Men fight and lose the battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name. (William Morris - A Dream of John Ball)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

UNISON's leadership is losing its grip on the National Executive Council

After seven times winning a seat on the UNISON National Executive Council (NEC) against right-wing opposition I chose not to stand in the elections, the results of which were declared yesterday. As I have already observed, I am very happy to stand down undefeated and get on with life – and I am just as happy (as I said yesterday) that my friend and comrade Sean Fox will succeed me.

Having had a little more time to consider those NEC results, and to reflect upon them in the light of this blog’s current obsession with the decision of the (Assistant) Certification Officer that UNISON breached its rules in the last General Secretary election (and also having spoken with the left’s senior number cruncher on the UNISON NEC) I think it is worth sharing some observations about the politics of these results.

31 out of 67 NEC members were elected having signed up to the Stronger UNISON statement – which amounted to a declaration of undying and uncritical loyalty to UNISON’s present leadership and direction (regardless of the facts).

That this was the first election in which supporters of the leadership declared themselves openly as a faction may be the product of assistance from those with experience of (not particularly successful) internal Labour Party campaigns – or it may be a backhanded compliment to UNISON Action Broad Left, with which 29 of the successful candidates in the NEC elections were associated.

UNISON Action Broad Left, launched at the largest fringe meeting at last year’s UNISON Conference, is rightly critical of the failings of our trade union under its present leadership – it brings together supporters of all three of the unsuccessful candidates in the last General Secretary election (who together commanded more votes than the victor).

A further seven candidates were elected who were not openly aligned with either of those two groups (four in Scotland and three in England). What follows from this is that, for the first time, there is not a solid and substantial majority in support of unquestioning loyalty to the UNISON leadership on the NEC of our trade union.

This result poses all manner of challenges to all those elected, from whichever point of view and, now that they won’t be hampered by my presence in their meetings, I reserve my right to offer unsolicited and unwelcome comments from time to time. The impending absence of one of our Vice-Presidents and of current Committee Chairs and Vice-Chairs offers a choice between an inclusive and an adversarial approach.

The one thing that is not on offer it would appear is a continuation of the status quo.

It is now – for the first time – possible that our NEC will cease to see its function as essentially one of a rubber stamp.

Trust me to leave just as it gets interesting…

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