The 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]
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:
- Putting like-minded activists in touch with each other on the basis of region, industry or issue.
- 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.
- 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?
- Campaigning to change Unite Policies and Rules.
- 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?
Notes for editors
Ian Allinson is available for interview and can be contacted on 07985 438 553 or via firstname.lastname@example.org.