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.

Read more

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.

Won’t supporting Ian Allinson “split the vote”?

Supporters of both McCluskey and Coyne are trying to prop up their candidate’s support by warning that a vote for Ian Allinson could “let in” the candidate they least want. This article argues that fear of Coyne – clearly the worst candidate on offer – does not justify a vote for McCluskey.

Unable to put forward positive reasons why McCluskey is a better candidate than Ian Allinson in this eleciton, his supporters are resorting to Project Fear – vote for McCluskey or you’ll get Coyne. This has some traction because Coyne is an almost pantomime villain candidate – promoted by union-buster Rupert Murdoch’s Sun and Labour right-wingers who spend more time attacking Corbyn than the Tories. But it isn’t an argument that should decide your vote.

Read more

Unite leadership contender Ian Allinson attacks rival Coyne as “Blairite hypocrite”

Ian Allinson, the grassroots socialist candidate for Unite General Secretary, said:Ian Allinson

“Coyne opened this election claiming that Unite’s leadership spent too much time on politics. Yet he has plenty to say on behalf of his New Labour backers like Tom Watson who are undermining Jeremy Corbyn. He’s paid for social media ads implying that he wants to overturn Unite’s democratic policy of support for Palestinian freedom in favour of backing the repressive Israeli regime. Coyne wants worse politics, not less politics. He is a Blairite hypocrite.”

Allinson has criticised McCluskey for his failure to publicly back Corbyn since the Copeland by-election defeat and for undermining him on key policy issues such as Trident and workers’ rights to free movement and equal treatment.

Read more

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.

Read more

Unite leadership challenger Ian Allinson welcomes McCluskey u-turn on council cuts

Ian Allinson, the grassroots socialist candidate for Unite General Secretary, has welcomed a u-turn by Len McCluskey over opposition to council cuts and called on Gerard Coyne, the right-wing candidate, to follow suit.Ian speaking on microphone on picket

Len McCluskey, the outgoing General Secretary of Unite who is hoping to be re-elected next month, is reported to have told a public rally in Leicester:

“The idea at the moment is that there are huge reserves that Councils have. Particularly in many of the Conservative shires but within Labour Councils as well there are significant amounts of reserves. There is an argument that says that Labour Councils should use those reserves in order to stave off cuts, or certainly the most damaging of cuts, until such time as relief arrives, or until such time as the cavalry arrives over the hill. And we support that.”

Allinson said:

“I welcome this u-turn from Len McCluskey. The Unite leadership’s opposition to this policy last year made campaigning against the huge local authority cuts imposed by the Tory government more difficult.”

“A serious attempt to stop the cuts would require industrial, political and community campaigning. It would mean putting industrial action against the implementation of cuts on the agenda – not just leaving it to a few councils where members have managed to push for this under their own steam. It would mean demanding that Labour councillors work with unions and their communities to campaign against the budget cuts being imposed by the Tory government rather than, in most cases, meekly implementing them. Members in local authorities and involved in local anti-cuts campaigns should work to put this into practice immediately and demand that Unite’s leadership backs them.”

“Members will also want to know what Coyne, the right-wing candidate, has to say. Will he join us in opposing cuts? Or would the be a step too far for his Blairite backers – the people who saddled public services with massive PFI debts to the private sector and who are more concerned with pursuing their own careers and cosying up to business than representing working class people?”

McCluskey’s speech reverses a 2016 policy conference decision he fought for. Allinson argues that this illustrates the top-down culture in Unite, McCluskey’s lack of respect for democracy, and the dangers of operating by maneouvre rather than principle. This unnecessary General Secretary election, arranged for his benefit (for the second time), is another sign of how McCluskey manipulates our union’s democracy to suit himself.

Allinson went on:

“We can have no repeat of the experience of 2013 when McCluskey’s anti-cuts election rhetoric was never delivered. Members need to get active to ensure we develop a serious plan to fight the cuts. We can’t depend on McCluskey, we have to depend on ourselves and each other.”

Read more

Ian Allinson calls on Len McCluskey to urgently clarify his position on Corbyn’s leadership

Ian Allinson calls on Len McCluskey to urgently clarify his position on Corbyn’s leadership

Ian Allinson, the grassroots socialist candidate for Unite General Secretary, has called on Len McCluskey, (incumbent General Secretary) to give an unambiguous statement about his support for Jeremy Corbyn at the earliest possible opportunity.

Photo of Ian Allinson

Since the loss of Labour’s parliamentary seat in Copeland the attacks on Corbyn have continued.

Allinson said:

“Gerard Coyne, the candidate who claims he wants less Westminster power games, lost no time in hypocritically undermining Corbyn, in line with the views of his backers from the Labour right. They conveniently forget that it was New Labour that eroded Labour’s base, lost it Scotland, and turned safe seats like Copeland into marginals. Turning back the clock offers no answers”.

Len McCluskey has not issued a statement on continued backing for Corbyn despite increasing calls for clarity.

Allinson said:

“Len McCluskey needs to end the confusion about how reliable his support for Corbyn is, and whether that will continue if he is re-elected. He is avoiding giving a direct answer to questions on this, even with all the rumours of a ‘soft coup’.”

“My policies challenge some of the powerful vested interests that McCluskey wants support from. On green jobs, trident, nuclear power and freedom of movement my vision for Unite aligns with Corbyn’s values. There are big differences between me and the two establishment candidates. That may be why Len is hedging his bets and avoiding making a clear statement on his support for the Labour leader”.

Allinson argues that the pressure on Corbyn is about much more than leadership:

“Corbyn’s policies challenge the rich and powerful in the interests of the vast majority. Anyone doing this would face hostility from the establishment media and from Labour MPs so out of touch they voted for the Tory Welfare Bill. The answer isn’t to abandon attempts to stand up for working class people. The answer is to build resistance in our workplaces and communities now. And if some Labour MPs see attacking Corbyn as a higher priority than challenging the Trade Union Act then it’s time Unite acted on its conference policy of making MPs stand for democratic reselection”.

Read more

Bad arguments against supporting Ian Allinson for Unite General Secretary

Perhaps the strangest thing about the campaign so far is the failure of the other candidates or their supporters to engage with the ideas I’m putting forward for making Unite more effective.

Photo of Ian Allinson
Photo: Steve Eason

Do they agree that we need fortnightly email bulletins to all activists, not filtered through officers and committees? Would creating case studies of members’ successes to save us wasting so much effort trying to reinvent the wheel be a good idea? Do we need to restructure the union to provide better support for the 80% of workplaces in employers that span multiple regions, and where our organising is currently so much less effective? Do we need to build a civil rights movement to challenge an increasingly repressive state rather than fighting anti-union legislation in isolation? Do we need to integrate our equality work better with our industrial agenda?

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more