Unite leadership’s decision to call an election for the General Secretary three years early is unprecedented and unwarranted. Sprung on us and fasttracked it looks like an attempt to avoid a challenge.
McCluskey has only served two years of his five year term. In a 2015 election he would be 65, so dragging it forward three years avoids the prospect of a 70 year old General Secretary and a number of embarrassments like the “68 is too late” campaign.
It comes when Unite should be concentrating all its resources fighting the Con-Dem attacks on members and their families.
One official reason for an early election is to avoid ‘clashing’ with the 2015 General Election. But the original timing gave a golden opportunity to reverse the ‘one way’ relationship with Labour.
In 2010 McCluskey pledged to reclaim Labour – to “kick New Labour cuckoos out of our nest” and “no more blank cheques”. Then Unite’s chickens came home to roost. In the Rotherham by-election, a Labour safe seat, Unite’s choice was not even shortlisted. In the last two years Unite has given £6 million of members’ money to Labour with little return. Labour hasn’t promised to reverse Con-Dem cuts.
More of the same won’t do. I would only donate to Labour after they did the right thing.
Unite has twice failed to support John McDonnell’s Labour leadership bid. First, it delivered Gordon Brown’s ‘coronation’. Then McCluskey as General Secretary donated £100,000 backing Ed Miliband. McDonnell’s beliefs are infinitely closer to Unite policies and would make Labour far more electable. That’s why both times I backed McDonnell.
McCluskey talks about a co-ordinated fight against the Con-Dem assault. I agree. Yet, presented with just that, Unite’s leadership undermined the PCS and NUT by not supporting proposed coordinated strike action last March. We need a serious fight which will take more than hot air at demonstrations.
The only challenger, I’m standing so members have a chance to vote and to present a positive alternative. However, getting fifty nominations to be on the ballot paper will be a big achievement in this most uneven contest.
• Jerry Hicks was runner up to McCluskey in 2010 securing 52,527 votes. He can be contacted by email: email@example.com