Left Sectarianism Splits the Vote in UNISON and Allows Starmer Candidate Christine McAnea To Win
The Decision of the Socialist Party to Stand a Candidate, Knowing They Had no Chance of Winning was Sheer Madness
UNISON has been controlled by the right-wing ever since it was founded. First Rodney Bickwerstaffe and then the insipid Blairite clone Dave Prentis were General Secretary. Under Prentis UNISON became a byword for political corruption when he was found to have cheated, enlisting paid union officials in London as part of his campaign.
Christine McAnea, a former assistant general secretary, was narrowly backed by the National Executive polling 63,900 votes, 47.7 per cent of the vote. Paul Holmes, a genuine working class candidate who promised to do the job on a workers’ wage, received the nomination of both the South East and North West regions. Paul received 45,220 votes.
Roger McKenzie, the soft left candidate who was supported by Jeremy Corbyn, came third with 14,450 votes and Hugo Pierre of the Socialist Party was last with 10,382 votes.
It is clear that a single left candidate could have won. A combined left campaign could have made the difference. If Hugo Pierre had pulled out pressure could have been put on McKenzie to do the same. It was sheer sectarian madness, a classic case of building the party at the expense of the class, which led to Pierre to stubbornly refusing to quit despite having no chance whatsoever.
For 10 years, throughout the years of austerity of Cameron, May and Johnson, Prentis did all he could to damp down action against the Tories/Lib Dems savage cuts in local government. Workers in Southampton Council having been betrayed simply switched to Unite.
I was suspended for 3 years from UNISON for publicly criticising Steve Terry, a London regional official who scabbed on Stan Keable who was sacked when on a demonstration he argued, quite correctly, that the Zionists collaborated with the Nazis during the war. A clear case of free speech but Terry, being a right-wing Progress councillor on Walthamstow Council, refused to give Stan any support and even acted to prevent me representing him at an appeal hearing at Fulham and Hammersmith Council.
Despite failing to give Stan any support he easily won his Employment Tribunal case, the appeal for which is currently being heard before the Employment Appeal Tribunal.
UNISON is a rich union with at least £100 million in reserve. It is in an excellent position to mount a fightback against the cuts in local government yet its only achievements have been to feather the nest of its unelected, unaccountable officials. When disciplinary action was first taken against me who did I deal with but a Beth Bickerstaffe, the Executive Secretary.
It was I thought a strange coincidence that she shared the same unusual surname with the first General Secretary, Rodney Bickerstaffe. But having inquired of her, without success, whether she was any relation, I later learnt that she was his daughter-in-law!
I am sure that her interview was one of those equal opportunities interviews, except that she seems to have been more equal than the rest!
Either way the General Secretary election was a golden opportunity to sweep the right-wing out of the union and transform UNISON into a fighting union. Careerism and left sectarianism have ensured that the right-wing narrowly retains their hold.
There will be fresh elections in 5 years time. I just hope that the Socialist Party has learnt its lesson and doesn’t split the vote again for narrow sectarian party building purposes. The purpose of left groups it to increase the fighting capacity of the working class not to let the right-wing of the trade union movement retain their grip.