Gerard Coyne, the narrowly-defeated right wing candidate in last year’s Unite General Secretary election, has lost his appeal to the Certification Officer on all counts.
The decision is not unexpected, following his previous failure to overturn the result of the election by appealing first to the Certification Officer and then to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT). It is a welcome knock-back for the right wing within the union.
There can be no justification for Coyne’s attempt to seek revenge on Unite after losing the election by dragging the union through the courts, costing valuable time and money which could have been put to much better use for all members of Unite.
The pro-McCluskey group within United, the United Left (UL), has rightly been highly critical Coyne’s negative campaigning style and his cosy alliance with Rupert Murdoch’s Sun and senior right wing figures (e.g. Tom Watson) in the Labour Party: what the UL fails to mention is that many of the other complaints they’ve raised against Coyne (misuse of membership data and union facilities) could equally well have been made against McCluskey’s campaign.
The UL has attempted to suggest that Coyne’s defeat means all is well within the union: “On a positive note, it (i.e. Coyne’s appeal) might have opened some members’ eyes to what damage right wingers can cause to our union if allowed to gain ground. United Left remains convinced that only through a left progressive agenda can we create a democratic, lay member-led, fighting back union that stands up for its members.
“We now look forward to putting this damaging episode behind us and uniting behind our democratically-elected General Secretary and our left-led Unite Executive Council — standing up to bad bosses; fighting for better pay and conditions; bringing union organisation to the unorganised; fighting racism and inequality wherever we find it; and working hard to get this despicable Tory Government out of office and fighting to win a Labour victory under Jeremy Corbyn. Bring it on!”
Others on the left are less sanguine. The danger is that Coyne’s failure will encourage complacency on the left. Shortly after last year’s general secretary election, Scottish UL supporters put out a document noting the narrowness of McCluskey’s victory and the failure of the UL to translate branch nominations for McCluskey into votes of members.
“There is nothing wrong with our attention on winning elections, but the win needs to be for the purpose of advancing policies and actions that support working people and their families. The problem is when electioneering for one individual over another in itself is seen as politics.
“Instead, we should be engaging with members in workplaces and communities as part of the approach to building a politicised and motivated membership who are then enthused and inspired to take part in the union and all its democratic processes, not just in the postal vote for occasional choices of Executive Council or General Secretary candidates.
“If we are to achieve our aims as United Left, then our priority must be: rebuilding grassroots connections; re-establishing lay membership control at all levels of the union; and reversing the trend of a fall in membership, a fall in turnout in elections, and a fall in the numbers of people voting for left candidates.”