When is an election for Unite General Secretary not an election?
When there's only one candidate! But Unite leadership can think again as Jerry Hicks intends to stand.
Who would have imagined that Unite would be holding a ‘snap election’ for General Secretary [GS] so soon after the last one? Who would have guessed that Len McCluskey would be seeking ‘a mandate’ after only 2 years in office and with 3 more years still to go? So who did demand this “election”? Was it the thousands of Branch Secretaries? No! Was it the hundreds of Unite committee chairs? No! So was it the tens of thousands of workplace representatives? No! As far as can be gathered, not one of these groups was calling for this “election”.
Actually to call it an election is being more than generous, as it bears all the hallmarks of an organisation seeking to avoid a challenge and thereby holding no election at all. Indeed many in Unite believe that if Jerry Hicks, the rank and file candidate in the last  election for Unite’s GS and runner up with 52,527 votes, had not decided to stand there would be not be an election.
Rushing through the election gives little time for anyone to organise other than the existing GS, Mr McCluskey. Unless there is a challenger, Mr McCluskey will be “elected” unopposed and is effectively extending his term of office until 2018 when he reaches 67, without members actually voting but allowing him and his supporters to claim it to be a mandate.
Jerry Hicks believes that whatever Unite has done for the good over the last 2 years has now been tainted and that the election should not be happening, that it’s been called on a flawed premise and it’s being fast tracked. It’s an election tailor made to suit one member above all others - 1.5 million others, and that far from ‘seeking a mandate’ it is an affront to democracy. It also means by holding the election in 2013 that 1.5 million members are being denied an election for GS in 2015 when we would have maximum influence over the Labour Party as it would be during a general election year.
Jerry Hicks said “I’ve decided to stand now the election process has begun in order that members do have a chance to vote and to present a positive alternative. However just to get the 50 nominations required to be on the ballot paper will be a big achievement in this most uneven contest.
So what’s going on? If things in Unite are as good as Mr McCluskey and his supporters say, then why not just carry on doing these good things? And are we to believe that if no one from Unite’s huge number of officials puts themselves forward for the position of GS, it’s because they all agree with things as they are?
One clue to an absence of challengers might be that, despite Mr McCluskey asserting that Unite is a ‘tolerant’ Union, there may be another story. Try asking those officials who left Unite in the weeks following the last Unite GS election, some felt obliged to leave the Union albeit with ‘pay offs’ possibly for nothing more than not backing the winner. For if any were guilty of wrong doing surely they should have been disciplined or dismissed, not paid off.Jerry Hicks said “Mr McCluskey talks about a co-ordinated fight against the assault on members’ pensions, jobs & conditions and of building a united campaign of resistance, and on that I agree. Yet when presented with an opportunity to do just that, Unite’s leadership chose instead to undermine the PCS and the NUT by not supporting the proposed co-ordinated strike action against the devastating attack on the pensions of Health workers, MOD & Government Departments and Local Authority workers last March.
That was a huge mistake. But it’s not too late to start a serious campaign of opposition to the government cuts and attacks but it will take more than hot air at demonstrations”.
Ends: Notes to editor: Contact Jerry Hicks Tel: 07817827912