The votes have been counted in the Unite union's election for its next general secretary, and rank and file challenger Jerry Hicks received his strongest ever vote.
Jerry got votes from 79,816 workers—that's 36 percent of the total turnout. That is despite the fact that virtually every single one of Unite's full time officials (and most of the organised left) had thrown their weight behind current general secretary Len McCluskey.
“It's an amazing vote,” Jerry told Socialist Worker. “Tens of thousands of Unite members are saying that they want an alternative. Despite the fact that the other side spent ten times what we did, got nine times the nominations we did, and have had complete control of the election process, they weren't able to smash us at the ballot box. That's because members can see that McCluskey's vision for the union isn't enough to beat austerity.”
Jerry and his supporters have been speaking to Unite members across the country, with three main demands. They say the union should lead more action to stop the cuts, it should stop the policy of unconditional support for the Labour Party—and that control should be in the hands of ordinary members, not full-time officials.
The scale of the vote shows that there is a huge audience for these demands. Although with turnout at just 15 percent, there is still a long way to go.
“We've got to be with the 1.2 million who didn't vote,” said Jerry. “It's not that they don't care, it's that the union hasn't sufficiently inspired them. And that's a serious thing, especially for Britain's biggest union—which could also be its most powerful.”
Jerry has stressed all along that the campaign isn't just about him, and it doesn't stop now the votes are in.
“The scale of that vote should scream and shout that there's a lot more we can do against the cuts,” he said. “That's a really strong base for opposition in the union.”
“Unite is run from the top down. The members don't have control. But now tens of thousands of them are saying they want to take it.”