The battle lines are drawn as ballots start dropping on the doormats of some 1.5 million Unite members this week.
The three with the biggest stacks of nominations, Les Bayliss, Len McCluskey and Jerry Hicks, have spent the past weeks on a fortress strategy. Not triangulating, not reaching out to each other’s supporters, but digging in, reinforcing and restating their positions.
Thus Les Bayliss took a pot shot at his boss Tony Woodley this month, saying that watching him conducting the British Airways dispute was “like looking at an episode of Life on Mars”.
Thus Tony Woodley hit back last week, calling Bayliss’ remarks about the BA dispute “nothing short of scandalous”.
But it was ever thus. Last year, in an interview with lobby correspondent Ian Hernon of the Liverpool Echo, McCluskey said that he’d supported the Militant Tendency [while not joining them] and “on the chief issues they were right.”
While on his website, Les Bayliss says that his “favourite book of all time is Left Wing Communism & Infantile Disorder [sic] by Lenin”, a coded message to students of left-wing politics that he has no time for Trotskyists, Militant supporters and the like.
McCluskey is ever portraying himself as the young-at-heart insurgent, Bayliss as the head-screwed-on moderate.
Meanwhile, Jerry Hicks attacks both of them as guilty of breaking election rules (I first broke the news of Hicks calling for Bayliss’ head on this website, below) and reiterates that he is the rank and file candidate. Bayliss, McCluskey and Gail Cartmail are in “jobs for life”, he says; whereas Hicks hasn’t even got a job to lose.