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No ‘blank cheques’ for Labour Party, Unite general secretary warns

15 Jul 2023 3 minute read
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham. Photo Joe Giddens PA Images

The UK’s largest trade union could reduce the amount of money it gives to Labour if the party’s leadership does not back more of its policy priorities, its general secretary has said.

Sharon Graham warned Sir Keir Starmer there will be “no blank cheques” as she urged the party to be “bolder” in an interview with the BBC.

She told the broadcaster: “I want to see some movement if we are going to give what we usually give.

“We would be better off with a Labour government but I am very, very disappointed with the lack of ambition.”

The union is Labour’s biggest financial backer and guarantees the party almost £1.5 million a year.

Ms Graham made the comments after members of her union, the UK’s second largest, voted overwhelmingly against disaffiliating from the party earlier this week.

Lack of ambition

Ms Graham said she is “very, very disappointed” by the “lack of ambition” at the top of the party.

Apathy will be the winner at the ballot box next year if Labour does not become bolder, she added.

She said the opposition is not setting out a distinct alternative to the Tory Government as it tries to reassure voters it can manage the economy.

The union boss said “we need be as bold as the 1945 Labour government” which created the NHS.

She added: “There wasn’t much money about then, I can tell you.”

Ms Graham told the BBC that strict fiscal rules have led to “inertia” which has led the public to ask what the difference is between Labour and the Conservatives.

She also said Labour must “talk about what they can do to change Britain. People want something to vote for”.

She added: “If Labour are saying what’s happening now is awful – and it is absolutely awful – they have to come out with solutions to that.”

The BBC said she is pushing for renationalisation of steel and energy companies to be near the top of the party’s priority list.

During several meetings with the Labour leader, she said it would be cheaper to buy a steel industry that has lost much of its market value than to bail out its private owners, the broadcaster reported.

Ms Graham wants “hundreds of organisers” to go to marginal seats and talk to voters about the case for taking key industries into public hands.

The message will be reinforced by Unite-funded billboards.

The aim is for voters to press local Labour parties and candidates to commit to backing nationalisation.

She told the BBC: “We will take our ideas to the people.

“The real decision-makers are the voters. If they push those ideas, politicians tend to move when they speak to voters

“People will say they remember when energy companies were privatised and when they paid massive bills, and it was a Labour government that stopped all that.”


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Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
8 months ago

Starmer is as bold as wet Rizla in a tin of white paint….except that he is entirely beige….. He is slightly less than mid. He and his schtick are as played out as the word “mid”, he was last on the pulse when “played out” didn’t seem archaic.

Apathy?…. I honestly don’t think that most of the electorate could raise their enthusiasm to the level of apathy even if Kier Starmer started an only-fans account and spanked Gove live.

Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
8 months ago

All Trade Unions should defund the Labour Party

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
8 months ago
Reply to  Johnny Gamble

Not sure if that is a good idea as the majority of the Party membership (if the last Conference is a guide) are essentially socialist in orientation and democracy minded wanting electoral reform. The problem lies in the ‘top’ clique around Starmer who give the appearanc of being died in the wool Market Fundamentalists. One possible solution is for disheartened Labour Members to vote Plaid, Green or LibDem in those constituencies where there is a good chance that such actions would displace the Tory incumbent and leave the Central Labour Party Placeman (it will probably be a man) out in… Read more »

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