Usdaw general secretary coronation
Socialist presidential candidate receives 45 nominations – vote Amy Murphy
Usdaw Activist (Socialist Party members in Usdaw)
Most active members of Usdaw will be unsurprised to see the announcement that Paddy Lillis will be Usdaw’s next general secretary. With a high nominations threshold of 25 – raised after a grassroots challenger, the late Socialist Party member Robbie Segal, won 40% of the vote in the last election in 2008 – it was unlikely anyone would be able to challenge Lillis, who is the current deputy general secretary.
This election highlights a democratic deficit in the union – as ordinary members have been denied a debate since 2008 around the policies put forward by the person in the most powerful position in Usdaw. Not only that, but as Lillis was elected by a branch vote for deputy general secretary, he has never faced a national vote by the full membership.
High nomination thresholds are a tool of the right wing to subvert members’ democratic rights. The right wing in Usdaw opposed the recent rule change moved by an Usdaw Activist supporter at this year’s conference, which attracted the support of around 20% of delegates. It would have opened up the possibility of a contested election instead of a coronation. This was similar to Blairite MPs trying to keep Jeremy Corbyn off the ballot paper via such a threshold in the 2016 Labour leadership election.
The Activist believes that the nominations threshold for general secretary should be reduced to five, which would allow Usdaw members to debate the direction they want the leading figures of the union to take us in.
Many members will be glad to see the impending retirement of John Hannett, whose leadership was closely linked with support for the Blairite wing of the Labour Party against those around Jeremy Corbyn. For example he spoke on the platforms of right-wing Labour organisations such as Progress and Labour Friends of Israel. Industrially, members have seen pay decline in real terms, increasingly insecure hours of work and terms and conditions surrendered without a real fight.
It is welcome that at speeches at Usdaw divisional conferences Paddy Lillis has been much more positive towards Jeremy Corbyn and the radical policies that were in the most recent Labour election manifesto – many of which have been passed as policy at Usdaw conferences.
However, Lillis was also chair of the Labour national executive committee during the 2016 leadership election that went to court to deny many Labour Party members a vote in that election. Therefore many Usdaw members will be waiting to see how much he distances himself from Hannett’s legacy once this election period is over.
The best way to advance the union in a new direction is to elect a fighting executive council in the coming elections to work alongside Paddy Lillis.
There are a number of Broad Left candidates standing in the election around the country, as well as Broad Left supporter and Socialist Party member Amy Murphy standing for president. In 2015 with ten nominations, Amy won 45% of the vote, and with 45 nominations for the forthcoming elections, many Usdaw members will be working for a victory for Amy.