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.