Hicks and the witch hunt

Submitted by Matthew on 13 November, 2013 - 12:46

Another Sunday, another issue of the Sunday Times, another attack on Unite (on pages 1, 4, 16, 17, and 33).

But this time Jerry Hicks — three-time general secretary candidate, founder of “Grass Roots Left” in Unite, and now a leading figure in the new “Unite Grass Roots Rank and File” — has given a helping hand.

Hicks later backpedalled, and stressed that he was opposed to any attempt to use the complaint he has made over Unite’s general secretary election in a witch hunt against the union. But that was all too little, too late — and singularly unconvincing.

According to the Sunday Times’ front-page article:

“Hicks said this weekend: ‘Was Falkirk an aberration or a modus operandi? There are serious questions that need to be answered about these tens of thousands of non-members of the union who were sent ballot papers.’”

The reference to “tens of thousands of non-members” receiving ballot papers relates to Hicks’s complaint to the Certification Officer, alleging that in the Unite general secretary election held earlier this year 160,000 ballot papers were sent to former members not entitled to vote.

Unite’s response is that the members’ subscriptions had lapsed but they were still entitled to vote. Under rule 4.1 of the union’s rulebook members can be up to 26 weeks in arrears before being removed from the membership lists.

“Hicks says that it is not credible that nearly 160,000 members were in recent arrears of membership,” continues the Sunday Times article. But in a union with 1.4 million members it is entirely credible. Annual membership turnover in a union is often 25%.

But the issue here is not (yet another) complaint by Hicks to the Certification Officer. It is his statement: “Was Falkirk an aberration or a modus operandi?”

This was no slip of the tongue by Hicks. In an earlier statement about Grangemouth Hicks wrote on his website of Unite’s “infantile, unfunny comic capers of infiltration through recruiting members to the Labour Party.”

Hicks says that Unite engaged in “infiltration” in Falkirk — isn’t it credible, therefore, that there was a similarly bad “modus operandi” in this year’s general secretary elections?

Hicks was very proud of the Sunday Times coverage of his complaint to the Certification Officer. In an early-morning post on his website he boasted:

“Jerry Hicks’ challenge to validity of Unite General Secretary election makes Sunday Times front page. The Sunday Times front page article ‘Union Boss Len McCluskey Elected by Phantoms’ carries my complaint to the Certification Officer.”

In fact, the Sunday Times front page article was nothing but another vicious witch-hunting attack on Unite, drawing parallels between supposed malpractices in Falkirk and supposed malpractices in Len McCluskey’s re-election.

It was also another disgraceful attack on Stevie Deans. The article makes a linkage of Stevie-Deans-Unite-convenor (nearly lost everyone their jobs), Stevie-Deans-Falkirk-Labour-chair (vote-rigging) and Stevie-Deans-election-campaigner-for-McCluskey (vote-rigging).

Solidarity with his own union in the face of this witch-hunt? Solidarity with a fellow union member who has been hounded out of his job and his union and Labour Party positions?

Of such solidarity there was not a word in Hicks’ piece. Instead, narcissism trumped solidarity. “The media are responding to our [sic – should read: “my”] press release of 9th September,” claimed Hicks.

No. The Sunday Times was not responding on 10 November to a press release issued by Hicks on 9 September. It was engaged in an ongoing witch-hunt.

The next time Hicks throws his hat into the ring in another general secretary election, Unite members should remember this scurrilous fiasco.

And those on the left who backed him in previous elections might want to publicly dissociate themselves from his behaviour.

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