McCluskey: How it All Began

There has been a lot of misinformation about how Len McCluskey was selected as the candidate of the 'United Left' group for General Secretary of Unite.  The misinformation has been spread particularly thickly on United Left's secretive, small and paranoid email list.

So we publish below the true account by someone who was actually there, Dr Judy Atkinson.  This was originally published in the respected Labour Left Briefing magazine:

Judy Atkinson reports

On 5th September, in a hustings marred by exclusions, bullying and walk outs, United Left supporters met in Manchester to decide who will be their candidate for Unite general secretary in 2010.

Three candidates who had put their names forward were Jerry Hicks, victimised convenor at Bristol Rolls Royce, who in March came closer than anyone else to unseating Derek Simpson when he polled 40,000 votes to Simpson’s 60,000 in the election for joint general secretary; Len McLuskey, Unite assistant general secretary and Tony Woodley’s favoured successor; and Rob Williams, convenor at the Linamar factory in Swansea, victimised and subsequently reinstated after a successful strike in May.

At the start of the meeting United Left national chair Martin Mayer decided to exclude about 20 people on various spurious grounds that they had arrived late or were not
United Left supporters. Significantly, a number of those excluded happened to be supporters of Jerry Hicks or workers from Linamar. When Jerry argued that the excluded people should be let in, in the interest of inclusiveness, he was howled down by McCluskey supporters. He then walked out of the meeting with about 20 supporters who had been allowed in.

A proposal from the floor that those people whom the chair had excluded should be allowed in was put to the vote and carried by 109 to 107 votes, overturning the chair’s decision. At this point Jerry came back in together with those excluded and those who had walked out previously, but after further interventions from McCluskey supporters, the chair ruled that those who had been let in would be allowed neither to speak nor to vote, thereby negating the decision which the meeting had just taken. [Very clever as a chair’s ruling requires a 2/3 majority to overturn it]

At this point Jerry walked out again, this time with 40-50 people who held their own meeting in a side room to discuss the urgent political situation and decide whether Jerry should still run for Unite GS, irrespective of the outcome of the now completely discredited meeting.

Meanwhile the hustings went ahead with two candidates. Len McCluskey revealed himself to be a classic Labour loyalist union bureaucrat. Although paying lip service to lay member democracy, repeal of the anti trade- union laws and ‘reclaiming the Labour Party’, he made no commitment to challenging the neo liberal policies of the New Labour government, which is intent on making £30billion public sector spending cuts.

Rob Williams said that in view of the events at the start of the meeting, he was unable to commit not to stand against the successful candidate. He went on to say that Unite is at the crossroads; either to continue with a bad merger or take a more militant stance to defend members who are being made to pay the price for the recession. The choice is to concede or stand and fight. The problem is the leadership and the union bureaucracy, so we need real change in our leadership. In the end McCluskey polled 170 votes to Rob Williams 49.

The sole purpose of the meeting appears to have been to rubber stamp McCluskey, using the pretence of a democratic hustings. McCluskey will now pose as the ‘Left’ candidate against the Workers United Group candidate, Les Bayliss, who is Derek Simpson’s first choice. Both Jerry Hicks and Rob Williams have reserved their right to stand, but it is essential that the Left unites around a single real Left candidate.

Jerry already has massive grassroots support as a result of his challenge to Simpson, when he stood on a non sectarian political platform. Rob supports union disaffiliation from the Labour Party and the formation of a new workers party. The choice is clear.
There is now the danger that the United Left may fracture nationally, with the formation of a breakaway group of genuine left supporters.

1 comment:

  1. The Manchester meeting marked the end of the united left.
    Martin Mayer had no idea how to chair a meeting and was changing his mind and the rules every time someone spoke, it was a complete shambles.
    Being told the "Fuck Off and don't come back" by people who have the nerve to call themselves Trade Union activist was a new low point and one I will never forget.
    And all this anger and scheming just so the could name a highly paid top official as a "left" candidate? WTF.