Socialist Worker

Paul Holmes runs for the top job in Unison

Issue No. 2202

Paul Holmes (Pic:» Guy Smallman )

Paul Holmes (Pic: » Guy Smallman)

Left wing candidate Paul Holmes is gathering support in the election for Unison union general secretary as ballot papers go out to its 1.2 million members.

The United Left grouping in the union is backing Paul against the current general secretary Dave Prentis.

“The bankers have decided how the country’s going to be run,” Paul told a supporters’ rally in London last Thursday. “The cuts will start.

“This is a bankers’ government. The debate is going to be about: do we want a bankers’ agenda or a workers’ agenda?

“We’re in a situation where two public schoolboys pretend they disagree with the banking system.

“Nick Clegg’s grandfather was the president of ABN bank. His grandmother was a baroness. These people don’t criticise banks, they live on the banks.

“The mood of our members is a mix of depression, anxiety and anger.

“The bosses and the bankers are going to come for them.

“They’re not going to cancel Trident. They’re not bringing the troops home from Afghanistan. They’re going to rob the earnings of ordinary working people.”

Holmes contrasted the wealth and privilege of the elite with his own background.

“I am a working person and that’s who I want to represent,” he said. “I want to walk into the pub or the library or the cinema and face those people.

“When you go and talk to real people, they talk about real things. They don’t talk about the rubbish that politicians talk about on the telly.”

Although Holmes stands for democratisation of the union’s political fund, he is part of the Labour left.

“In the general election there was a return to class politics in voting,” he pointed out. “People don’t hate the Labour Party – they hate the Labour government. It represents nothing I know about.

“There are no British National Party councillors in Barking and 51 Labour councillors now because the working class came out and voted for their party.”

Holmes’ campaign material says he is standing to be “a fighting general secretary on a workers’ wage”.


He called for lay leadership with election of all officials and a right of recall.

He also spoke out about what he has faced by standing for general secretary.

“I’m getting hammered by full-time officials,” he told the rally. “They hate lay officials – people who represent the workforce.

“They like the political elite who discuss things over expensive meals. But I’ve been a member of this union for 36 years and I’ve never lost an election.

“It’s about democracy. We are ordinary working people.

“If I win the general secretary election it means nothing if the union doesn’t change. Leaders should not be followed – they should be kept on short reins.”

He added that he hoped his campaign could be part of rebuilding union branches and strengthening the left in the union.

Holmes is branch secretary of Unison’s Kirklees branch, one of the biggest in the union and with an 80 percent membership rate.

He said, “My campaign is about organisation. It’s not about having fancy chats, it’s about organising. That’s what the working classes understand intrinsically.

“Working class people join a union for one reason – because they will be better off together than they would be apart.”

For a video of the launch or to download a leaflet to print, go to »

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Tue 18 May 2010, 17:44 BST
Issue No. 2202
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