Sharon Graham was not supposed to win the Unite general secretary election.
Len McCluskey publicly declared his support for Mr Turner, a move which Ms Graham described as “desperate”.
Her team believe Mr McCluskey’s endorsement “absolutely” damaged Mr Turner’s campaign, as did the support of Howard Beckett, a controversial candidate who pulled out earlier in the contest after tweeting that Home Secretary Priti Patel should be deported.
I’m told plans for a handover period between Mr McCluskey and Ms Graham lasting three or four days have been scrapped. The outgoing general secretary will leave today.
Who is Sharon Graham?
The 52-year-old is on the left of Labour politics and runs Unite’s organising and leverage department. She is a veteran of major disputes and negotiations with large employers, including British Airways and Crossrail.
One rival campaigner suggests her win was due to “an effective under-the-radar operation”.
Others argue her bedrock of support was the hundreds of union organisers she has trained, managed and supported over two decades: “They just returned that favour and organised for her result”, said one source.
Ms Graham’s supporters claim they benefited from the complacency of other candidates: “They downed tools a fortnight ago. They thought it was in the bag.”
They also believe the historic prospect of electing Unite’s first woman general secretary helped increase turnout among the union’s approximately 300,000 female members. However, total turnout remained low at 12%.
Why does it matter to Sir Keir Starmer?
Unite has an income of £200m a year and is the Labour Party’s biggest donor. Mr McCluskey has been a vocal supporter of Jeremy Corbyn and a frequent critic of Sir Keir.
Mr McCluskey’s failure to get one of his protegees elected means his influence will now be considerably curtailed.
Ms Graham could still pose problems for Sir Keir, but her commitment to “stop the obsession with Labour” will be met with relief in a party HQ. She has also warned there will be “no blank cheques” for the party.
“It’s not the worst result,” said one ally of Sir Keir. “It draws a line under the Len era. It hopefully deadens Len as a voice and is a rejection of his way of doing things.”
Ms Graham is expected to hand out jobs to her supporters and continue Unite’s funding of left-wing campaign groups and think tanks.
It is unclear how far she will improve the transparency of the union following the controversial spending of almost £100m on a hotel and conference centre. Or whether she will continue to put considerable financial resources into fighting political legal battles.
Ms Graham has refused all TV interview requests today, suggesting her leadership priorities are markedly different from her predecessor.