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Unite union boss Graham says she will hold ‘timid’ Starmer’s ‘feet to the fire’

08 Oct 2023 3 minute read
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham. Photo Joe Giddens PA Images

The leader of Labour’s biggest union backer said she would keep Sir Keir Starmer’s “feet to the fire” and claimed the party had been “too timid”.

Unite’s general secretary Sharon Graham said Labour had to make a “better offer” for workers.

With a general election expected next year, Ms Graham – who has frequently criticised the Labour leadership – said “we’re at the business end now” as she highlighted what she expected in return for support.

She told Sky News’ Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips: “I want them to win.

“But there’s a difference between limping into Number 10 and being carried in – actually carried in – there to say, look, actually this person is going to come in and they’re going to bat for us.”

She added that she was not “embarrassed” to make it uncomfortable for Labour by “raising issues like the renationalisation of energy, investment in steel, oil and gas” because “that’s my job”.

“So I’m going to keep Labour’s feet to the fire,” she said.

“I absolutely want a Labour government, of course, but I want a Labour government that is going to make real change to people’s lives. And I think at the moment Labour have been too timid.”

She said that after 13 years of “Tories batting for big business and batting for the rich”, it was “time for Labour to come in and bat for our side, bat for workers and bat for communities”.

With the prospect of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – who has lost the party whip in Parliament – standing as an independent at the next election, Ms Graham said Unite could not support him.

“The support is for the Labour Party because that’s what our rule book says that we do,” she said.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting pushed back against the criticism from the Unite boss.

Mr Streeting told Sky’s Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips that the Labour Party was in an “existential crisis” when Sir Keir took over as leader.

“He’s taken the Labour Party from the ashes of our worst defeat since 1935, dragged the Labour Party back to the mainstream, and he’s built a team and a platform that can give Britain its future back and is building public support on a scale the Labour Party hasn’t seen since it was last heading towards government.”

The shadow frontbencher pointed to commitments including the biggest expansion of NHS staff in history and the creation of two million more appointments a year, saying: “We’ve got the ambition, we’ve got the plan, we’ve got the team and now we’ve got to make our case to the country.”


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Sian
Sian
6 months ago

It’s crucial that Labour doesn’t forget its roots. They need to change the narrative to a more positive one & highlight the huge infrastructure projects they delivered after WW2 such as creating the NHS & building council houses. The Tories have shown that they can’t be trusted with tax payers money, it’s all syphoned off to their friends & supporters.

Jeff
Jeff
6 months ago

Terrible messaging and ammunition for the Tory party. Better comment would “sit back and see what happens then decide what to do at a later date”. This wont be a general election of policies, it will be one of hate and mud slinging. Dont Gove the Cons the mud.

Jeff
Jeff
6 months ago
Reply to  Jeff

Edit not working. “Don’t give the cons the mud”

Sarah Good
Sarah Good
6 months ago
Reply to  Jeff

Don’t Gove the cons the mud also works on multiple levels

Cwm Rhondda
Cwm Rhondda
6 months ago

It was the trade unions who supported Ed Miliband against his brother David. David Miliband was infinitely more electable than gawky 6th former Ed. The rest is history 13 years of the Tories destroying Cymru with Brexit thrown in too.

Cwm Rhondda
Cwm Rhondda
6 months ago
Reply to  Cwm Rhondda

I am a trade union member and have been for the last 38 years. I am proud to be a trade union member. However, the role played by the unions in the selection of Ed Miliband as Leader of the Labour party cost Labour victory in the subsequent election and led to Brexit and 13 years of a disastrous tory government.

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