Unite leadership challenger Ian Allinson responds to Coyne’s call for a re-run

Unite General Secretary contender Ian Allinson responds to reports that Gerard Coyne has mounted a legal challenge to the election result and is demanding a re-run.

Ian standing by his pile of 17143 votes at the countPredictably, the media have seized on the story that Unite election loser Gerard Coyne is mounting a legal challenge to the result, trying to get it re-run.

The BBC report was not alone in referring to Coyne as “the” defeated candidate. The fact that there were three candidates but that Coyne is the only one calling for a re-run, doesn’t get a mention. This isn’t the only misleading aspect of the report. It quotes without challenge Coyne complaining “Unite employees repeatedly breached guidelines that meant they should have been neutral in the contest to be general secretary”. A few minutes’ research would have established that there was no such guideline.

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Ian Allinson’s statement on the Unite General Secretary election result

Ian standing by his pile of 17143 votes at the countThe result won’t be officially declared by the Executive Council until Friday 28th April, but the votes are counted and are as follows:

  • Len McCluskey 59067 (45.4%)

  • Gerard Coyne 53544 (41.2%)

  • Ian Allinson 17143 (13.2%)

  • Spoiled papers 317 (0.2%)

  • Total vote 130071 (turnout of 12.2%, from 1062049 ballot papers despatched)

Update: full General Secretary and Executive Council election results

Thank you to everyone who voted, donated and campaigned for me. We came third, but secured a respectable vote. More than that, we put important arguments into the union, made it harder for Coyne to drag the debate to the right, prevented him hoovering up all discontent, showed that it was possible to run a clean campaign, and connected up many members who want to see a stronger union.

The low turnout is not a healthy sign. McCluskey’s vote had declined from 145,000 in 2013 and, perhaps more relevantly, 101,000 in 2010, the last time there was a challenge from the right as well as the left. While some will doubtless argue, as they have throughout, that by standing I risked Coyne winning. In truth the collapse of McCluskey’s vote shows the declining returns of the left relying on the union machine to win votes, rather than organising at a grass roots level. McCluskey chose to force this unneccessary election, gambling the future of our union. He chose not to ask the Executive Council to adopt a Single Transferable Vote system as used by many other unions. He chose to refuse televised or regional hustings to engage members directly, without the mediation of the pro-Coyne billionnaire press. We took a calculated risk by standing, and thank goodness we did, preparing the ground for desperately needed new organisation within Unite.

McCluskey’s heavy reliance on the union machine for his campaign undoubtedly helped Coyne. Coyne’s disgusting campaign, relying on anti-union forces in the media (even writing for The Sun), the right of the Labour Party, and business, rightly horrified members. But enough of Coyne’s mud slinging resonated with disatisfied members for him to pick up a significant vote. Our campaign ensured that he could not channel all discontent in a negative direction, taking votes off both candidates and drawing support from members who would not otherwise have voted. We deliberately targeted workplaces which had nominated Coyne to undercut his support. But giving members the impression that the union machine is being used to crush dissent and democracy gives Coyne sympathy he does not deserve.

Our campaign was undoubtedly squeezed between two establishment campaigns that must each have spent the best part of a million pounds and a contest that was dominated by the massive use of indirect, one-way, communication to members rather than engaging them. But our campaign laid the basis for new organisation within Unite that prevents the right falsely presenting themselves as the champions of lay member democracy, while rejecting the failing “broad left” electorally focussed model in favour of more industrially focussed grass roots approach. Focussing on internal elections and control of the machine rather than the industrial and political issues affecting members does not encourage the active engagement and participation we need for a strong union, and leaves the left open to unprincipled challenges from the right.

It is good news that the despicable Coyne did not win this election. Our strong vote makes it harder for McCluskey to use Coyne’s vote to justify shifting rightwards during the turbulent months ahead. I hope that Len McCluskey will pick up many of the points we have raised in our campaign and any organisation coming out of our campaign should be prepared to work with him where he does, while maintaining our independence. I welcome people getting involved whether they voted me or not, and whether they are in United Left or not. In particular, we need to ensure that Unite members campaign for a Corbyn victory in the General Election, at a time when many of Coyne’s supporters on the Labour right have made clear they would prefer a Tory government to a Corbyn one. We need to work together.

Many of the ideas put forward in our campaign have gained wide support – not just from those who voted for me.

All meaningful change comes from below, and all meaningful change is the result of collective effort. So how can we most effectively take forward our ideas after the campaign?

The ian4unite campaign is organising four post-election meetings to discuss this. If you want to push forward the broad agenda I’m campaigning for you are welcome at these meetings no matter who you have supported in the election:

  • Saturday 6 May: 1:30 – 3pm, Avant Garde, 34-44 King Street Glasgow G1 5QT [Facebook event]
  • Sunday 7 May: 2-4pm, Peterloo Room, Mechanics Centre, 103 Princess St (Major St entrance), Manchester, M1 6DD [Facebook event]
  • Saturday 13 May: 1:30-3:30pm, Alumni Lecture Theatre, Room 110, SOAS Senate House, Paul Webley Wing, Malet Street, London, WC1 7HU [Facebook event]
  • Sunday 14 May: 3-5pm, hotel conference room, Briar Rose, 25 Bennetts Hill, Birmingham B2 5RE [Facebook event]

Download leaflet for post-election meetings

If you want to get involved please leave your details so I can update you.

My provisional thoughts are that we should establish some ongoing organisation within Unite. I think it is important that this isn’t primarily focused on elections – it shouldn’t be a rival to the United Left, but occupy a position more like the Construction Rank and File which includes members who are and are not United Left supporters. Though I disagreed with their stance, many good activists have backed Len McCluskey in the current election and members need all of us to work together after the election.

If its focus isn’t internal elections, what could such an organisation do? Some possibilities, depending on the views and commitment of those involved, could include:

  1. Putting like-minded activists in touch with each other on the basis of region, industry or issue.
  2. Acting as an umbrella organisation supporting groups of activists in particular industries pushing for a more robust approach to specific industrial issues e.g. to reject bad deals, raise neglected issues or challenge partnership arrangements.
  3. If I’m not elected as General Secretary, can we as activists implement some of the pledges anyway? For example a regular bulletin highlighting disputes, campaigns and other information; or collecting case studies of our successes?
  4. Campaigning to change Unite Policies and Rules.
  5. Getting experts and activists together to thrash out effective responses to specific issues affecting many sectors e.g. performance management.

In addition to the issues raised in the campaign, many members have been raising the need to reform Unite’s election processes, for example:

  • Control of campaign spending. Are the huge sums spent by the two establishment candidates in this campaign external interference in our democratic process? Or are they from Unite funds? Does anyone seriously think members expect hundreds of thousands of pounds of their money to be spent promoting candidates rather than promoting their interests?
  • A level playing field on access to and use of branch, activist and member data to strike the right balance between trying to engage members and preventing them being spammed by candidates with privileged access.
  • Official hustings so that all members can engage directly with the debates.
  • Change from First Past The Post to Single Transferable Vote (as used by many unions) so members can vote for the candidates they want without fear of “splitting the vote?

ENDS

Notes for editors

Ian Allinson is available for interview and can be contacted on 07985 438 553 or via ian4unite@gmail.com.

Establishment candidates for Unite leadership “abusing power”

Ian Allinson, the grassroots socialist candidate for Unite General Secretary, highlights abuses of power by both establishment candidates which are undermining democracy.

Democracy means the rule of the people. As a union’s power comes from the participation of members, democracy is not an optional extra. Yet both Coyne and McCluskey are acting as if our union is the plaything of a tiny numbers of senior officers, sacrificing democracy in their pursuit of power. Democracy requires that any member be able to contest a General Secretary election. Yet both establishment candidates are abusing their position and power to deny members a fair choice.

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Unite leadership candidate Ian Allinson says “This is a three horse race”

Candidates in the Unite General Secretary election campaign have today received official confirmation of branches and workplaces that nominated them.Photo of Ian Allinson

Ian Allinson, the only grassroots candidate in the election, received a total of 97 nominations including 21 workplace nominations.

Allinson said:

“This election is clearly a three horse race. The number of nominations I have is very impressive for a grassroots candidate”.

“The other two candidates are well placed in the union machine, Len McCluskey is the incumbent General Secretary and Gerard Coyne has been West Midlands Regional Secretary for fifteen years. Their campaigns have funding and resources to match.”

“We live in an era of political upsets – we should rule nothing out in this election. Gerard Coyne doesn’t seem to be quite the right wing threat that the press have been talking up.”

“My nominations have come from members who want to see a more serious fightback and workplace issues brought forward in the union. They come from members who want brave leadership on issues they care about, green jobs, defending of refugees and migrants, and improving equality and diversity within Unite itself”.

Yesterday Ian Allinson was on the picket line at his own workplace, Fujitsu in Manchester, as part of a national strike over job cuts, union recognition, pay and pensions.

On Saturday Allinson will join the #ourNHS demonstration in central London.

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Ian Allinson accepts nomination and issues new leaflet

After a vibrant campaign meeting on Saturday I have now submitted my acceptance of nomination for Unite General Secretary.

I discussing with members

Now nominations are behind us, we’ve produced a new campaign leaflet, which you’ll find on the Resources page of this web site. It’s being printed up this week and bundles will be available on Saturday’s NHS demo, where I hope to see many supporters. If you can’t make it please email ian4unite@gmail.com and we can get a bundle to you.

We also need a big push on fundraising. We will be spending thousands of pounds on printing and postage. Having used annual leave for the nomination period I’ve requested some unpaid leave from work. There will be travel costs, meeting rooms and much more. The other candidates are well-paid from our subs and have rich backers. In contrast, I’m on strike again tomorrow at Fujitsu as one of thousands whose jobs are on the line and who are fighting to extend union recognition.

If you want to shake up Unite and make it a stronger union, get involved!

Thank you card from Bristol Health reps/members showing names

The only union funds which I can accept are from branches which have nominated me. Otherwise it’s down to individual donations and collections. Members at Bristol Health branch took a collection which they sent me along with this lovely card. If you want to do something similar there’s a collection sheet on the resources page too. You can donate online or send a cheque payable to Ian Allinson to me at 11 Germain Close, Higher Blackley, Manchester, M9 0SQ. All donations are receipted and any member can inspect the campaign finances.

Video: Ian Allinson speaking at London launch of campaign for Unite General Secretary

On Saturday Ian Allinson, the grassroots socialist candidate for Unite General Secretary, spoke at campaign meetings in London and Cambridge. Below you can watch his speech at the London meeting.

If you’d like to support the campaign to elect Ian, please leave your details, and get in touch if you’d like to invite Ian to a meeting or hustings. Tomorrow nominations open. Here are details of how to nominate Ian.

Time to arrange your Unite General Secretary nomination meeting

This week Unite should be sending out letters and forms to branch secretaries to enable them to organise branch nomination meetings for General Secretary and the Executive Council. Where a branch covers more than one workplace, the workplace can also make a nomination, but the rep needs to contact the Regional Secretary to request the necessary paperwork now.

Nomination meetings must take place between Monday 16 January and Friday 17 February 2017.

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Oppose scapegoating of migrant workers – unity is strength

Mug reads "controls on immigration: I'm voting Labour"

Ian Allinson, the grassroots socialist candidate for Unite General Secretary, argues that McCluskey’s fudge on free movement stops him effectively defending members from the damage caused by Coyne’s attack on workers’ rights to free movement and equal treatment.

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Members need Unite structures which help seize the opportunities

Ian Allinson, the grassroots socialist candidate for Unite General Secretary, explains how Unite’s structures reflect the past and managerial convenience, not members’ current needs and organising opportunities, and pledges to involve members, officers and staff in a major review if he is elected.

Unite’s current structures are not fit for purpose. A large proportion of power and resources lie within regions, but this structure doesn’t fit the reality of members’ employment and how we need the union to support us. The structure reflects the history of Unite’s constituent unions, the compromises made during mergers, and managerial convenience. The Rules Conference process is effective for tweaking the structure, but a review is required to bring forward coherent proposals for more fundamental changes.

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Will Unite break its own election rules?

Ian Allinson, the grassroots socialist candidate for Unite General Secretary, is calling on Unite to stick to its own election rules, and on Len McCluskey and Gerard Coyne to agree to livestreamed hustings so that members can make up their minds on the strength of the arguments about the pressing issues we face.

This General Secretary election shouldn’t even be happening. For the second time Len McCluskey has forced an early election, resulting in timing that benefits only one candidate, himself. Only he knew the election was coming, so only he was unaffected by the compressed timescale for the campaign and nominations.

Almost all the information about the election process has been removed from the Unite web site, but I was sent a copy of the ballot guidelines by email in response to a request.

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