With one week to go until the deadline for nominations in the UNISON General Secretary election it seems clear that Christina McAnea will finish with the largest number of nominations in each category of nominating body (branches, Regions, Service Groups) as well as having the nomination of the National Executive Council (NEC) (however questionable).
In previous UNISON General Secretary elections, the candidate with the most nominations has gone on to win the election, but this election is already different in a number of respects – and today, rank and file challenger, Paul Holmes, became the first lay member candidate to secure the nomination of two Regions, when UNISON's largest Region (North West) joined the South East in supporting his candidacy. Paul had of course earlier become the first rank and file candidate to win the nomination of a Service Group Executive – also the largest.
The other novelty in this election is that there are two senior officials in contention, neither of whom is an incumbent. Roger McKenzie may be trailing Christina McAnea in nominations but he has secured impressive political endorsements, including from former Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, the value of which may amount to something of a "wild card" in this election.
Since the NEC of the Union has decided that the winner of this election (like previous such elections) will be decided on a "simple majority" ("First Past the Post") basis – unlike their own decision as to whom to nominate – it is perfectly possible that a candidate who secures less than an overall majority will win (as happened in 1995 and 2015). Any one of the three main candidates will emerge from the nomination period feeling that they could emerge victorious.
As this campaign began, I was worried that the two candidates promising change (each in their own way) would split the vote for change but as the campaign has developed it has become clear that the candidates are not simply differentiated on that one dimension. It is equally clear that there isn't a static pool of votes to be shared between the candidates. Given that turnout in the last General Secretary election fell below 10% a lot may depend upon how successful each campaign is in mobilising members to vote.
In this election, the more we find out the less we know.