Unite the Union is being rocked by Howard Beckett’s deportation comments on Thursday night and Keir Starmer’s swift action to remove him from the Labour Party.
On Thursday evening, Howard Beckett tweeted that Priti Patel should be deported with anyone else who supports institutional racism. Priti Patel is a British-born woman from an Asian family and social media was quick to react, with prominent people from across the party saying that this was an abhorrent language that too many minorities have had to endure on a regular basis. While the government’s immigration program and actions have rightly been fought back against, in Glasgow most recently, and should always be objected to, members are shocked that Howard felt it was appropriate to address anyone, least of all a person of color in this way.
Despite Howard’s crass attempts to bury the news under previous tweets, he has now apologized, stating on Sky News that he does not “look at Priti Patel and […] see the color of her skin”. However, Red Roar fully agrees with a petition that was set up late last night that highlights the union’s rule book:
“a member may be charged with: Inciting, espousing or practicing discrimination or intolerance amongst members on grounds of race, ethnic origin, religion, age, gender, disability or sexual orientation”
“The Executive Council or the relevant Regional Committee may suspend a member charged under this rule from holding any office or representing the Union in any capacity pending its decision.”
Howard’s behavior clearly fails this standard, in addition, would suspect that there is similar language in his contract of employment. The question, therefore, moves to why has Unite and its exiting General Secretary, Len McCluskey, have been so quiet? Unite as a trade union pride itself on being an anti-racist movement, any member who engages in this kind of behavior should be punished. And for someone running for the highest office within the trade union, and who has such a close association with the current leadership, this kind of behavior must be dealt with as swiftly as possible.
In the last 12 hours, Keir Starmer acted decisively to show that this behavior has no place within the Labour movement. The question now is, does Len McCluskey have the guts to take the same course of action and stand up against it? Will executive members, including those affiliated with United Left, speak up and call on the General Secretary of the union to take action and remove Beckett from the contest?
Grassroots members have been let down by Unite being involved in allegations around racism recently. However, the last 24 hours have brought deep shame on the union. They must take action.