THE ELECTION for general secretary of the 900,000-strong TGWU union is set to be another major test of strength for both Tony Blair and the left in the unions. Tony Blair will be hoping that the TGWU can become a bulwark against the rise of the so-called awkward squad of left wing union leaders.
The candidate most associated with Blair's project is Jack Dromey. Dromey is married to Blair's solicitor general Harriet Harman. There is a mood in the union to stop Dromey. At hustings meetings around the country rank and file union members have argued that there should be one candidate to unite the left and stop Dromey. Socialist Worker has backed this call.
Sadly, two left wing candidates, Tony Woodley and Barry Camfield, have decided to stand. This creates a possibility that Dromey can win. Tony Woodley defeated a more right wing candidate, Peter Booth, for assistant general secretary last June by 78,000 votes to 55,000. This vote showed the majority for the left could not sustain being divided between two candidates. Both Woodley and Camfield have stood up against the war and both reject other aspects of Blair's agenda.
But both have sold their members short in disputes over the years. The key issue is to stop the right wing taking over the union. Uniting behind one left candidate would be the best way to do this. Unfortunately every union member will have to choose between two left candidates.
On balance Socialist Worker believes Tony Woodley best reflects the disquiet union members feel towards the Labour government. We urge our supporters to back Woodley in the ballot, which begins next month.
But the key for the rank and file members of the TGWU union is to organise themselves to fight in their own interests, whoever wins the election.
KEVIN CURRAN won the election for general secretary of the 700,000-strong GMB union on Wednesday of last week.
Curran defeated his more left wing opponent Paul Kenny for the position. He only won by distancing himself from New Labour. Throughout his campaign Curran was desperate to be seen as a critic of Downing Street.