Labour leader can influence Unite election, but not the other way round

Bill MorrisFirst Labour, now Unite: Britain’s biggest union has finally agreed a timetable for electing its first single leader this year. I say “finally”; admittedly it was agreed last Thursday, but only at the very end of Unite’s three-day executive council meeting, and in a bit of a rush I hear.

They’ve opted for an even longer timetable than Labour has for the leadership (see below). I mention Labour because what this means is that Labour will have a leader in place before Unite members even start voting.

Candidates will have from 1 July to 5 September the end of August to nominate themselves. Ballot papers will be sent out from October, and the ballot will run to the end of the month. Curiously, though the count takes place at the end of October, the winner won’t be formally announced till 1 December. Time to allow for challenges and recounts? Who knows?

Anyway, it looks as though the new Labour leader will have a fair bit of time to throw their weight behind a candidate, overtly or covertly, if they so wish*. That’s not to say nobody in Unite has thoughts about who the next Labour leader should be, of course – Derek Simpson has suggested Ed Miliband in the past, and of course Ed Balls and Charlie Whelan are close, both having worked for Gordon Brown.

*If you think I’m exaggerating the effect a Labour leader could have, consider the 1995 re-election of Bill Morris as general secretary of the T&G (now part of Unite), when he beat Jack Dromey. Dromey’s perceived status as Tony Blair’s favourite candidate worked against him, and on winning Morris famously declared, “We have stopped a juggernaut in its tracks”. He meant New Labour.

More on Unite later…

Update: I am told that the nomination window is actually 1 July to 31 August, not until 5 September as I originally wrote. 5 Sept is the deadline for the nomination forms to be received.

Not everybody is happy. One leading participant in the election tells me: “Normal people will be scratching their heads at calling for nominations when many members will be with the kids as far from the daily grind of work as possible”  – i.e. during the school holidays.


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