The election for PCS Assistant General Secretary (AGS) was a close run contest that produced an unexpected result. John Moloney, the candidate of the Independent Left group, was elected to the position with 6,211 votes, as against Chris Baugh on 5,796 and Lynn Henderson on 5,588 votes.
John put himself forward as the ‘rank-and-file’ candidate, in contrast to the other candidates who were full-time officials. Unlike the others, he pledged, if he won, to accept only the wage of an EO civil service grade, rather than the £90,000 salary on offer. In other words, he has indicated that he is for workers’ representatives to be on a worker’s wage.
On this basis, John was able to maintain the support he had built up in previous elections and go on to win the position this year.
The incumbent, Chris Baugh, was beaten into second place, on a much reduced vote compared to the past. This is despite the fact that Chris was chosen as the candidate of Left Unity (LU), after Janice Godrich was forced to withdraw.
Chris, who was AGS over a 15-year stretch, failed to win this time round as a result of the controversy surrounding his candidature. This contention led to a deep split within the broad left of PCS, namely Left Unity.
Chris was first challenged by Janice Godrich, President of PCS, in May of last year following the breakdown in relations between Chris and Mark Serwotka, the union’s general secretary. Chris is a member of the Socialist Party (SP), which has adopted a sectarian approach on a number of questions. It was this that underpinned the recent conflict.
In November, Janice defeated Chris Baugh for the Left Unity nomination but unfortunately was forced to withdraw due to ill-health.
Although defeated, and with a large layer of the left against him, Chris again sought the LU nomination on a ballot re-run. He was then challenged by Stella Denis, who, despite a short last-minute campaign, only failed to win the nomination by 19 votes. Once again, this showed considerable opposition to Chris standing and demonstrated he was no ‘unity’ candidate.
Chris Baugh had alienated many lefts within the union by his stand on the issue of pay. He consistently opposed PCS, NEC and LU policy on the national pay campaign and called for a disaggregated ballot, including the addition of a series of demands grafted onto the central claim for a return to national pay bargaining.
This reflected a very conservative approach to industrial questions, which threatened the national ballot. This was seen as unforgivable from a leading representative of the union.
Such was the discontent towards Chris’ nomination that the National Secretary of LU was forced to explain that:
“Since the election…a number of individual comrades and political tendencies [have said] they are not willing to support Chris as AGS given his different position on pay and among other things.”
The SP have also taken a very sectarian attitude towards the Corbyn-led Labour Party, reflected in their campaigns to prevent the FBU and RMT from affiliating to the party. They have done this for their own narrow interests, in an attempt to keep the declining fortunes of TUSC [the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition] alive. Chris, it must be said, faithfully carried out the ‘party line’.
While Chris Baugh and John Moloney were widely known inside the union, having stood in many national elections, Lynn Henderson was a relative newcomer. It was the first time she had ever stood for such a position.
Despite not being the candidate of Left Unity, she was supported on the left and gained a very respectable vote, a mere 200 votes behind Baugh. Given the three-way split, the result was always going to be tight.
Prepare for battles ahead
The defeat for Chris Baugh will come as a shattering blow to the SP and its supporters. Their sectarianism has led them into this blind alley. As a result, quite a number of SP members have left the party or dropped out.
In the past, the SP activists had played an important role in defeating the right. But increasingly they have put their own prestige above the general interests of the movement. However much they put a gloss on things, they will not recover from this debacle.
They seemed lost for words as what to say about Baugh’s defeat. Despite the election result being declared, it took them a full six days to offer up an explanation on their website. Their conclusion was truly breathtaking:
“Seen in this light, the combined vote for Chris Baugh and John Moloney clearly represents a massive rejection of Serwotka and his supporters,” stated their article.
Only the SP could see things “in this light”. These people are living in a dream world. It was the antics and methods of the SP that led to Chris Baugh’s defeat and nothing more. It reflects the deadend of prestige politics.
While we have many political disagreements with John Moloney, a member of Workers’ Liberty, he is nevertheless on the left and shares our belief that a Corbyn Labour government would advance the interests of PCS members.
The election result has hopefully put an end to the turmoil and disunity of the last 12 months. The key task now is to look to the future and prepare the union for the battles that lie ahead.
Left Unity slate sweeps the board in PCS elections
Once again, despite a few casualties, the Left Unity slate largely swept the board in the recent elections for the PCS NEC, the union’s governing body.
In addition, Fran Heathcote was elected union president by members, following in the footsteps of Janice Godrich, who was forced to retire because of ill-health.
Also elected as vice presidents were Jackie Green (MOJ Bradford), Zita Holbourne (BIS London North) and Kevin McHugh (HMRC Benton Park View). Elected for the first time as a vice president was Martin Cavanagh from DWP Wirral.
The turnout was 10.2%, up on last year’s figure of 7.5%.
With a new Assistant General Secretary, the PCS, under its left leadership faces many challenges, not least how to take forward the historic vote on pay.