Committee presiding over union delegates’ vote at Labour conference set to vote against power grab even if right-winger McAnea makes deal with Starmer
A majority of Unison’s ‘Labour Link’ committee has come out publicly against Keir Starmer’s bid to rob Labour members of their say in future leadership elections. Starmer, who campaigned on a promise of more democracy, wants to return to the old ‘electoral college’ voting system that would give a handful of MPs as much voting weight as the whole party membership.
The ‘Time for Real Change’ Twitter account, which represents the union’s left caucus that now holds a majority on both the Labour Link committee and the union’s national executive despite Unison’s right-wing management, tweeted the news this morning:
The full statement reads:
We the undersigned are the majority of elected delegates to UNISON’s National Labour Link Committee.
We wish to make clear our opposition to rule changes that could be put to the Labour Party Conference to abolish One Member One Vote in Labour Party leadership elections.
It is unthinkable that a member-led union like UNISON would approve rule changes designed to disenfranchise many thousands of Labour Party members and to institute an unequal franchise.
Moreover, UNISON voted for One Member One Vote in 2014 – after the National Labour Link Committee agreed democratically to make it UNISON policy.
The National Labour Link Committee is the sovereign body for Labour Party-related matters within UNISON, according to the UNISON Rulebook and Labour Link Operational Rules. It is not permitted under UNISON Rules for the UNISON Conference delegation to overturn established National Labour Link Committee policy and the delegation would have no mandate to do so.
We support Christina McAnea’s call for more time for consultation as relayed to the TULO meeting on Wednesday. We call on Christina McAnea to consult with the National Labour Link Committee before any decision can be made to overturn established UNISON Labour Link policy.
Dan Sartin, Andrea Egan, Jane Wilcox, Tony Wilson, Libby Nolan, Lilly Boulby, Andrew Berry, Carl Greatbatch, Billy Stewart, Steve Milford, Mark Fisher.
Despite the clear majority on the committee, the situation is not a simple one. Unison’s management has ‘declared war’ on the union’s elected left, according to left-wing insiders, and has ‘conjured rules from nowhere’ to block democratic votes on other union positions to be taken at Labour’s conference.
Nonetheless, this is a major development. If even some of Unison’s delegates heed the voice of their elected representatives then even if the managements of the right-run USDAW, GMB and Unison back Starmer’s power-grab, his chances of getting it through conference are greatly reduced.
Starmer is reported to have ‘doubled down’ after a meeting of the Labour-union liaison group (TULO) this week rejected his appeal to back his manoeuvre – after saying he would give them more time to decide, he is said to have then decided to press ahead regardless.
But if Starmer tries to change the voting rules and loses, his clear lack of authority will become the dominant theme of the conference, making his speech next week an irrelevant sideshow that even his dwindling band of media supporters will struggle to sell as anything else. It remains on a knife-edge whether he will press ahead and risk humiliation. His and the Labour right’s desperation is clear in the escalating suspensions of members’ delegates on the left to bar them from the party’s conference.
The left slate’s combined vote share on the committee in the recent Unison General Secretary election – grassroots favourite Paul Holmes, now the union’s president and under shameful attack by the management, would have become general secretary had senior Labour left-wingers and the Socialist Party not ignored calls to pull their candidates and unite the vote.
Unison delegates are sent by branches and so tend to be relatively reflective of the ‘rank-and-file’ of their union – so despite the Labour Link being unable to pass motions on the electoral college and other matters when they last met because the right-wing vice chair blocked motions from being heard, many are likely to have noted the expressed wishes of their representatives on the committee.
The union’s ‘operational rules’ state that delegates should meet and agree their positions for Labour’s conference:
in accordance with UNISON Labour Link policy, and taking into account the policies agreed at the UNISON conference as set out in the attached statement.
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