Friday, 20 January 2017

'Fifty Shades of Grey' at Bury Unite Branch

ALLEGATIONS that 'pressure' was put on the Bury Unite Commercial Branch to nominate Len McCluskey, the current General Secretary of Unite the Union, for re-election in the forthcoming elections for Unite's top job have been rebutted by the local branch secretary Brian Bamford.   The claim was made on Twitter by one of the candidates that the presence of two Unite full-time organisers at last Monday's branch meeting was a failed attempt to influence the Bury branch to vote for Mr. McCluskey, a strong backer of Jeremy Corbyn the Labour Party leader.

The Unite union at present funds the Labour Party to the tune of many millions of pounds every year.

The row about the Bury branch being 'pressurised' to back McCluskey arose because of a Tweet on Ian Allinson's Twitter account after the branch meeting, implying that the organisers were there to influence the result.  Mr. Allinson is one of the three candidates standing for the top position of Unite General secretary. 

Since then, Mr. Bamford has insisted that 'the Bury Unite Branch blooms with binmen not shrinking violets and there is no way we could be leaned on by the union bosses'. 

The two organisers were allowed to participate in the discussion over the nomination, but not to dominate the discourse or to vote.

The organisers were permitted to speak but naturally not to vote, because the Bury Unite Branch  passionately believes in 'free speech' and 'lively debate'.

It was suggested during the discussions that the nomination of Ian Allinson to appear on the ballot paper would have the effect of 'splitting the left vote' between McCluskey and Allinson.  Gerard Coyne, who is a Unite full-time organiser in the Midlands, is the third candidate and is reputed to be a 'right-wing Blairite'.

This was contested by the branch secretary Mr. Bamford, who said that the membership should have 'the widest possible choice' between the different candidates, and he claimed that the critics of Allinson by using the 'split-vote' argument were seeking to shrink the choice before the membership.  In contrast 'we' the Unite Bury branch, wanted to 'open things up and not to narrow things down'.  Bamford claimed that even though he may possibly vote for Len McCluskey it was still vital to have someone like Ian Allinson on the ballot sheet.

To argue that there should be only two choices between 'left and right' is to create a thread-bare bipolar dichotomy of 'cowboys and Indians' or 'black and white'.  This is a thoroughly 20th century mentality, and in essence the Bury branch was preferring to embrace the spirit of 'Fifty Shades of Grey' in their approach; what they wanted, if I am interpreting the spirit of the meeting correctly, was the broadest possible discussion, debate and openness within the realm of liberty.

Those at the meeting who took the 'split vote' view then went on to say that we should look to the established experienced of experts like Mr. McCluskey from Liverpool, a professional official with many years of in the saddle of officialdom, rather than a new boy such as a shop-floor activist like Mr. Allinson from Blackley, Manchester. 

This faith in the expertise of the office-holder is as feeble-minded as the bipolar dichotomy, and is just another mediocre left-over of the old 20th century modernity.  It is so full of holes that the average bin-man can see through it without so much as looking up from his football results. 

The bin-men of Bradley Fold, and the others on the branch committee, eventually came to a carefully calibrated conclusion, and were in no way confused or overwhelmed by any hypothetical 'hierarchical pressures' from above.

This was demonstrated by the branch's clear unanimous vote to nominate the local Manchester lad, Ian Allinson, for the position as General Secretary of Unite the Union.  We must now await to see how many Unite members vote for him.

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