Saturday, February 27, 2010

A tale of two elections

In UNITE the prolonged election for the first single General Secretary of the UK's largest trade union is producing numerous candidates. UNITE members seem set to have a wider choice, and more time to make a decision than we will in UNISON.

One candidate Les Baylis is standing with the support of Workers Uniting plainly a "right-wing" group within the Union though describing itself as "a broad based left-progressive organisation" (where have I heard that use of "progressive" before...?) and making imaginative use of the name of the official joint venture between UNITE and the United Steelworkers of North America.

Len McCluskey is standing with the support of the United Left and the enthusiasm of the Morning Star. Other officials standing as candidates include Paul Reuter and Gail Cartmail.

Jerry Hicks is a rank and file left candidate offering the sort of distinctive critique which it is hard to make of an organisation whilst employed by it.

Now one observation I could make in contrasting the election in UNITE with that in my own Union is that UNITE members appear to be heading for a wide choice of paid officials as candidates in the election - whereas in UNISON we are offered a more restricted menu.

However, UNISON members currently have a wider choice of rank and file candidates!

UNISON does also appear to lead the field in anonymous blogs making scurrilous attacks upon rank and file workers who dare to challenge for the position of General Secretary though - whether that is the slightly upmarket and mostly anonymous blog written largely by staff or the rather more downmarket version which specialises in hatchet jobs on the candidate I support.

Since the anonymous bloggers are certain that none of the rank and file candidates have any mainstream support you have to ask yourself why they devote such energy and venom to their attacks? Is the Prentis camp worried that a significantly lower number of branch nominations than their man secured last time will indicate growing dissatisfaction at the base of the Union? Do they worry that the fixed smiles and half-hearted (near) unanimity at national meetings may be seen through?

Or is it just all down to a hatred of "factions"? (excluding some factions obviously...)

Is it that Dave Prentis cannot restrain the excesses of his supporters (whose support is so deep and proud that they are mostly anonymous online!) or is it that he shares their desire to denigrate anyone who would oppose him (and perhaps his chosen successor)?

I remember Rodney Bickerstaffe's 1998 Conference speech in the debate on democracy (to which you can still find reference online here) in which he said; "What's a faction? If it looks like a duck and it walks like a duck and it quacks like a bloody duck, it is a duck. I know what a faction is. You know what a faction is." Well Rodney left us in no doubt on matters relating to aquatic birds!

But what, I wonder, is it if it looks like a duck, limps like a duck and it quacks like a duck?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

call the RSPCA?
kat

sid said...

I'm confused...you start by pointing toward the "right wing" faction as the problem, so I'm trying to work out if you're hinting at some neo-fascist BNP general sec candidate waiting in the wings who hasn't reared their ugly head yet. Someone from PCS was going on to be about their "right wing" problems, I may be a bit slow, but I only recently realised that Socialist Workers think they are the only people on the left so to them everyone else is "right wing"..ha ha!

Then you suggest there is some favoritism towards the Marxist-Leninist faction which it cited in your link as far left. Surely not the "right wingers" previously mentioned whatever your problem with them.

Then there's ducking, quacking and limping and I'm not sure what faction you're on about. What ever happened to plain speaking in Unison, come to think of it what ever happened to unity in Unison and why are you re-enforcing factionisim.

The reason there are not a large number of candidates waiting to replace Dave Prentis is that the majority of members think he is doing a good job. It might be a different story if he was standing down and not seeking nomination. Another member put it to me today perfectly "He's a good bloke, he's a good general secretary and I've heard of him!"