Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Don't do it Glenn!

With apologies to those who are not interested in internal UNISON elections I have to write one of those blog posts which is not posted using any Union resources.

The elections to UNISON's Service Group Executives are due and candidates are requesting nominations. In London, local government branches are being asked for nominations for the male seat by respected left-wing incumbent David Eggmore, current chair of the National Joint Council committee, Regional Finance Convenor, John Gray (from the right) and NEC member (and Socialist Party leading light) Glenn Kelly.

Two years ago David held the seat in a straight left-right election against John Gray. Glenn's intervention threatens to split the left vote and let a right wing candidate in. On the face of it this is incredibly daft because Glenn is already a full voting member of the body to which he is now seeking election. As a member of the National Executive Council elected to represent the local government service group, Glenn is a member of the Service Group Executive with the right to both speak and vote. Were Glenn to hold both his NEC seat and the SGE seat currently held by David Eggmore, he would hold two seats on the SG with only one vote.

London has three seats on the Local Government Service Group Executive (SGE), another of the seats is falling vacant as Jean Geldart, currently Chair of the SGE is standing down. This, I am afraid, explains why Glenn is pursuing this bizarre course of action. As an NEC member on the SGE, Glenn can speak and vote but is ineligible to be elected as Chair of the SGE. He believes that he, and only he, can challenge current Vice-Chair, Chris Tansley, to be Chair of the SGE after the elections. I have yet to speak to an SGE member (other than Glenn) who believes that Glenn could win such an election, nor even that he would be the best candidate to stand against Chris Tansley.

Glenn has pointed out that David could potentially be re-elected indirectly to the SGE through his membership of the National Joint Council Committee (of which he is Chair). This rather massively misses the point that Glenn himself is already a member of the SGE. Even if David were simply to stand aside for Glenn (as Glenn believes that he should) there is no guarantee that Glenn would win an election against John Gray, who could campaign on the basis that his opponent is already a member of the SGE. John is gearing up for a serious (if not perhaps entirely forthright) campaign (his request for nominations omits to mention his Labour Party membership, of which readers of his blog will know he is very proud!)

With truly legendary chutzpah Glenn has tried to present David's decision to seek re-election to the SGE, and the decision of many leftwing activists to back him, as sectarian manoeuvring against himself and the Socialist Party.

On the contrary, David is an incumbent left-wing candidate who has done a good job, particularly in recent years. It is Glenn who has to explain why the prospect of his failed candidacy for Chair of the SGE is so vital that it is more important than the unity of the left in the Union.

Far from wishing to do down the Socialist Party, left wing candidate Sonya Howard, who is seeking nominations to the vacant seat currently held by Jean Geldart and is supporting and supported by David Eggmore, offered to stand aside and lend her support to a woman candidate from the Socialist Party. With a campaign uniting the left in London this offer could have led to the addition of another member to the SGE from the Socialist Party, something that Glenn's election would not do (since he is already a member of the SGE). Unfortunately, Glenn rejected this proposal and has issued a request for nominations.

I have worked alongside Glenn Kelly for many years. I respect and admire him (although we do not always agree) and I consider him a friend. It is with great sorrow that I see my friend about to make this terrible mistake.

Glenn is seeking nominations to a body of which he is already a full voting member simply because he cannot conceive that there could be another candidate of the left in the election to Chair that body. I have more confidence in friends and comrades on the Service Group Executive. I believe that those who are elected to the Service Group Executive and who wish to see a serious fight against the Government’s pay policy will be well able to find from amongst their number a candidate to Chair the SGE – perhaps even a candidate who can win.

Glenn appears to believe that if he is not there to stand then no one else in a Union with over a million members is capable of doing so. That could be characterised as perhaps a little self-absorbed. More importantly it is just plain wrong.

When, as I hope and believe, our Union acquires a more militant leadership, I hope that Glenn and his comrades will be a part of that. We need to find ways to work together as socialists, much as we may disagree about many things. I believe that the United Left made a serious attempt to compromise with the desire of our comrades in the Socialist Party to stand candidates in the elections to the SGE – this failed because one individual believes that he is the only possible leader for local government workers.

Well, Glenn, you are often right mate. But this time you are badly wrong.


Anonymous said...

Ho, ho, ho. How I laughed. First I laughed at the childish fighting as a result of Glenn's ego. Then I laughed at Jon's comment that said:

“It is easy to criticise those who have taken leadership positions from the luxury of opposition. We always only know what did happen and not what might have happened had we followed a different course. Since you often adopt a leftist position which you know will not win, you are often in the position later on to claim that if only we had all had the wisdom to listen to you the world would be a better place for our members.”

I'm glad that you recognise that leftists adopt position they cannot win but then later claim wisdom that they should have been listened to as this, Jon, is an argument that is easily levelled at you! Finally you get it.

In previous blog posts you have proudly declared that you have never recommended any offer from management. I'm glad you now appear to see sense about the need for compromise when dealing with industrial matters, rather than rabidly pursuing an unwinnable strategy because of political dogma.

adam d said...

it really does highlight the political confusion of labour party members to hear them describe someone like david eggmore as 'respected left-winger' 'who has done a good job'.

if the union is to be truly transformed as you say you want, jon. then it surley needs to be independent(financially and politically) from the party that is attacking members across the public sector. we do not need to find 'comprimise' with new labour or new labour supporters, we need to take the fight to the government and win!

good luck glenn!

Anonymous said...

Life's too short for such a dialogue on the web. Surely a phone call to talk about this issue would have been the considerate manner to raise this issue direct with a comrade?

adam d said...

"I think the problem is that Glenn's standing increases the likelihood that a support of New Labour (John Gray) will defeat an opponent of New Labour (David Eggmore). "

wow is that it? you wheel out the oldest argument known to our movement! please dont vote for the best candidate, vote for the one who may help keep out the worst. is this really the sum content of your argument? if glenn(a socialist with a proven record of struggle and service to unison members) stands against david(a left labour sitting njcc chair, with a patchy record to say the least) then we may end up with john(a labour right), who would be worse for all concerned.

i'm sure everyone can see your logic, just a shame its so wrong! unison members deserve and need elected representatives like glenn(someone you've yet to claim isn't the best candidate by the way!....nows your chance!), not someone who you regard as a 'good left'. this election has nothing to do with who you would rather sit next to in class. its about who's better qualified to represent unison members on the SGE.

obviously as a labour party member you will support david...this is to be expected. what i dont understand is why you feel it necessary to attack glenn on your blog. you say that youve discussed it with glenn(well done!) but a face-to-face discussion is not the first step, after which you attack him publicly....if you and glenn could not agree over the phone, well thats ok! but i fail to see how the above article is the logical next step for someone who heeds the call of left unity. if its left unity you want you may feel the need to stop attacking socialists(and 'friends') on a public forum.

adam d said...

answer me this - why does the left need to be united? is it because we look better in publicity photos? is it so we can go on picnics together?

of course not. im sure youll agree, the left in unison(as in all the unions) need to be united for 2 reasons. firstly to make us effective in winning struggles for our members. secondly(and complimentary to the first) so that the right-wing in unison see us as such - and are therefore less effective themselves.

last question - approximatley how many of the right within unison read this blog?

what....you dont know?

then it seems to be to be ironic that someone in favour of left unity would happily attempt(poorly) to discredit his comrades, highlighting to the right that the left isnt united and are, even more than that, happy to air their linen in public . im sure you posted this article with the best of intentions but how this public discussion(held in cyberspace of all places) in full view of the unison right-wing, benefits in any way our movement or the building of a united left in unison, i fail to grasp.

openly discussing the tasks of the left is, as you rightly say, crucial. but there is always a time and a place.
now, if your words or this discussion is ever used against the left , you only have yourself to blame!

Anonymous said...

Ripping off the words of the venerable Morrissey, does any of this sound familar to you, Jon?

"The blogs were silent
There was nothing, no one, nothing around for miles
Jon doused a friendly venture
With a hard-faced
Three-word gesture

He started something
He forced you to a zone......... "

Anonymous said...

Nice to see two comrades getting on so well in their corner of the creche, fighting over who UNISON members should be allowed to vote for.