Left-winger who backs Scottish self-determination wins Unite leadership race

A LEFT-WINGER who previously insisted it would be “ridiculous” for Westminster to block Indyref2 has won the race to be the next general secretary of Unite.

Sharon Graham will take over from Len McCluskey as leader of one the country’s most powerful trade unions.

She received 46,696 votes, with her rivals Steve Turner and Gerard Coyne receiving 41,833 and 35,334 votes respectively.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted his congratulations, writing: “I’m looking forward to working together to improve the lives of working people across the country.”

Ms Graham, who will be Unite’s first female general secretary, leads the union’s Organising and Leverage Department, which specialises in taking on hostile employers.

She has led recent disputes at British Airways and Crossrail as well as campaigning to unionise Amazon.

She described herself as the “workers’ candidate”, pledging to take Unite “back to the workplace”.

In a statement, she said: “It is an enormous privilege for me to have been elected as the general secretary of Unite. 

“Unite members across the UK and Ireland have spoken. They want change.

“They have rallied, in their tens of thousands, to our demand that Unite should get back to the workplace and deliver what it says on the trade union tin – a relentless fight for jobs, pay and conditions.

“I stand for a fight against the gross injustices that blight the lives of our members, and British and Irish society as a whole. 

“What is happening to workers all over Britain in the cascade of ‘fire and rehire’ threats being issued by rogue employers is only one recent example of these injustices. 

“I will make sure that the union fights this with all its power in the future.
“We won the election because of the votes of the fearless who came behind our banner. 

“We won because of the army of volunteers in my campaign who stood against the stream and, month after long month, battled to deliver our vote. 

“The trade union movement is nothing if it is not a crusade. 

“Our crusade has won and I will be eternally grateful to all those who made that possible. 

“And, make no mistake, the pledges I have made to every member will be made real.”

Mr Turner, who was backed by Mr McCluskey, had been seen as the favourite to win, while Mr Coyne was considered the moderate candidate. 

In an interview with The Herald last month, Ms Graham said Scottish self-determination is “absolutely critical” and insisted the trade union’s membership would decide its position on independence. 

Elsewhere, she said Labour should “stop playing silly games” and focus on workers and questioned the party’s relevance in Scotland, adding: “It isn’t in Scotland, let’s face it.”

Unite is a key donor to the Labour Party.

Ms Graham said: “For me, self-determination of Scotland is absolutely critical and I support it.

“The idea that Westminster thinks that they can decide whether or not Scotland is allowed to have a vote on its own course is totally inappropriate.”

She added: “I think what is ridiculous is that Westminster could even be saying, ‘We are going to tell you if you are allowed to.’

“I mean, that is just not acceptable.

“If I was in Scotland and I was listening to that, I would actually be incandescent, frankly.

“Because how can Westminster tell you, the people of Scotland, what you’re allowed and not allowed to do as far as the referendum is concerned?”

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992