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GMB members back Owen Smith for Labour leadership

Published 10/08/2016

The GMB asked its 600,000-plus members if they wanted to support Jeremy Corbyn or Owen Smith
The GMB asked its 600,000-plus members if they wanted to support Jeremy Corbyn or Owen Smith

Members of the GMB union have backed Owen Smith as Labour leader in a consultative ballot.

The union, the third biggest affiliated to the party, asked its 600,000-plus members if they wanted to support Mr Smith or Jeremy Corbyn.

The vote was 60% in favour of Mr Smith and 40% for Mr Corbyn.

Around 30,000 GMB members are eligible to vote in the leadership election, but the union wanted to gauge the feeling of all its members.

The GMB represents workers on the Trident nuclear weapons programme.

General secretary Tim Roache said: "The Labour Party is at a crossroads. I'm under no illusions that we're living through dangerous political times - the like of which I haven't seen during my three decades in our movement. It's time for us to face up to reality.

"GMB balloted our members because this kind of decision shouldn't be taken from up on high. We're a democratic organisation here to serve our members' interests. I was determined that our members would have their say, and they've had it.

"I'll proudly campaign alongside Owen in the coming weeks and months to deliver on his pledges to end the public sector pay freeze, to support defence workers, to invest in health and industry, and to build an industrial strategy - these are bread and butter issues for the people I represent.

"But we can only tackle them if we're in government. That's the end game and I hope whatever the final result, the Labour Party will unite when all this is over. GMB members cannot afford for Labour to be talking to itself in a bubble for the next five years while the Tories run riot through our rights at work, our public services and our communities."

Mr Smith said: "It's a great honour to receive GMB's nomination to be the next leader of the Labour Party after a consultation with its members.

"At the heart of my campaign are commitments to strengthening our trade unions, ending exploitation and delivering greater equality.

"I look forward to working with the GMB, its members and all in the Labour movement to tackle inequality, invest in strong public services, and for Britain to have trade union and workers' rights that are the envy of the world."

There were 43,635 votes cast in the ballot.

Mr Smith has won support from other unions including the shopworkers' union Usdaw and steelworkers' union Community, while Mr Corbyn is being backed by Unite, the Communication Workers Union, rail unions and construction workers' union Ucatt.

The UK's biggest union, Unite, confirmed its support for Mr Corbyn as Labour leader.

In a statement, the union said: "Unite's policy conference, made up of approximately 1,000 rank-and-file representatives and held three weeks ago, decided by an overwhelming majority to support Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party.

"Unite has accordingly submitted a nomination for Jeremy to the Labour Party and will support his campaign for re-election."

Sam Tarry, a Jeremy for Labour campaign spokesman, questioned how representative the GMB result was when he spoke to Sky News.

He said: "GMB's congress which only met just a couple of months ago actually had two motions unanimously passed by the GMB, by delegates elected from workplaces across the country backing Jeremy Corbyn."

Mr Tarry also questioned the way in which the vote was undertaken.

He said: "I think that a lot of GMB members like myself, a lot of people in my local branch, are asking the question: how leading was, for example, the actual email that went out?

"It actually talked about using your heart and not your head. It talked about things in a certain way that people would say, 'Hold on, isn't that exactly what Owen Smith was saying at the same time?'

"There seemed to be a certain synergy between Owen Smith's campaign and the wording of these statements coming out from the GMB."

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