Unison election: what happens next

Readers of more frequently updated blogs (and Tribune) will have noted that Unison’s Dave Prentis did indeed decide to stand for re-election, a decision that was promptly approved by his national executive committee this week.

In Tribune this week I also revealed that Heather Wakefield, Unison’s head of local government, has decided not to stand. This makes it likely that the election will be between Prentis – widely tipped to be endorsed by his NEC as their approved candidate at a meeting early next month – and a left candidate approved by the Unison United Left faction, who’ll need the support of 25 branches to stand.

NEC member and perennial critic of Unison head office Jon Rogers has a report of Wednesday’s meeting which is both colourful and revealing:

Many NEC members felt immediately driven to compete for superlatives with which to describe our General Secretary (and his passionate and unswerving commitment to our democracy).

Dave was brave. He was brilliant. Bob Oram from the North West Region went furthest when he said that he hoped that there would not need to be an election as we would all unite behind Dave. (I have a feeling that that approach to socialist politics – one party which gets 100% of the vote – was tried somewhere in the twentieth century and did not get on too well…)

Leading NEC member, Paul Holmes made an obvious and important point when Dave left the meeting[…] Dave had told us first that he would graciously permit an election, then that he would be a candidate, and then which timetable he felt we ought to have for the election.

Paul wondered whether there might have been a conflict of interest in the leading candidate for election to a post recommending the timetable for that election (but in any case the candidate had in effect determined that timetable himself by the timing of his announcement of his intentions).

Jon goes on to say that:

Paul was also first to respond when our President, Gerry Gallagher, suggested that anyone else who might be seeking nominations should withdraw from the discussion. As Paul said, NEC members had had no notice of the decision of our General Secretary, and no one could yet know whether they would be a candidate.

This is not suprising. Paul Holmes is a well-known figure among the Unison left and tipped to be their candidate. He has the advantage of being both a left-wing critic of Unison policy and a Labour Party supporter, which prevents Prentis from writing him off as a “trot” or similar. Looks like he’s considering his options.

So what happens now? Nominations close on 1 April (insert joke here) but Unison United Left wants to pick a candidate long before then. So watch this space.

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