Friday, June 19, 2015
Where next for the UNISON NEC?
As delegates stream away from the Conference Centre after the close of Conference on a Friday afternoon, the National Executive Council are - in the years when there has been an NEC election - led away to a darkened room.
This is not for a lie down, but to hold the inaugural meeting of the new NEC, at which the only item of business is the election of the Presidential Team (the President and two Vice-Presidents).
Although the Rule Book simply refers to the annual election of each of these three positions, there is a convention that each Vice-President serves two years (in the first of which they are known as the "junior" Vice-President and in the second of which they are "promoted" to "senior" Vice-President) and then progresses to the position of President.
This afternoon, convention was duly observed, and Wendy Nicholls, from Yorkshire and Humberside (who, amongst many other things, represents UNISON on the Labour Party National Executive) is now President of UNISON. Eric Roberts, a Londoner who represents the Health Service Group on the NEC, is "senior" Vice-President.
There was (as is also conventional) an election for the second (or "junior") Vice-Presidential position. With only 53 (of 65) NEC members present for the vote, Carol Sewell, from the West Midlands, triumphed with 34 votes. Diana Leach, from the South East Region (for whom I voted) garnered 19 votes.
Even in the absence of a number of known supporters, Diana's vote was the highest ever recorded for a Vice-Presidential candidate from our left caucus in my twelve years on the NEC. This reflects the substantial gains for the left in the recent elections.
The majority of my NEC colleagues who voted for the winning candidate in the Vice-Presidential election now face a choice. They could respond to the growing number of critical and questioning voices in their midst by "circling the wagons" - excluding the minority from Committees as far as possible and maintaining the discipline of their supporters with a mixture of patronage and peer pressure.
Or they could embrace change, reach out to critical and challenging colleagues in an inclusive way and try to build in practice the unity for which Dave Prentis, our (once and future?) General Secretary called in his Conference speech.
Which choice will they make?
I'll let you know when I do.
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.