Following the relative success of Paul Holmes’s candidature for Unison general secretary (GS), the left should hope for gains in the elections for the National Executive (NEC). Nominations are open from 1 February to 5 March, and voting will be 4-27 May.
However, making the most of the situation needs an open approach to left unity, as a forerunner to a democratic rank and file organisation. Sadly, that has taken a step back after the GS election result.
Paul Holmes and the SWP [Socialist Workers Party] have interpreted the result of the GS election to mean there is no need for left unity or democracy in selection of candidates. The draconian “democracy in Unison” guidelines are being used to avoid open organisation. A slate has simply been announced as Paul Holmes’s recommendations, following closed discussions.
The Socialist Party (who stood Hugo Pierre for GS) and activists who backed Roger Mackenzie in the election have similarly announced separate lists.
The unstable agreement between different left groups (most recently through Unison Action) for joint candidates, or at least not standing against each other, has broken down. This may result in competing left candidates in at least five seats this year, splitting the left vote.
Workers’ Liberty people in Unison will nominate the Paul Holmes candidates, as those backed by the network of activists most likely to grow into a significant left organisation in Unison, but we are calling for attempts at unity even at this late stage. Activists and candidates from the left should hold an open meeting in early March to discuss a unified slate, with the option of candidates withdrawing (as they can do up to 19 March) so we avoid losing seats to the right.
Most importantly we want discussion of how we can bring together an open and democratic rank-and-file group in Unison that ordinary members can be involved in, building campaigns, action and solidarity between elections as well as democratically selecting and holding to account left candidates.