr Turner’s campaign announced on social media that an online rally he had planned to take place last night would be postponed to allow time “to discuss with other candidates ways in which we can bring our union, and specifically our left, together.”
The Star understands that such discussions began this afternoon.
Mr Coyne came within 6,000 votes of Mr McCluskey in the 2017 election for Unite’s top job, a three-cornered contest which saw a significant minority of left votes taken by outlier Ian Allinson.
A well-placed union source told the Morning Star: “The three left candidates need to put aside their egos and individual ambitions, consider just how much is at stake here and agree who is best placed to win.
“The consequences of Unite falling into the hands of the Labour right do not bear thinking about, and it absolutely need not happen.”
The source added that discussions on a single left candidate needed to be wrapped up within the next week, given the election timetable and the need to print ballot papers.
The postal ballot of the union’s million-plus members will begin on July 5 and the result is declared on August 26.
Candidates were required to win nominations from 5 per cent of the union’s branch and workplace organisations, a threshold of 172.
The union said that the final tally of nominations may vary slightly from the totals released today when outstanding issues on the validity of some have been resolved.
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