General Election 2024: One of UK’s biggest unions fails to endorse Labour manifesto | Politics News

One of the UK’s biggest unions has failed to endorse the Labour Party’s manifesto at a crunch meeting ahead of the general election.

Senior Labour figures, including leader Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, the National Executive Committee and union bosses met on Friday to vote on whether to approve it.

The document is set to be publicly unveiled next Thursday.

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But Sky News understands Unite did not endorse the plans.

They cited concerns about Sir Keir’s plans for fire and rehire, as well as the banning of new and oil gas licences being granted in the North Sea. The latter was criticised as a “ban without a plan”.

It is understood that recognising Palestine as a country is part of the manifesto, and there are no plans to raise taxes past what has already been announced on private schools, non-doms and a windfall on energy giants.

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These measures were welcomed by the unions – as were the industrial strategy proposal and allowing ambulance workers to retire early.

And the document is said to be short and to the point – with no surprises or big spending giveaways.

The manifesto was passed by acclaim, meaning it was supported by most present through applause. It also means that Unite did not push things to a vote and did not vote against the proposals.

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The Sky News Westminster Accounts project shows the union has donated almost £12m to the Labour Party and its MPs since the last election.

Unite – officially called Unite the Union – is headed by general secretary Sharon Graham.

Ms Graham has been an outspoken critic of Sir Keir – saying he was “too timid” and accusing him of “limping into Number 10”.

Labour manifesto signed off – but NOT everyone is happy

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Political correspondent


After four hours holed up in a central London venue, Labour’s top brass endorsed the election manifesto, the party said.

But Sky News has learnt that in fact the Unite union – Labour’s biggest financial backer which has given the party £11m since 2019 – does not endorse the document.

What’s in it? It’s shrouded in secrecy until next week, but I understand it’s relatively short – the 2019 one ran to 107 pages – “to the point” and containing no spending surprises.

Economic and national security are key, and the party rules out tax rises other than those it has already set out on private school fees, a tax avoidance crackdown, and a higher windfall tax.

But Unite, which represents 1.25 million members, is understood to have taken issue with the wording of the workers’ rights promises, which have been the source of a long battle between the party and union bosses.

Sharon Graham, its general secretary, described the latest iteration of the New Deal to Make Work Pay as having “more holes than Swiss cheese” when it was published last month.

Today, she and other union leaders were silent for the cameras but took issue with the wording on the section about banning new oil and gas licences, which the union says will cost thousands of jobs (they had wanted wording about a “just transition” to green energy) and about the proposed ban on firing workers and rehiring them on worse conditions.

There was no vote, and the manifesto was agreed “by acclamation” with Labour shadow cabinet, union representatives and officials clapping to show their support.

Several sources in the meeting described the atmosphere as “positive”, certainly by contrast to the fractious Clause V meetings under Jeremy Corbyn, and the unions are understood to be pleased with what it says about collective bargaining and lowering the retirement age for ambulance workers.

The launch is next Thursday, and unions will need to consider their next move and whether to criticise it on the day of the launch. It would look hostile to Sir Keir, but taking on the unions could also help to prove this point that Labour has changed.

Ms Graham had been set to speak to journalists after the meeting, but ended up cancelling.

Unite is one of the biggest unions in the UK – claiming to represent more than 1.2 million members, including those who work in the North Sea oil and gas industry.

Other parts of the Labour Party were less than pleased about the contents of the manifesto.

Momentum, a Corbyn-era campaign group, said it was “deeply disappointed” that there were no proposals for universal free school meals, and scrapping the two-child benefit cap.

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A Labour Party spokesman said: ” Today’s meeting has endorsed Labour’s manifesto.

“On 4 July, the British people will have the chance to vote for change – to stop the chaos, turn the page and start to rebuild our country.”


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