Today, 16th September, UNISON's National Executive Council (NEC) nomination was secured for Christina McAnea using an unprecedented procedural move. UNISON's NEC has never – as I observed earlier this afternoon used an exhaustive voting system for any previous decision about a General Secretary nomination, and a preferential voting system (such as a Single Transferable Vote (STV)) will not be used for the vote itself which members will have from 28 October.
Further information has now come to my attention about how it was decided at the eleventh hour, inside the actual (virtual) NEC meeting, to use this method of exhaustive voting for the first time, apparently for fear of the rank and file change candidate Paul Holmes winning the vote. The proposed change of voting method was not notified prior to the meeting.
This decision caused huge controversy. By the time the decision to use STV was taken, 70 minutes of the scheduled 90 minutes had been taken up. This meant the meeting would considerably overrun, arguably breaching UNISON's rules on equality. (This would not have happened had the issue of the method of voting been dealt with in advance - as it certainly should have been - and gives the impression that those making the proposal only did so having "done the maths" about how the vote in the meeting would be likely to turn out.)
I understand that ninety-minute meetings have been agreed as the maximum permitted time for virtual meetings in order to maintain the participation both of disabled members and of representatives who have to attend to their work commitments. The scheduled meeting over-ran by a full hour.
I understand that the details of the voting was as follows;
In the first round of voting, votes were:
Christina McAnea, 22; Paul Holmes, 22; Roger McKenzie, 12; Hugo Pierre 4.
In the second round of voting, votes were:
Christina McAnea, 23; Paul Holmes, 25; Roger McKenzie, 11.
In the third round of voting, votes were:
Christina McAnea, 29; Paul Holmes, 26; Abstentions, 5.
Christina McAnea therefore "won" the vote, by the unprecedented use of exhaustive voting, the proposal to use which had not been notified prior to the meeting, and without receiving backing from a majority of the NEC members present.
Paul Holmes was only put into a close second place when supporters of Roger McKenzie decided either to abstain or support Christina McAnea in the final round of voting.
It is clear that Christina McAnea only won this vote by a hair's breadth through this procedural device, as a result of NEC members giving them the opportunity of preferential voting which they have refused to consider for the wider membership.
Had the NEC acted consistently with its past practice, the nomination decision being a tied vote on the first round of voting, my view – as a long serving former NEC member – is that no NEC nomination would have been made (as I cannot believe the President would have used a casting vote to give a nomination).
Whether or not the process leading to this highly questionable NEC nomination leads to complaints to the Returning Officer (or, subsequently, to the Certification Officer) – UNISON members and activists who become aware of the goings on at today's NEC meeting will look askance at this decision of their NEC, whose nomination - even if it is allowed to stand - will carry far less weight than it has in previous elections.