Members of Unite, Britain's biggest union (formed by the merger in 2008 of TGWU and Amicus), have been receiving the candidates' statements for the election of the merged union's first General Secretary.
Until now, the union has been run by "joint General Secretaries", Tony Woodley from TGWU and Derek Simpson from Amicus. The winner of the election will take office as "General Secretary Designate" when Derek Simpson retires in December 2010. He or she will work alongside Tony Woodley, the remaining joint General Secretary, until Woodley retires in December 2011, and then become the sole Unite General Secretary.
Ballot papers will go out on 25 October, and must be returned by 19 November.
There are four candidates: Les Bayliss and Gail Cartmail from the right, and Jerry Hicks and Len McCluskey from the left.
Jerry Hicks's statement reads better than McCluskey's, except in its call for retired members to have equal rights in the union. The contribution of retired members should certainly be valued, but the main decisions must be made by those directly involved, i.e. the members of working age.
Solidarity and Workers' Liberty are backing McCluskey, partly because of the issue about retired members, partly because McCluskey is the democratic choice of the (imperfect, but actually-existing) Unite United Left while Hicks's is essentially a personal candidacy with little potential to organise a rank-and-file left around it, and partly because McCluskey is the only candidate able to defeat Bayliss.