After the GMB’s Paul Kenny announced his plans to step down earlier today, it seems that there’s big General Secretary news from another major union today too.
Len McCluskey has triggered an early General Secretary election at Labour’s biggest affiliate Unite. Jerry Hicks – who came second to McCluskey in the last General Secretary race at Unite – tweeted earlier today that an election on the leadership of the union would be announced imminently. Sources within the union have indicated to us that the vote to bring the election forward to early 2013 passed by 49 votes to 19 at today’s meeting of Unite’s Executive Committee.
By bringing the election forward, Unite would avoid having their General Secretary election overlapping with the General Election in 2015 (which was also believed to be why Kenny chose to stand down early). The idea of two of Labour’s biggest affiliates conducting General Secretary elections during a General Election campaign would not have been greeted with pleasure by anyone within the Labour Party hierachy.
Len McCluskey is expected to be a candidate, and would start as a clear favourite for re-election. If re-elected, his term of office would run from 2013 to 2018.
Update: Unite’s Executive Council have confirmed the news, releasing the following statement:
“The Executive Council welcomes the progress towards creating a common Unite constitution, structure and culture over the last two years, and believes that the benefits of those are starting to be felt throughout the union and wider labour movement.
“With a devastating economic crisis still unfolding, the need throughout the movement for clear and purposeful leadership will be of continuing importance. Unite’s own further integration and development would also be enhanced by clarity and stability regarding the union’s leadership over the next period.
“The Executive also noted that rule 15.2 mandates that the next General Secretary election will take place in 2015, at the same time as the General Election itself is scheduled. Any outcome of the General Election will certainly raise important issues for Unite and its membership, in particular in relation to our political strategy and our links with the Labour Party, requiring strong leadership at the time. It will be no time for a vacuum such as would inevitably be the consequence of a General Secretary election campaign at the same time.
“In light of these considerations, the Executive Council resolves to hold an election for the post of Unite General Secretary as soon as practicable.”