UNISON, the largest trade union in the United Kingdom and an affiliate of the Labour Party, has today endorsed shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer (Holborn & St Pancras) to become the next leader of the party.
In a statement issued this afternoon, UNISON announced that the union’s Labour Link committee – which is made up of UNISON members who are members of the Labour Party – had decided to back Sir Keir following a vote of the committee.
Following the announcement, a leak from the UNISON Labour Link executive showed that the full vote saw Sir Keir secure 14 votes, with shadow secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy Rebecca Long-Bailey (Salford & Eccles) obtaining five, and shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry (Islington South & Finsbury) receiving one vote.
This comes as a major boost for Sir Keir who, at the time of writing, has received 30 public endorsements from his fellow Labour MPs, six more than required to be nominated to go on to the vote of the wider membership.
The endorsement of UNISON, which has more than 1.3 million members, is highly sought after with the union backing Ed Miliband (Doncaster North) in 2010 and Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) in 2015 and again in 2016.
This will be seen as a blow to other candidates, especially Long-Bailey who has been seeking to bring together the same coalition that Mr Corbyn did to win the party leadership, although she can take some solace from the leaked numbers in that there was still some support for her on the executive. It remains to be seen how seriously members will take the official endorsement of the union. Fellow leadership contender Lisa Nandy (Wigan) may be the most disappointed, with not a show of support from the committee despite her campaign strongly courting these types of voters.
UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said in a statement that “we believe – if elected by the membership – Keir Starmer would be a leader to bring the party together and win back the trust of the thousands of voters who deserted Labour last month.”
As things stand, Sir Keir remains the favourite to win and the other candidates have work to do to catch up.