Now -read the book!

Here is a link to my memoirs which, if you are a glutton for punishment, you can purchase online at
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, June 10, 2020

UNISON General Secretary Election 2020

Yesterday I looked in on an online meeting of my UNISON Branch (quite appropriately as I am a retired member) and heard Assistant General Secretary Roger McKenzie speaking passionately and persuasively about Black as the colour of politics rather than skin.

Whilst this experience did make me think a bit about how slow the Labour Party has been to enable online organising and campaigning even compared to the trade unions, seeing one of our Assistant General Secretaries speaking reminded me that there has to be a UNISON General Secretary election before the end of the year.

Five years ago, I wrote here – in the run up to the last General Secretary election – about how such an election would be unlikely to be an opportunity to build the organisation of the left in our trade union (an observation which turned out to be true, even though I later found myself an enthusiastic supporter of the candidate who would – in the end - come fourth out of four).

Since I shared my recollections of previous General Secretary elections at length five years ago (in the post linked to above), I won’t repeat that here. Instead, I will share some views based on our experience of the 2015 General Secretary election (during the course of which we exposed serious wrongdoing in certain quarters).

It is worth remarking that the 2020 election may be very different on the (not unreasonable) assumption that the incumbent General Secretary (my well-publicised apology to whom I stand by, no matter what others may say) does not seek a fifth term.

An incumbent General Secretary cannot possibly be defeated by a divided opposition, even if the National Executive Council uses its power (in accordance with Schedule C.7 of the Rule Book) to allow for voting by single transferable vote (which it certainly should).

However, if there were more than one senior official putting themselves forward, and if there were a single left organisation united behind a single candidate, then – even without a progressive change to the method of voting – a rank and file victory might be possible.

That said, whilst the first of those two predictions might come true, the second is only likely if my comrades on the left in UNISON have undergone a truly dramatic transformation since I stood down three years ago. If there is no prospect of a single rank and file candidate of the left then maybe we should be giving serious consideration to the senior officials who put themselves forward.

UNISON is crying out for a change of approach at the top of the Union. I don’t know who may put themselves forward as a candidate and whether or not they may offer some hope of creating the space in which those seeking such change can campaign for it.

I do know – because I have been one – that defeated candidates in General Secretary elections cannot bring such change, and that a divided left cannot win a UNISON General Secretary election.

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