Left Unity this year extended their majority on the GEC, finally taking the President and Treasurer positions which have eluded them for a while. But while this may not be a particular surprise, it is at the same time no endorsement of the GEC’s conduct over the past year and comes in the context of declining turnout.
This year, there were 44 candidates for the GEC compared to 35 last year. Yet the turnout in the ballot dropped from 16% to 13%.
Lorna Merry got 267 less votes this year and ended up as President. Margi Rathbone got 1,071 less votes and still retains the Deputy Group Secretary position. Hamish Drummond was the top polling Assistant Group Secretary this year with 3,088 which would not have got an AGS position in 2013 despite there being one more position available. This year’s top polling ordinary GEC candidate got 2,805 votes, whilst last year’s got 4,018 and last year’s bottom polling elected candidate would have topped the list this year.
There are several factors to this. The increased number of branches opting for postal instead of workplace ballots is one which is the subject of a motion to Conference. But we can’t ignore the reality of increasing disengagement by members who have in the past year seen a full frontal assault by management and very little by way of resistance from PCS. The conditions that on the one hand inspired the formation of Your Voice on the other hand have led more members to wonder if anything will ever change, except for the worse.
Your Voice did have a strong showing in the elections, with Graham Allport re-elected to the GEC and other candidates coming close. This, despite the fact that Left Unity put their electoral machine into full gear for this election and that we as a last minute, ad hoc challenge had nowhere near the numbers and resources to compete, gives a glimpse of how much better we would fare with the same level of organisation. How we get there is something that we now need to debate.
But, as we have said from the very beginning, elections are not the be-all and end-all of Your Voice. We are not a political faction whose only aim is to get a list of names elected to the executive, but a rank-and-file group who recognise that a lot more needs to change than just which bums are in the seats.
We now have a live ballot for industrial action over Jobs & Staffing. How we take that forward and fight to win will be up for debate at Conference and it is vital that we get this right. But there is also a culture change that needs enacting – if we want the best chance of winning, we need activity dictated by mass workplace meetings and coordinated by recallable strike committees. We need to give members the confidence not to follow our lead, but to take the lead and drive the fightback forward from the ground.
That is the task we set ourselves not only over the coming year, but for the forseeable future. We came together because we believed that things needed to change, and the fight for that change has barely begun.
Congratulations, in the meantime, not only to Graham but to all elected to the GEC. Last year, it was often claimed that right wing domination of the top table was a significant reason that so little was done. That excuse is gone now, so we hope the inertia goes with it. Either way, we will be watching.
This year’s election results for the GEC can be found here.