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Unite: Will the Left’s success be its undoing?

As we reported on Sunday, the Left had a great success in Unite’s election: not only did Len McCluskey win by a significant margin with 42% of the vote, but Jerry Hicks, the other Left candidate, came second with 22%, a total of 64% for the Left.  The elections for Unite’s executive council for 2011-14 are about to start — the timetable can be downloaded here. The question is whether the Left’s success in the election for General Secretary will perpetuate divisions on the Left which will prevent it maintaining this record in the executive elections.

We consistently supported Len McCluskey during the recent contest because we believed he was the right candidate with the right policies and in the best position to win the contest. However, we recognise that Jerry Hicks also represents a significant strand of opinion on the Left (judging not least by this election result). Jerry Hicks stood following an acrimonious argument at a United Left meeting in Manchester in September 2009 — inevitably any account of that argument is partial and we wouldn’t necessarily endorse them but several are available including this one at Socialist Unity.

Undoubtedly there are some on both sides who would rather not be forced into the same room as the other; such is the nature of the Left. Both sides having done so well could lead them to be more willing to go their separate ways. We wouldn’t presume to lecture either side about the issues at stake. We shall point out, however, that the consequence of continued division would be that in some regions and some sectors, some executive council places would be won by the Right that would otherwise have been won by the Left. Their members and perhaps the union as a whole will suffer the consequences.

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