Unite: McCluskey to stand again

December 2, 2012 at 10:38 pm (Johnny Lewis, unions, Unite the union)

Above: Len McCluskey

Jerry Hicks, the unsuccessful (and somewhat eccentric) candidate who stood against Len McCluskey for general secretary of Unite in 2010, has put out this press release:

Unite make plans to call snap election for General Secretary. But  why?
The time table of this ‘snap’ election could begin as early as next  week. It is expected that at Tuesday’s [4th December] National Executive meeting  approval will be sought to begin the process of the election. The machinery can  commence to issue notice to the membership, with the branch and workplace  nomination period likely to be January and February.
The postal ballot of over one million members could begin as early as  the middle of March 2013.
Len McCluskey became General Secretary of Unite as recently as  November 2010 meaning that he has so far only served 2 years of his 5 years term  of office.
During McCluskey’s election just 2 years ago it was generally  regarded that he would be a one term [5 years] General Secretary, neither he nor  his supporters did anything to dispel the illusion.
So why is this happening 3 years early? After all McCluskey could  stand again in 2015 as a matter of course. However if he did and won a further 5  years in office that would take him to the age of 70 and advisors think that the  union’s members would not be too happy to have a General Secretary working past  normal retirement age.
So by dragging the election forward he could run, win, serve a new  term of 5 years taking him to 67, thus avoiding that and a number of other  issues. Namely the Government proposals of retirement age of 68.
Add all this to the biggest ‘plus’ for McCluskey and his followers,  that by using all the union’s machinery to push through at ‘break neck speed’ an  election 3 years early makes it almost impossible for anyone else to have  anywhere near an equal chance as McCluskey, given the incredibly short time  scale and the cost of simply mailing branches which runs to thousands of pounds.  Thereby virtually ensuring him a smooth ride, maybe even unopposed.
McCluskey seeking another term makes a mockery of the merger rumours  between Unite and the PCS with Mark Sewotka taking over from McCluskey, rumours  spread by both hierarchies.
It would also cheat the membership out of an election in 2015 when  it’s also the year for the next Parliamentary General Election. Unites ‘one way’ relationship with New Labour is an increasing source of criticism of his  leadership, so in a General Election year a debate about it might be a problem  for McCluskey.
Jerry Hicks, runner up in the previous 2 elections for General  Secretary said “Our Union has a long and discredited history of general  secretaries trying to cling on to power beyond the age of 65. There was Ken  Jackson, and then Derek Simpson, now Len McCluskey wants some more of  it.”
Jerry Hicks went on to say “This is just not right, it’s completely  unnecessary and verging on abuse of power. It sets the wrong example, shows the  wrong leadership and sends the wrong message that raising the retirement age is  OK. It’s not! We should be seeking to lower the retirement age for working  people, to end the scourge of high unemployment especially amongst the under  25s.
Notes to editor: Jerry Hicks was runner up to McCluskey in 2010  securing 52,527 votes he can be contacted by mobile 07817827912 or email jerryhicks4gs2010@yahoo.co.uk
Hicks is factually correct: McClusky is going to stand again in 2013. A leading figure in the United Left group that supports McCluskey, told Shiraz :
“Len, with the support of the EC, is going for an election in early 2013. If he wins (as he probably will) he’ll have a mandate for another five years in order to complete his plans with regard to internal Unite structures, the Labour Party and the TUC.
“He’s 62 now and that will take him to 67. He says he’ll not stand again and as he’s now got his full pension entitlement it will cost the union very little.
“The problem is that people will say ‘he’s had time to implement changes and find a replacement’ and ‘Unite’s saying retirement at 68 is too late and yet he’s carrying on to 67.’ Still, Len’s mind is made up and there’s unlikely to be a credible candidate from either the left or the right to stand against him.”
Another very senior Unite member says:
“After the Roger Lyons and Derek Simpson extensions it is clear this will lead to some fairly sharp attacks on Len and ‘his people.’
“I think it’s fair to say that the changes in the law on age discrimination have changed the terms of the debate.
“Len has been a far from perfect GS but I can’t think of any alternative candidate who would be either competent or even minimally politically acceptable.
“So I would support Len as a candidate, though not for any of the ‘official’ reasons being given.”


  1. Geoff Collier said,

    There’s another issue which seems to me to be equally important. That of stitching up the United Left’s candidate. In my region members of the UL were summoned to an emergency meeting to discuss an important but unspecified issue. That meeting endorsed the idea of an early election and also endorsed the sitting General Secretary as the official candidate. I presume this is happening in other regions too. Nobody else seems to have a chance to seek the United Left endorsement. At the last election Hicks was criticised for for not abiding by UL democratic procedures. Should he, or anybody with similar politics, wish to stand this time, there don’t seem to be any democratic procedures to ignore.

  2. Lamia said,

    I don’t know enough to comment on whether or not Len McCluskey is or would be a good candidate, but if the primary issue is the age one, I think his opponent is making too much of it.

    “Jerry Hicks went on to say “This is just not right, it’s completely unnecessary and verging on abuse of power. It sets the wrong example, shows the wrong leadership and sends the wrong message that raising the retirement age is OK. It’s not! We should be seeking to lower the retirement age for working people, to end the scourge of high unemployment especially amongst the under 25s.”

    This is completely unrealistic. The retirement age for working people has had to go up, and will have to keep going up progressively. People are on average living much longer and will have to work longer to build up a pension for that. I am prepared to do so; it’s just one of those things. at least people are living longer. It’s not a capitalist plot, it’s a side effect of rising standards of living.

    Of course, it’s quite correct to point out the scourge of high unemployment among the under 25s, but I don’t think there’s much causal connection. thes sort of jobs a 20 year old might be be doing are not generally the sort of jobs a 68 or 70 year old might be doing. Both age groups are areas where we need policies to help increase employment, but I don’t think it’s sensible to think one can trade one for the other.

    The age of many people retiring in ther 50s or early 60s is coming to an end, and quite right too. My parents have both worked into their 70s. My grandfather worked till he was 80. People with medical problems aside, of course, there are lots of older people who could thrive from working till around 70.

  3. charliethechulo said,

    Hicks is being, shall we say, a wee bit disingenuous in trying to make an issue out of McCluskey’s age. I don’t know how old Jerry was when he stood against Len in 2010 but he was to all intents and purposes retired at that point, and a key demand of his campaign was equal rights within the union (including the right to stand for office) for retired members. I didn’t agree with him about that, btw.

  4. Jim Denham said,

    Geoff: I understand that your group, the SWP (at the EC) have tried to do a deal with Len, whereby they (the SWP) will support him, if he drops his branch re-organisation.

    Actually, McCluskey’s reorganisation, which prioritises workplace branches, is one thing he’s done that the left *should* support!

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