Monday, September 14, 2015

Can Dave Prentis make his own supporters behave appropriately?

Dave Prentis, our incumbent General Secretary and candidate for re-election to his job for the fourth time, is careful to campaign in a positive and statespersonlike way. Not for him any direct attacks upon his opponents (whom he doesn't mention on his website, facebook page or twitter feed).

That's as it should be. An actual (or prospective) General Secretary certainly should not make personal attacks upon other candidates - although political criticisms obviously ought to be a legitimate part of a debate about the future of a major trade union.

Unfortunately, some of Dave's supporters are keen to smear and attack other candidates and have set up a little wordpress blog to do so anonymously. I won't link to it but you can find it by its somewhat improbable name (grassrootsunison). It purports to be the words of grassroots activists but since it is anonymous it is hard to read it as anything other than the work of some of the payroll vote which is the heart and backbone of the Prentis campaign.

What is really interesting about this little blog is not so much the silly personal sideswipes at Heather Wakefield, or the attack on John Burgess for supporting Candy Udwin. This sort of thing is par for the course in a UNISON election, which would hardly be complete without a juvenile "reds under the bed" SWP scare story (or for that matter a bit of innuendo about personal relationships)(about which one might say that people who work in glass towers really ought not to throw stones).

The attempt to present Jeremy Corbyn's thanks to Dave Prentis for his support in the Labour leadership election as if it were a personal endorsement in the UNISON General Secretary election is gently amusing, but that isn't the most important feature of this unfortunate little blog either. Attempting to talk up a level of support which is markedly less significant than in previous elections is bound to be a feature of Dave's campaign this autumn.

What is significant is that the (generally anonymous but often serious) UNISON Active blog, set up ahead of the last General Secretary election in order to back Dave, is not the vehicle of choice for plausibly deniable "off the record" attacks from Camp Prentis. Does this reflect the fact that the most serious of those who have backed Dave on previous occasions are absent from his campaign now?

Today the lead challenger to Prentis, John Burgess, has launched a firm, practical and sensible pledge on strike pay - this follows on from his clear and popular commitment to act on branch funding - the question to Dave Prentis has to be "what are you going to do differently to change UNISON so that it is fit for the coming challenges?" Let's see some pledges from the incumbent candidate, rather than anonymous sniping from paid officials posing implausibly as rank and file activists.

Perhaps Prentis supporters should focus on the future of UNISON and not spend time blogging anonymously against other trade unionists?

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