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.


Bronstein said...

In light of the attack jon has publicly launched on me and the Socialist party I feel i must repond.

Unfortunately Jon fails to address the real issues at stake in thid election.

First and foremost we should start with what sort of leadership the London region needs and has Dave Eggmore lived up to that task. Is he "the good left winger who has done a good job in the last few years" as Jon and the United left describe.

A brief glance at David recent record shows that Jons description of him is false and he deliberately tries to hide from members the real role david has played.

Pay battle last year

Our members are currently having to face a pay cut this year as a direct result of the timity and prevacation of the majority union leadership in Local Government.

Unfortunately the misleadership of local government was led by David (albeit not soley) who is the National chair of the Local government workers negociating body. David openly opposed the call from mine and the Knowsley Branch for a strike ballot in June confernce.

The eventual call from the NJC for a ballot was not from David but from myself attending in his place in september. (many will rightly ask if i could win a vote for action at the first meeting i attended why had David a united left member not done anything in 7 months).

The fact that we still won a ballot in October shows what could have been possible if a real lead was given early on last year.

Pension dispute

On the 1st April many of our members will be forced to pay more for a scheme that will see thousands of members losing thousands in thier pension.

Many members are rightly angry that having put a million workers on strike in March 06 why did we then do a complete retreat and put our faith in the courts and negociators.

What Jon and the united left fail to acknowlege is that On a number of occasions David oppossed motions i and others put forward to reinstate the industrial action including at the special confernce.

A year later David did finally support the call for action, however this was on the basis of winning 2020 protection only, leaving all members under 48 losing thosands, part time workers paying more and with the right of the employers to come back for an attack every three years. (Once again the position david took was contary to the united left stated policy).

London Weighting

Having mislead this dispute through the use of selective action only, costing the union £3m we have ended up not even getting the miserly £200 extra for the low paid the employers offerered.

Having taken action many members are still asking what has happend to the issue!

Single status

Many of our members are now facing the brunt of this deal being asked to pay for thier own re grading by attacks on thier terms and conditions or with one member is being asked to pay for another members pay rise with pay cuts.

What stance did david take on this deal? He openly called for suuport for it, whilst I the SP and others warned that is was a bad deal which with no additional funding was bound to lead to attacks on our members.

School staff

whilst it is clear that remodelling has not delieverd for all members with many being used as teachers on the cheap, a fact that I and the SP warned about yet david advocated support for it.

Now instead of calling for National grades binding on all schools within the local Government agreement David is now supporting and leading the call the governments proposals to take 250,000 unison members out of the local government workers national agreement.

This will lead to schools members being further isolated to be picked off by bullying heads.

As the chair of the NJC on all of these issues david has played a (mis)leading role not just a backroom role.

What confidence can UNISON members have that he can now lead the fight for to defend our wages and conditions.

Jon also attacks John Gray for his support for the Labour party but he fails to mention that David and himself as also in favour of funding the labour party a position that many members can not understand when it is the Labour government that is leading the attack on our wages jobs and services.

The next period for the union is critcal, the lead given or not can be decisive. On Jeans retirement David has made clear that he is not prepared to take up that challange, unlike david I am prepared to put my money where my mouth is.

What may bafffle many is how can Jon and the united left can be prepared to cover up and defend David crimes. The relaity is that they are happy to back David despite his record in order to block a socialist party member.

Glenn Kelly
Bromley branch Secretary
NEC member

Jon Rogers said...


you rehearse political disagreements which go back over ten years in order to justify a decision which you took a few months ago (at most)

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.

Sometimes you are right. Sometimes you are wrong. The point that I think you are missing is that you - and those who think as you do - are not sufficient to transform our Union alone.

Nor are those who think as I do (and I don't think that my Labour Party membership would come as news to anyone who reads this blog!)

What our members require from those of us who claim to be leftwingers is that we find ways to work together. This can only be done by making compromises with which we will sometimes be uncomfortable.

Far easier I am sure to retreat into our own personal certainties, to know everything about the errors and mistakes of other comrades and to admit to none of our own. The consequence of such a course of action will be to continue in the comfortable irrelevance of leftist opposition within the Union.

I am sure we both have better things to do with our time than have a lengthy debate in the comments box of a blog post but, for the record, I shall pick up on the specific attacks which you make on Dave Eggmore (whom you believe should continue to be on the SGE and whom you tried to persuade to run for Chair of the SGE!!)

David took the position taken by very many comrades about the timing of last year's pay ballot. Whilst it is easy to be wise with the benefit of hindsight I seriously doubt that we would have seen a significantly different outcome had we balloted earlier. When it came to the vote of course, whilst David was bound by the policies of the SGE, the great majority of those who support him (including his own branch) voted with your proposal for an earlier ballot.

The outcome of the pensions dispute has been disappointing (although very far from a complete defeat of course). I am sure that you will have had tactical differences with David from time to time, Glenn. I should imagine that sometimes you have been right and sometimes he has been. It is easy to criticise from the luxury of impotent opposition and you do it very well.

I think that it is unbelievably cheeky to blame David for the outcome of the London Weighting dispute when the only alternative proposition you advanced at the time was to call for support for action you knew could not be delivered. With hindsight I think we discovered that we were not able to mobilise, across the whole city, the sort of action necessary to bring the employers towards us on the issue. As I say, I don't remember any genuine alternative strategy from yourself (or anyone else).

I don't see it as a criticism of David that he has been involved in the leadership of disputes which have been defeated - all serious trade unionists have this experience.

I agreed with you (and not David) about Single Status in 1997, but I think that it smacks of desperation to dig up disagreements from eleven years ago to justify your decision to split the left vote.

Similarly on the question of a separate negotiating body for schools I believe that you have valid points to make. However this is not a sufficient basis for division on the left.

You and I both know that your reason for seeking election to a body of which you are already a member is because you believe that you ought to be in the running to be a candidate as Chair of the SGE.

Highlighting your political disagreements with David in such a way as to suggest that you would always have wanted to stand against him is absurd since we both know that you tried to persuade David to run for Chair of the SGE and are opposing him now largely because he would not.

I realise you won't accept my advice not to run against David for election to an SGE of which you are already in any case a full voting member.

In which case the only other advice I can offer is to hold on to your sense of humour and not to take yourself too seriously.

If we have to have this purposeless division on the left please let us at least moderate our language? To refer to David's "crimes" is just silly.

All the best!

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.

Anonymous said...

I don't often read this blog (or any blog for that matter - life's for living not sitting gazing at a screen!), but found this quite an interesting dialogue.

All I can say here, from an entirely independent perspective, is that Jon - you started quite a personal attack on a fellow unionist here, and the person you attacked has quite rightly responded.

Jon Rogers said...

I always welcome comments from my dear friend "a nonny mouse" and have two to respond to.

First off, I don't quite get why anyone would think that a 20 year branch activist would be a stranger to pragmatism. I think if you check carefully you'll find that I have never recommended or voted for a national pay deal - I have often negotiated and then recommended compromises at a local level.

The first mass union meeting I ever spoke at - more than twenty years ago - I spoke against a leftist leadership position which I believed to be wrong. Maybe my friend you don't listen to what I actually say, you just know that I am a "trot" so you know what I think and that I am wrong?

As to my second "nonny mouse" well I understand that you think my blog post was an attack on Glenn. I think that it is his view. I don't share that view, I don't attack my friends and comrades and Glenn is and will always remain my friend and comrade. I did write some criticism of Glenn. For myself I don't experience criticism as a personal attack but I do understand that others do, and I am sorry if Glenn - and you - have.

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!

Jon Rogers 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). The compromises we need are not with New Labour's fifth column in our movement but amongst socialists.

And the facts remains that Glenn is already a full voting member of the SGE so does not need to be elected in this way (and that Glenn tried to persuade David Eggmore to run for Chair of the Service Group!)

Division on the left will bring great comfort to those who do not want our Union to confront the Government.

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?

Jon Rogers said...

an intriguing point from an anonymous commentator on a blog! I think one point you'll find that Glenn and I can agree on is that we had discussed this topic at length in person and over the phone before Glenn issued his request for nominations to London branches.

vicky perrin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jon Rogers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jon Rogers said...

Just for the record the last two comments were deleted at the request of the author of the first comment (the second was my response).

vicky perrin said...

This whole issue is being distorted by a pre-occupation with personalities which niether interests nor affects members of our union rather than sticking with politics and policies which do.

In the eighteen months that I have been a member of the Local Government Service Group Exec in the low-paid seat for Yorkshire and Humberside region and as a member of the Socialist Party I have been part of the struggle to push the leadership of our union into a sustained and genuine fight to defend local government workers' pensions, pay and terms and conditions and have felt the frustration and anger alongside members in my region as the union time and again cowers to the government and employers' agenda rather than do the job for which it is elected.

The job of elected leadership is to lead. to raise demands and stand firm in the face of confrontation, to build confidence through the layers of activists and members in our union that we can win what we fight for and if we lose to come back and fight again.

Working as a socialist for a fighting and democratic union is not about the niceties of who's a good bloke or woman or about staying friends or lowering demands to take the path of least resistance to settle for what we can get so that we can claim a false victory. The work lies far outside the cosy world of united left blogging in the real world of jobs and survival in the face of brutal attacks where every day matters.

unity is, of course, strength and we would all chose to work together where possible to maximise our chance of victory but we cannot allow ourselves to unite around nothing because it feels safer than disagreeing. The next three years, as we know are going to present massive struggles for us in the public sector at the mercy of the party that the union is bankrolling - this has been made crystal clear, even to those who were holding out last desperate hopes in a Brown-led New Labour and it is our resposibility as elected leaders within the union to have a clear strategy for the way in which we plan to fight the battles and win them not simply to wait for each new wave to come and hope we can keep our heads above water.

We have all seen what compromise brings us as we pay more for worse pensions and suffer the effects of a pay cut as low paid workers and as school workers we are not about to sign up blindly to the government's negotiating agenda and take their word for it that it will lead us to the land of milk and honey.

what the members see and care about is not who's friends with who and the luxury of making sure no-one feels agrieved but the battles we win and the ones we lose so get over yourselves United Left and lets start fighting to win.

Jon Rogers said...

Thanks for your comments Vicky. Of course, like you, I work alongside and represent our members who are suffering the consequences of Government policy. Blogging is not - of course - an alternative to real work in the real world!

I too agree that we cannot be influenced by who we think is a "good bloke" which is why I have been prepared to disagree in public with a friend of long standing.

I too want to fight to win. I also want to win.

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.

Jon Rogers said...

adam you say

"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."

well in my view - as is obvious from my post - David is better qualified if I have to choose (though if I had to choose who to sit next to in class I might well choose Glenn!) I shouldn't have to choose who to support in this election as I - and thousands of UNISON members - have already chosen to support Glenn as an NEC member and therefore (as he already is) an SGE member.

Why does Glenn have to stand for election to a body of which he is already a full voting member?

You also say that;

"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"

I don't think it is at all obvious that a Labour Party member would support another Labour Party member. After all I have two Labour Party members to choose from in this election and I don't look first of all at the Party label I look at who is the best candidate. I have supported members of the Socialist Party, of the Socialist Workers Party, of no party or of the Labour Party.

I am disappointed that you read my reasoned criticism of Glenn as an "attack". Glenn and I had fairly lengthy discussion and I made clear that I would make my views public. He didn't object and I never imagined that he would.

I don't consider Glenn's criticisms of my politics to be an "attack" - they are a disagreement and we, as socialists need to find a mature way to deal with such disagreement.

That cannot always mean concealing such disagreement. We need unity, but that cannot be the silent unity of the graveyard in which we do not voice criticism.

Let's just remind ourselves. Glenn is already a full voting member of the SGE. He is standing because he believes that he must be the candidate of the left to be Chair of the SGE after the elections.

He is already a member of the body to which he seeks election. His election cannot strengthen the left on that body - it cannot even increase the number of Socialist Party members on that body.

No true friend would remain silent in the face of such foolishness.

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......... "

Jon Rogers said...

I'm afraid the Morrissey stuff goes over my head anonymous comrade ;)

Adam, I do think you are seriously missing the point here. I published my views here after extensive private discussion with Glenn and then only after he had written round seeking nominations from London branches. I only "went public" (to the limited extent that this blog is read!) after Glenn had issued a request for nominations to the position to which he knew David Eggmore was seeking re-election.

What has divided the left in the Union is the fact that two left candidates are openly seeking nomination to the same seat - not the fact that I have commented on something that was already happening.

At the Lambeth branch Committee this morning we had to discuss this reality and decide which of two candidates, both of whom we respect and support, to nominate (and both of whom have been invited by our branch to address our Annual General Meeting).

The right wing in the Union are not so daft that they would not have noticed two left candidates seeking nominations.

I don't understand why you interpret my disagreement with Glenn as an attempt to discredit him. All I am doing is answering his challenge to explain why I support David Eggmore in spite of what, I have to say, are some fairly sharp and unjustified attacks upon David.

I think that if comrades are prepared to accuse fellow leftwingers of "misleadership" and "crimes" then they would be unreasonable to imagine that no one will answer them.

One little blog post makes only the tiniest addition to the reams of paper which rehearse disagreements within the left over the years. Somewhere I still have a copy of the special Socialist Party in UNISON bulletin "why we are leaving the United Left" - and I still hope to read it and smile when we rebuild a united organisation of the whole of the left in UNISON.

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.