Archive for March, 2009


Thursday 12 March 2009

I’m now on holiday in Belfast (no, really) until the end off next week. Expect more blogging when I return…


Unite Amicus election results in full, and what happens next

Saturday 7 March 2009

Derek Simpson (pic: Martin Rathfelder)hicksresultKevin Coyne

Please credit me if you use any of this report, thanks. I’ll be adding to it as information comes in.

The votes have been counted, and here are the results I’ve received, unconfirmed as yet by Unite the Union or Electoral Reform Services:

Derek Simpson 60,048 – 37.85%

Jerry Hicks 39,307 – 24.84%

Kevin Coyne 30,603 – 19.34%

Paul Reuter 28,283 – 17.87%

Total valid votes: 158,241 (approximately 12.9% of Amicus membership)

Spoilt ballots: unknown 1031

Initial reaction: “I’m elated,” said Jerry Hicks when I rang him at half past two today. Elated, of course, by the fact that he has placed second behind Derek Simpson. Six months ago, he likes to say, no-one gave him a chance.

“I finished second on the back of being told I had lied, and that Simpson was the honest broker”.

Jerry said he would now discuss with his supporters whether to complain to the Certification Officer over the conduct of the election. Kevin Coyne has already complained to the CO over Simpson’s letter. “I can’t possibly think it’s been free and fair”, Hicks added.

He put the “very poor turnout” down to discontent in the union. I don’t know how many unspoilt ballots there were but turnout seems to have been no more than 20%.

I must say, I expected more turnout for such a high-profile election. It remains to be seen what the Certification Officer says…

Update: I haven’t got through to him yet, but it seems Coyne won’t be contesting the result according to the post on his website. In that case, the only possible new threat to Simpson’s continued reign can come from Jerry Hicks.

This result will surprise some in Unite. Coyne came third despite coming second in the nomination round, whereas Reuter’s fourth place confirms his low nominations and relatively low profile.

According to Coyne there were only 1031 spoilt ballots, so less than 15% of Amicus voted. A shockingly low turnout, except that union elections always suffer from low turnouts.

The FT’s Jim Pickard is saying that Labour ministers are relieved at this result, and that Tony Woodley is seen as less loyal to the Labour government. He’s not wrong.

Unofficial Amicus election results will be online here at 3.30pm

Saturday 7 March 2009

Amicus logoThese are unconfirmed results, and I DO need to check them first. But I have no reason to doubt them. Stand by…

Amicus election: a heads up

Saturday 7 March 2009

 Well, the polls in the Unite Amicus election finally closed yesterday at noon, and very soon I’ll be bringing you the results and cutting-edge analysis. I don’t have an exit poll, as sadly there isn’t one, but with even Print Week looking out for the result it looks like this is going to be one of the most keenly followed trade union elections of recent times. (Actually, Print Week have a point, as Unite has a graphical-print-and-media sector).

So rest assured, if you want the result – you’ll find it here, first(ish), fast and frightfully fresh. Electoral Reform Services are due to finish counting today.

Journey to Gaza

Thursday 5 March 2009

The Viva Palestina humanitarian convoy may be the most famous lefty-inspired journey to Gaza, but it’s not the only one. Patrick Ward* is a staff writer for the Socialist Review and has visited Israel and Palestine before. He’s also a friend of mine, and along with Stop the War Coalition’s Stewart Halforty he’s travelling to Gaza to report on the situation there and (in his words) “bypass the corporate media”.

Whatever your politics, it is a worthy pursuit and I wish Patrick and Stewart very well. There will no doubt be some interesting updates on their blog here – Patrick already tells me he’s made “excellent contacts” – so I encourage you to check it for updates.

*Note for student politics geeks: Patrick was editor of London Student, the University of London Union newspaper, in 2005-06 (which is how I met him), and Stewart Halforty was ULU president at the same time. Patrick is a Socialist Workers Party member.

Party funding update: Prentice’s fight continues

Wednesday 4 March 2009

Further to my post below last night, MP Gordon Prentice has written to tell me that his amendments calling for tax exiles to be banned from making donations to political parties, which were dead after Monday night’s debate, are now alive again. Labour peer Lord Campbell-Savours has promised to table the amendments when the bill gets debated in the Lords on 18 March.

The Ministry of Justice is still dead against his amendments.

But there is anger on the backbenches that Prentice’s measure was so easily tossed aside. Labour MP Colin Challen has tabled this Early Day Motion:


Challen, Colin 
That this House leaves itself open to ridicule when it cannot find time to debate an amendment supported by 216 hon. Members, designed to stop tax exiles donating to British political parties, but can find time to vote on keeping the home addresses of parliamentary candidates secret.

Read more in Tribune this Friday…

Party funding: the backbench rebellion that never was

Tuesday 3 March 2009

People have been talking about the 130-plus Labour MPs who’ve signed a motion opposing the part-privatisation of Royal Mail as a great rebellion.  But the Government narrowly avoided just as big a rebellion in the Commons last night – which nobody in The Media noticed.

139 Labour MPs, plus 68 opposition MPs,  had backed an amendment tabled by Labour MP Gordon Prentice to Justice Secretary Jack Straw’s political parties and elections bill (as reported by David Hencke in The Guardian here). When this bill was first announced, Labour backbenchers hoped it would do something about the so-called “Ashcroft millions” channeled into target seats by Tory donor Lord (Michael) Ashcroft. But  there’s nothing in the bill that deals with tax exiles of UK nationality who fund parties. Nor is there much to stop large amounts of cash being funnelled into a constituency after the bill got watered down. Ashcroft may or may not be a tax exile (he won’t say). Lord Laidlaw (who says he won’t fund the Tories any more) certainly is. Prentice’s amendment was meant to fix that by banning ‘non-doms’ from making donations.

What happened? As often mysteriously happens with amendments the Government doesn’t like, MPs ran out of time. Prentice doesn’t think it’s mysterious, though. “We had a nice filibuster from Jack Straw, who spoke for 20 minutes about the Hayden Philips review [of party funding],” he said to me today.

The would-be rebels included Peter Hain, Denis MacShane and Parliamentary Labour Party chair Tony Lloyd – none exactly serial rebels. In fact, it was Lloyd’s own PLP secretariat who sent out a brefing note to Labour MPs telling them they should vote against. Vince Cable and most Lib Dems were on board, but no Tories.

The Government thinks Prentice’s amendments were unworkable. He disagrees, but he also asks why the Government hasn’t tried to tackle the problem itself. Meanwhile, the non-doms can rest easy.

Suggestions that this had anything to do with Prentice telling David Hencke (above) that Jack Straw’s behaviour was “surreal” are clearly wide of the mark.

P.S. Wealthy donors are not limited to the Tories. Lakshmi Mittal is perhaps the most famous (or infamous) Labour donor – and non-dom.