LABOUR leader Keir Starmer has been told to listen to Unite’s demands as the union voted to maintain its historic links with the party.

General secretary Sharon Graham told a debate at Unite’s rules conference in Brighton on Monday that it is not the time for disaffiliation as it seeks to influence the party should Labour win power at the next General Election.

However, Graham said there will be “no blank cheques” for the Labour leader as she urged him to “deliver on jobs, pay and conditions”.

Delegates chose “overwhelmingly” to remain affiliated with Labour following a “passionate and well-tempered” debate, the union said.  

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Had they chosen to sever ties, it would have allowed Unite – Labour’s biggest donor – to change its rules to be able to donate to other parties or candidates.

Graham told the debate: “This is the moment of maximum leverage for the union where we can hold Labour to account. Now cannot be the time to walk away. We would be weakening our own arm.

“It would be the worst time to leave the Labour Party when they are in touching distance of power. If we leave we wouldn’t influence that power.

“Labour must be Labour and the union must push them into that position. We must make them take different choices. We will not make the same mistakes of the past. There will be no blank cheques for Labour until we see tangible results.”

Unite said on Twitter: “Unite Rules Conference votes overwhelmingly to stay affiliated to Labour but General Secretary Sharon Graham puts Keir Starmer on notice, he must deliver on jobs, pay and conditions if he wins power at the next election.”

Graham on Sunday criticised as “beyond belief” shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves’s refusal to commit to endorsing the recommendations of the pay review bodies on public sector pay as workers struggle with the cost-of-living crisis.

With about 1.4 million members, Unite is the UK’s largest trade union.