Posts Tagged ‘Gail Cartmail’

Unite election: decoded

Monday 22 November 2010

I didn’t get a chance to blog yesterday about Len McCluskey’s victory in the Unite election, which has now been covered everywhere from the Morning Star to ConservativeHome*. However I did gather some thoughts and views…

1) Len McCluskey’s impressive vote share – 42.4 per cent, about 101,000 votes – was (just) more than Jerry Hicks and Les Bayliss combined, which will have surprised some. Hicks and McCluskey were vying for the left-wing vote, and for one reason or another the insurgent didn’t persuade nearly enough supporters to desert the favourite.

Asked why, Hicks says: “McCluskey had a thumping great army of officers working on his behalf.” It’s true that a lot of full-time officers supported McCluskey; whether they ‘worked’ for him I can’t really say. This impressive list of McCluskey supporters left out two key people – Simon Dubbins, director of the international department and former candidate, and Andrew Murray, director of communications and long-standing right hand-man of Tony Woodley, who anointed McCluskey as his successor.

2) That said, Hicks has again pulled off the trick of beating a full-time officer into third place in a leadership election (last year it was Kevin Coyne, this year Les Bayliss). Speaking to me yesterday, Hicks was full of scorn for those who though the election was a straight fight between Bayliss and McCluskey: “If the United Left [the McCluskey faction] and their candidate see Les Bayliss as their threat, they’re not going to get the analysis right beyond the union.”

3) We shouldn’t overlook Gail Cartmail,  who was only three percentage points behind Les Bayliss (16.4 per cent to his 19.3 per cent) despite a rather lower profile. “I think this shows I ran a very strong campaign”, the Star quotes her as saying.

4) But overshadowing all this, as I noted on Saturday night, is the low turnout of 16 per cent. Unite executive member and blogger Ian Allinson bemoans the “worrying sign of the lack of engagement of members with the union”. There could be any number of reasons for this low turnout, only slightly more than the 13 per cent for the Amicus election despite more publicity. But the fact is that many Unite members don’t subscribe to their leadership’s politics, whichever brand of leader they get – as evidenced by the fact that, when asked, many vote Conservative.

I will post more views from the blog fan club when I get the chance…

*I wonder which is more pleased about McCluskey’s victory? ConHome quotes Conservative chairman Baroness Warsi saying it marks the end of a “terrible week for Ed Miliband” because Unite will, she argues, force Labour to dance to a far-left tune. Whereas last time I looked, Les Bayliss sat on the Morning Star’s management committee… Just a passing thought.

Update: It’s been pointed out that Simon Dubbins’ name does in fact feature on a later version of McCluskey’s campaign advert. Andrew Murray’s does not.



And they’re off: Unite election candidate addresses

Friday 8 October 2010

I’ll return shortly to the highly contentious issue of communications from candidates in the Unite election. But first, the officially sanctioned 600-word statements from the candidates have now been posted online and sent to members.

Les Bayliss’ message is straightforward to the point of terseness: “Fellow Members, in two weeks time you will be receiving ballot papers along with an election address in which I will be setting out my request for your support in the election for General Secretary. All candidates have been given this opportunity by the Executive Council…” Quite why this is stressed is unclear; maybe to allay concerns over unsolicited letters. It’s a far cry from his divisive remarks quoted in the News of the World, or his recent sniping at Len McCluskey, accusing him of “infantile politics” after he shouted “rubbish” during Ed Miliband’s speech to the Labour conference. A change of strategy, perhaps.

He goes on to say he will support strong industrial sectors and that members in each sector should “have a voice” in which officers manage each sector – but he doesn’t go as far as saying officers should be elected; he’d continue to appoint them himself. Bayliss reiterates his call for a 24/7 members’ support centre, a policy he says has been copied by other candidates.

Gail Cartmail picks a fight with Jerry Hicks by calling herself “the only progressive and independent candidate”, presumably referring to Hicks’ support from the Socialist Workers Party. Her “number one priority” is a campaign to protect members’ jobs. Like Bayliss, she supports a Labour government, but one which “promotes a living wage and one that delivers trade union freedom”. She also says she’ll speak out for equality, but there’s less mention of the macho domination of trade unions that she’s complained of in the past.

Jerry Hicks: Some fun at last. When Hicks ran in the 2008 Amicus general secretary election, his statement to members was sent alongside a notice from Unite HQ taking issue with some of what he said. This time, it seems no official objection has been voiced, and he’s let rip at the leadership and his opponents (all assistant general secretaries), lumping them together as “the establishment” and responsible for the “mismanagement of Unite”.

He calls for election of union officers and berates the other three for not doing so; re-iterates that he’d refuse a six-figure salary and take an average wage; and lambasts Unite for having “thrown £10s [of] millions at Labour in return for so little”. However, he probably over-reaches himself when he promises to, er, scrap Trident. Not even Jack Jones could have done that.

Incidentally, Bayliss, McCluskey and Cartmail can worry about something else if Hicks is elected: he’s suggested to me that he’d like to cut their salaries. “I think it’s outrageous that the packages of Gail Cartmail and Les Bayliss add up to £138,000”, he said, while admitting he’s not sure how. “My view is those contracts should be changed. I would support that position, that they should be changed”.

Len McCluskey: “THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR EXPERIENCE”, the Scouse ex-T&G man writes, seeking to turn his relatively advanced years (60) into a plus point. He trumpets getting “over 830” nominations, although according to the returning officer he only got 829. He stresses the need to bring Unite together once and for all, and distances himself from the lurid stories of lavish meal, helicopter trips and so on by railing against “extravagances at the top of the union”, for which read “by Derek Simpson” (he is Tony Woodley’s man, after all). His call for a “24/7 one stop shop” for members is very similar to Bayliss’ and he says, a bit vaguely, “no more blank cheques for New Labour” (would he give New Labour cheques at all?)

More follows…

Unite election: Len McCluskey way ahead, Cartmail kicks Bayliss’ van

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Unite’s executive council yesterday received the first official figures for nominations of candidates in their general secretary election. As the man himself predicted, assistant general secertary Len McCluskey is streets ahead of his nearest rival, Les Bayliss, with 829 workplace and branch nominations to Bayliss’ 214.

It certainly puts the remarks of Bayliss supporters last week – who, as I reported, said that McCluskey’s talk of having over 500 nominations more than Bayliss was “bollocks” – into context. However, it also bears out their counter-cliam that Bayliss’ branches and workplaces have more members. Despite having nearly eight times more nominations, McCluskey’s represent less than three times as many members.

Captain Sensible below points out that Ken Jackson was ahead on nominations before losing the AEEU union general secretary election to a certain Derek Simpson.

Gail Cartmail is pleased with her lot, given that people had suggested in the past that she wouldn’t even qualify to make it onto the ballot paper (the minimum number of nominations needed is 50). On her blog, Gail has mocked Bayliss’ use of a van plastered with pictures of his head, calling it a “mini-van for a mini-man” (miaow) and sconred his call for no strikes at Christmas (“What about Easter, Eid or Yom Kippur, the Solstice or Equinox?”) She also criticises McCluskey for attacking Bayliss in his platform speech at the TUC (as I reported here earlier; his none-too-subtle reference to “pandering to the Murdoch press”).

Those nominations in full:

  1. Len McCluskey, 829 valid nominations, including nominations from branches representing 368,986 members
  2. Les Bayliss, 214 valid nominations, including nominations from branches representing 137,942 members
  3. Jerry Hicks, 137 valid nominations, including nominations from branches representing 109,088 members
  4. Gail Cartmail, 97 valid nominations, including nominations from branches representing 37,836 members

Hat-tip: Ian Allinson

Meanwhile, back at the Unite election…

Thursday 16 September 2010

Two fiercely competitive frontrunners, disputed figures, cries of “bollocks” – the election for the next leader of the Unite union has it all. And reports back from the TUC Congress suggest that rivalry and policy are being doled out in roughly equal measure. Here, behind the News of the World headlines, is what is going on.

Les Bayliss predictably caused a slight sensation on the eve of Congress when a newspaper article appeared quoting him as criticising British Airways cabin crew for their planned 12-day strike over Christmas, saying: “If I am general secretary of Unite there will NEVER be any strikes called over Christmas”, and “Public sector strikes will only deprive the vulnerable of services the Tories want to cut. We’ll be doing the bad guy’s job for him. Strikes will also turn the real victims, our members, into the villains.”

And yes, he did actually say all that. Not to the News of the World, but in a speech – the full version is on his website. Bayliss’ argument is that strikes in the 1980s were counter-productive, lost sympathy for unions and encouraged the introduction of laws to curb their power.

Unfortunately for Bayliss, some Unite members assumed that he had given an interview to the NoW. “You’re kidding me!” a senior source said when told of the article, adding: “To use News International as a mouthpiece, whose owner sacked six thousand members in the move to Wapping, is quite a disgrace”. Fair or not, it’s the impression some have got.

However, the line peddled by the NoW’s David Wooding – “He appealed to the moderate majority to stand up to hardliners hell-bent on leading them over the cliff edge” – is a fair summary of Bayliss’ pitch to Unite members, particularly the skilled professionals that he is targeting. Many of these are far from dyed-in the-wool lefties; nearly a third of Unite members intend to vote Conservative.

Rival Len McCluskey’s rhetoric is scarcely less colourful. The day after the NoW article, speaking to a plenary Congress session on employment rights, and calling for resistance to the restrictive use of union laws, he said – no, he shouted: “Let me be clear again, especially to anyone in Unite who understands the cuts won’t be stopped by pandering to the Murdoch press. In the words of Henry V, he that hath no stomach for this fight, let him depart.” “Not  too over the top, then,” sniggered a Unite official next to me as he spoke.

So, anyway – now that nominations have closed, and the ballot begins next month, who is ahead?

According to McCluskey’s website, it’s him, and according to a Financial Times piece too – except that the piece’s author, Brian Groom, didn’t actually want it published; he thought the figures weren’t solid. McCluskey is claiming over 650 nominations from branches compared to (he says) Bayliss and Jerry Hicks, who are unlikely to get more than 100 nominations apiece. Nominations don’t count as votes, but they do help influence members and allow candidates to receive funding from branches.

Word among McCluskey’s supporters is that he does indeed have well over 600 nominations. Meanwhile, friends of Bayliss dismiss the figures as “bollocks”. They aren’t official – true enough – and they’re two weeks out of date. the complaint goes. Since then, Bayliss has picked up nominations, I am told. I took this rebuttal back to camp McCluskey. “Bollocks”, I was told. Hmm.

Jerry Hicks, however, does agree with McCluskey’s analysis: he is telling supporters that he has won 102 branch nominations, as well as 35 workplaces, and he thinks he is close to Bayliss, ahead of Gail Cartmail and behind McCluskey. Go figure.

Official figures for nominations will be released soon. Watch this space…

Gail Cartmail speaks to this blog

Wednesday 23 June 2010

I really need to pay more attention to what goes on on this blog – but then it’s a very part-time pursuit. Last week, to my ignorance, Unite general secretary election candidate Gail Cartmail waded in to a lively discussion on my post below, in order to respnd to critics and explain her position. Here’s what she had to say:

On the support for candidates by full-time officers and other Unite staff:

“An instruction was issued by JGS Tony Woodley today quite rightly advising staff and officials that displaying or wearing election material while at work is prohibited.”

Very interesting – at Unite’s policy conference, the biggest example by far of wearing election material came from supporters of Len McCluskey. Several full-time officers such as former national officer for civil air transport Steve Turner were seen wearing McCluskey lanyards and poloshirts embroidered with  ‘Unite 4 Len’ logos. McCluskey is of course Woodley’s preferred candidate, so this doesn’t seem a partian move on the face of it.

Cartmail also attacked McCluskey and Les Bayliss as being part of the establishmednt and part of the problem:

“My AGS colleagues have had every opportunity to Unite the opposing left factions and use their position in the inner circle to deliver integration – they have sadly not stepped up to the mark on either count so time for a fresh start, a different approach.”

Clearly she doesn’t see herself as being part of that inner circle. If either Les Bayliss or Len McCluskey want to respond, the comments thread – and my inbox – is yours…

Gail Cartmail risks upsetting Unite election

Tuesday 1 June 2010

Gail Cartmail, Unite assistant general secretary for the public sector at Unite the union, was in a good mood tonight. Today the only female candidate in the (all together now) election to become the leader of Britain’s biggest union got a sympathetic profile by veteran reporter Andy McSmith in The Independent. Tomorrow (i.e. by the time you read this) she is appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. The Media have woken up to the fact she could become the country’s first female general secretary of a big union.

Gail said: “A huge concern of mine is that my two colleagues who are leading rivals have factions behind them, and if either gets the politically important post of Unite first general secretary with a faction behind him, there will be a further period of disunity”.

Interesting stuff. Only yesterday, I heard one Unite source condemn one of the candidates for not standing on a given platform. Cartmail turns that argument on its head. The result will boil down to what Unite members prefer.

But Cartmail clearly positions herself in the piece as the women’s candidate – and I heard her female supporters do the same thing. One complained about a stall at Unite’s policy conference here in Manchester which offered the prize of a crate of beer. What if you don’t drink beer? They didn’t seem to have thought of that.

The media attention on Cartmail raises the possibility she could attract serious votes. Despite being a senior salaried official, her blog carries rather independent views. Even if she doesn’t win, she may become an important figure after the Unite election. Which may upset other (male) officials…

Update: Writing this blogpost in the small hours of the morning having only had four hours’ sleep is the only reason I can imagine for writing that Cartmail  “could become the country’s first female general secretary”. Brenda Dean of Sogat in the 1980s was one, and currently we have Sally Hunt at the University and College Union. Thanks to Paul below for good-naturedly pointing out my mistake.

Ken Loach and other Unite election campaigns

Friday 21 May 2010

Such is my ignorance of what British film directors look like that, when I sat in on Jerry Hicks’ speech at a socialist meeting in London last week, I didn’t notice the presence of Ken Loach. Ken is backing Jerry for general secretary of Unite, in a move the other candidates may not thank me for writing about. Oh well. Video here, probably not directed by Mr Loach by the looks of it.

Other candidates are available! And here are their websites:

Les Bayliss

Gail Cartmail

Simon Dubbins (currently under construction)

Jerry Hicks

Len McCluskey

Paul Reuter

Update: I originally linked to the ‘support Les Bayliss’ page on the site of Workers Uniting Group, the Unite faction supporting him. Les has his own site, and I’ve now linked to it (above). Also, Simon Dubbins’ site is now up and running.

Unite election: Gail Cartmail joins the fray

Saturday 23 January 2010

Gail Cartmail is Unite’s assistant general secretary for the public sector. I quoted her once in a Tribune article about Colombia, about two years ago, and remember it was hard to get hold of her as she was “very busy” back then.

And she’s decided to stand for Unite general secretary. Her website is here.

Gail is from the Amicus side of Unite, so if members vote along Amicus/T&G lines, Les Bayliss, Paul Reuter and Jerry Hicks are now looking severely disadvantaged compared to Len McCluskey.

Maybe I should change this blog’s name to “René Lavanchy’s Trade Union Eleciton and Associated Dirt Blog”…