Britain: UNISON NEC elections – Socialist Party gains

The Socialist Party group on public sector union UNISON’s 70-plus ruling National Executive Council (NEC) has been increased from three to five members following the recent elections.

Existing members Roger Bannister (North West), Raph Parkinson (Additional Members) and Jean Thorpe (East Midlands) all held their seats. Roger Bannister’s 9,256 votes is the highest vote in the union’s largest region. These three will be joined by two more Socialist Party members, Glenn Kelly, who took the Male Seat in the Local Government Service Group, and Diane Shepherd who defeated a sitting right-wing NEC member for the Reserved (Low Paid Women’s) seat in the Yorkshire and Humberside Region.

Many activists particularly welcome Glenn’s election because he defeated Nigel Flanagan by 31,989 to 29,753, someone they have seen shifting from the ultra-left wing of the Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) to the right wing.

Flanagan’s allies in the bureaucracy and in the stalinist Communist Party of Britain will be devastated at his failure to take the seat vacated by the departure of Dave Anderson to the Labour Parliamentary back-benches in the general election. So out of nine Socialist Party members who stood, five were elected.

Respectable votes

The votes for other Socialist Party members in these elections were respectable, despite their not being elected. In Greater London, Nancy Taaffe polled 2,706 votes in the Female Seats section.

Unfortunately, the insistence of the United Left (UL) group to nominate candidates for both of the available seats, and their refusal to respond to the Socialist Party’s suggestion of discussing the situation with a view to reaching agreement, resulted in a split left vote. Sitting UL NEC member Fiona Monkman lost her seat to a right-winger.

In the West Midlands, Dave Auger polled 3,187 votes to the sitting right-winger’s 5,188. In Yorkshire and Humberside, Vicky Perrin polled 5,425 votes, only 259 behind her successful opponent.

In the Health Service Group General Seat Adrian O’Malley polled 12,312 votes against the 16,311 of his opponent, a sitting right-winger.

Unfortunately, the losses of seats held by some UL NEC members means that the overall balance of power between the right and left on the NEC is unlikely to be affected by these elections.

Clearly the UL, still heavily dominated by the Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP), have learned nothing from their dismal showing in the recent General Secretary election.

They refused to reach accommodation with other lefts in Greater London and overall they continued with their confused position on the Labour Party. They failed to call clearly for UNISON to disaffiliate. The unambiguous position of the Socialist Party candidates on this issue clearly hit a chord with the membership.

In addition to the loss of Fiona Monkman’s seat, leading SWP member Yunus Bakhsh lost his seat in the Northern Region, (resulting in there no longer being any SWP members on the NEC). Labour Party member Kate Ahrens lost her Female Seat in the Health Service Group.

The UL managed to gain two seats, Diana Leach in the South East and John McDermott in Yorkshire and Humberside, leaving them overall one seat down on the new NEC.

The overall strength of the left on the NEC will be maintained by the election of independent left John Jones who took the General Seat in the Water and Environment Service Group, defeating a sitting right-winger.

UL supporter Mike Tucker’s retention of his seat in the South East is of particular significance, given that the merger of the Southern and South East regions since the last election has resulted in the loss of an NEC seat. Mike defeated the sitting right-winger Roger Laxton in this contest. Laxton was used two years ago to ensure that Socialist Party member Raph Parkinson did not become the chairperson of the International Relations Committee, following three deadlocked votes between Raph and the sitting right-wing chairperson.

The general turnout was around 7%, marginally higher than the last elections two years ago, but still poor.

Socialist Party members on the new NEC will work together as a group to promote a socialist alternative to the failed policies of the right-wing leadership. In particular, they will argue for militant action to defend jobs, pay and conditions of service, especially in relation to pensions, wherever possible working with other lefts to achieve these ends.

They will continue to call for UNISON’s disaffiliation from the Labour Party and in support of the union playing a major role in the creation of electoral alternatives to Labour.

UNISON members and other workers should have the opportunity to vote for candidates that will support and promote public services and the workers on which they depend, as opposed to the constant privatisations and other attacks of the neo-liberal Labour Party.

Socialist Party members Bernard Roome and Gary Jones have retained their seats on the executive committee of the Communication Workers’ Union.

From The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party, cwi in England and Wales.

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June 2005