Unite election: and then there were five

One month after the election campaign to lead (all together now) Britain’s biggest union kicked off in earnest, it’s still pretty wide open. But yesterday came a milestone: the first proper, fully-fledged hustings meeting (complete with vote) of Workers Uniting Group, the main faction in unite alongside United Left (and keen readers of this blog).

For the first time, the number of candidates seems to be getting narrower, not wider. Because WUG have now closed their doors to new candidates for their nomination. Other names which I’ve heard bandied about now seem unlikely to stand, because UL have a nominated candidate, Len McCluskey, and without a faction’s support nobody – except maybe Jerry Hicks, who lest we forget came second in the Amicus election – seems to have a good chance of winning.

So who have we got? McCluskey, Hicks and on the WUG side, Les Bayliss (assistant general secretary, responsible for finance), Brian Boyd (national officer for aerospace) and Paul Reuter (national officer for communication managers; in charge of Royal Mail management members.)

Here’s what happened when the last three turned up to the hustings in Doncaster yesterday.

About 45 people turned up to hear them speak; the remarks were pretty temperate by all accounts. But Paul Reuter did have a little pop at Len McCluskey:

“I am led to believe that someone has already declared himself as the TGWU candidate. If that’s the case then I would question their judgement.” [Clearly McCluskey would not agree, before anyone writes in to tell me]

Much talk of the importance of being one union, supporting and changing Labour, fighting the Tories etc. After their speeches, the audience sent them out and had half an hour’s debate. Then they voted. Bayliss came first, then Paul Reuter, and Brian Boyd came third. Some say the audience had decided how they were going to vote before hearing the speeches; but the point is moot. This is only the first hustings meeting of ten; WUG will not have a candidate for another month. All three candidates have geographical areas of support so there’s no knowing how the votes will stack up.

Where does this leave us? Both Reuter and Bayliss, from the Amicus side, claim support from people in the former T&G side. How big that support is remains to be seen; I know McCluskey has support from certain Amicus groups. Everyone talks of making Unite properly merged (everyone I talk to in general admits in public or private that the merger still isn’t complete) but only Reuter suggested that it hadn’t really gone according to plan recently, and things should be happening a little bit quicker than they are under the leadership. Sounds like a pitch to those who’d like to see a new broom.

Bayliss and Boyd point to the difficulties, and Bayliss – a veteran of the mergers that created Amicus in 2001 – speaks of “a number of colleagues in the union looking backwards instead of looking forwards”. Who he means I couldn’t say. But Derek Simpson made an attack on the “tribalist” T&G in a previous address to WUG, and Bayliss has made remarks about the T&G not expecting too much change.

Conclusion: Two unions, five candidates. Watch this space.


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One Response to “Unite election: and then there were five”

  1. John Rodd Says:

    Les Bayliss is the only candidate that has any sort of a chance of making Unite into the great Union that it can become, Les has a good understanding of the membership in all sectors.
    The other candidatesdo not match up

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