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, September 30, 2020

Imagining what happens next in the UNISON General Secretary election

Imagine this.

 

Imagine that there were an election for General Secretary of UNISON at the point at which the long serving incumbent General Secretary was retiring, and that a candidate supported by most of his previous supporters, promised considerable continuity.

 

Imagine that this candidate emerged, at the end of the nominations period, as the clear frontrunner.

 

Imagine though that more than half the UNISON branches which made a nomination in the UNISON General Secretary election nominated a candidate promising serious change in the Union. They were, more or less, cut in half (not quite because there was a third change candidate supported by a small number of branches).

 

Imagine that everyone could see that, if all the candidates who had secured sufficient nominations to be on the ballot paper continued to pursue their campaigns, there was every chance that the majority of UNISON members who wanted change would, in the election, be cut in half (or dismembered in a slightly more complicated way between three candidates) – and that the continuity candidate would win, even if the majority of votes were cast against her.

 

Imagine that – in the light of the failures of the status quo in the Union, the triumph of the continuity candidate would leave the Union ill-equipped to handle the tsunami of job cuts and attacks on workers rights which would be unleashed, following the covid crisis and a "no deal" Brexit, by the most reactionary Government in our lifetimes. Many workforces might be cut in half, and working class people might see their living standards cut in half.

 

Imagine then that the "candidates for change" got together to have a discussion at the close of nominations. Imagine three scenarios for such a discussion.

 

Scenario One

 

After a long discussion, Roger sums up;

 

"I am grateful to Hugo for making clear that he will stand aside, this has made it easier for me to make this difficult decision.

 

For ten years I have wanted to stand to be General Secretary of UNISON. I haven't wanted this so much for myself as for the members of our Union, and I have tolerated a great deal of bad treatment in the hope of getting to the position where I could succeed Dave Prentis and build the effective organising Union which I know UNISON members deserve.

 

My supporters have fought an excellent campaign, in which we have not attacked any other candidate and – in the face of bullying and attacks – my supporters have stood firm. I still believe that I would be the best General Secretary, but I accept that Paul's nominations – and Hugo's commitment that his supporters will campaign for Paul – make him the candidate for change best placed to win.

 

I am grateful also to Paul for agreeing to compromise with myself and my supporters on his pledges and his programme if elected.

 

UNISON – and our movement – is bigger and more important than me or any of us.

 

I will therefore be standing aside in favour of Paul as Hugo will, will campaign for Paul and look forward to working with Paul once he is elected."

 

Paul goes on to win a narrow victory in a closely fought election.

 

This result shakes the nations of the UK. UNISON becomes a strong force on the left in the Labour Party, the TUC and in the country and fights effectively against the attacks launched on the working class by the Tory Government.

 

Scenario Two

 

After a long discussion, Paul sums up;

 

"I am grateful to Hugo for making clear that he will stand aside, this has made it easier for me to make this difficult decision.

 

I know that I would be the best person from among the available candidates to be General Secretary of UNISON. I don't want this for myself but for the membership, knowing that just as I have served my branch members as Branch Secretary I could serve all our members as General Secretary.

 

More importantly, I have been endorsed by UNISON Action Broad Left, and am supported by many activists who believe that our General Secretary should be an ordinary UNISON lay member like myself.

 

However, I accept that the most important question is ensuring that UNISON does not carry on as it has been. Although my nominations make me at least as strong a candidate as Roger, I accept that it will be easier to mobilise all those who would have supported me to back him than it would have been to mobilise all those who have supported him to back me.

 

This makes Roger the candidate for change best placed to win.

 

I am grateful also to Roger for agreeing to compromise with myself and my supporters on his pledges and his programme if elected. In particular Roger's application to join UNISON Action Broad Left indicates his willingness to support rank and file organisation now and into the future.

 

UNISON – and our movement – is bigger and more important than me or any of us.

 

I will therefore be standing aside in favour of Roger as Hugo will, will campaign for Roger and look forward to working with Roger once he is elected."

 

Roger goes on to win a narrow victory in a closely fought election.

 

This result shakes the nations of the UK. UNISON becomes a strong force on the left in the Labour Party, the TUC and in the country and fights effectively against the attacks launched on the working class by the Tory Government.

 

Scenario Three

 

After a long discussion, Hugo sums up;

 

"I am grateful to Paul and Roger for our having had this discussion.

 

I am disappointed that we could not all agree to a single candidate.

 

I confirm that, if Paul had agreed to stand down, I would have stood down in favour of Roger, as the candidate best placed to defeat Christina McAnea.

 

However, as none of us are prepared to stand down, I will continue my campaign. The programme on which I am standing – which is the programme of the Socialist Party – will prove popular among our members and I expect to win."

 

Hugo goes on to come fourth out of four candidates in an election in which Christina McAnea has a sufficiently clear margin of victory over the second placed candidates that no challenge to the election result can succeed. ("The Socialist" paper declares Hugo's campaign to have been a triumph for the working class orientation of their Party and its international organisation).

 

This result is treated as "business as usual". It is welcomed in public by Keir Starmer. The Tory Government proceed to launch attack after attack upon the jobs and living standards of UNISON members as the Union loses members.

 

Imagine?

 

All of the above are mere imaginings, since I don't even know if any such conversation has – or ever will have – taken place.

 

As an atheist I am not that well versed in Bible studies, but I do remember, from school, something about King Solomon and a baby.

 

The candidates who care most about UNISON and its members might be the candidates most willing to step aside rather than allow the supporters of change in our Union to be cut in half, gifting victory to the continuity candidate.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

It's a difficult one, but will Roger still have his position as AGS if he stood down? The 2 could then work together