UNISON’s national executive council has endorsed Christina McAnea to succeed Dave Prentis as the party-affiliated trade union’s general secretary by a narrow majority of four votes.
McAnea, the frontrunner who is understood to have the support of the current union leadership, secured 29 votes on the union’s governing body compared to 26 for her closest challenger Paul Holmes.
Responding to the result, McAnea said: “I am delighted that my manifesto for the future of our union and for working to get a better deal for UNISON members is gaining support from branches across all sectors, all four nations and now the union’s national executive council.”
The current assistant general secretary added: “There are many more branches who have still to nominate and I shall be working hard to earn every single vote.”
Supporters of Holmes have alleged that the ruling body decided to use an eliminating ballot system in order to disadvantage the left-wing candidate and without telling committee members in advance.
Sources have told LabourList that the national executive council spent 70 minutes discussing the proposed move to a voting system that had not been used in previous elections.
After the first round of voting, McAnea and Holmes had an equal number of votes. McAnea achieved a majority after she received more support from members who had initially voted for another candidate, Roger McKenzie, in earlier rounds.
Of the three candidates in the running, Glasgow-born McAnea is seen as the candidate most closely aligned to the current leadership, whilst McKenzie and Holmes have positioned themselves further to the union’s left.
The UNISON assistant general secretary is also ahead in nominations from the public service union’s 834 participating local branches, with 112 backing her compared to Roger McKenzie’s 64 and Paul Holmes’ 63.
All three of the candidates have already received the 25 branch nominations needed to be on the ballot, but the NEC endorsement will be seen as a big win for the McAnea campaign.
McKenzie, who was knocked out of the NEC vote in the second round, said: “I am grateful and proud for every vote we won at today’s UNISON NEC, but this election is about members, not committees.
“Today’s vote shows that there are people at all levels of our union who have realised that things cannot carry on as they are, and we need a radical shift of power towards members. All candidates should reflect on that.”
Several prominent Labour politicians have endorsed candidates in the election, with former leader Jeremy Corbyn supporting McKenzie and former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell backing Holmes.
Outgoing general secretary Dave Prentis has been in the role for 20 years and has been very supportive of Keir Starmer’s tenure as Labour leader after endorsing him during the leadership elections.
UNISON members will vote on their preferred candidate to replace Prentis from October 28th to November 27th, with the results set to be announced on January 11th, 2021.