After months of heated debate and discussion over the choice of left candidate for the post of PCS assistant general secretary (AGS), the Left Unity / Broad Left conference on Saturday 1 December in Manchester endorsed Janice Godrich, the Socialist View candidate, by an overwhelming majority.
Following an intense and bitter campaign, Janice defeated the incumbent, Chris Baugh, who was supported by the Socialist Party (SP).
In addition, the Socialist View comrades swept the board for the other key union nominations. For the position of PCS national president, Fran Heathcote (currently the vice president) defeated Marion Lloyd, a Socialist Party member. The other nominations for the vice president positions, as well as the contested National Executive Committee places, were also won with big majorities by Socialist View supporters.
Rather than accept the verdict graciously, Socialist Party supporters desperately tried to block the result at the Manchester conference. In a sometimes heated two-and-a-half hour debate, they demanded that all votes be included in the count, whether they had been received or not! The fault, they declared, was not theirs but privatised Royal Mail.
This was despite the fact that the scruitineers had made it clear that even if all the disputed votes had been included it would not have made any difference to the result.
This feeble attempt to get the results overturned was clearly in vain.
On other issues, the Socialist Party’s proposed strategy on pay - involving a special pay conference and disaggregated ballots linked to other employer-based issues, and argued for by Chris Baugh and his supporters - was roundly defeated. This conservative approach was regarded as pessimistic and defeatist by those attending the conference.
Instead, delegates endorsed the need for a national pay campaign linked to improving the union’s organisation in every workplace. This will be a key element in allowing the union to win a future strike ballot over pay.
In the end, delegates at the Left Unity conference voted by 41 votes to 19 - a 2-to-1 majority - to ratify the scrutineer’s election report as amended. This margin clearly shows the strength of support for the Socialist View candidates, who will now form the basis for the Left Unity slate in the forthcoming PCS elections.
Sadly, soon after the conference, it was announced that Janice Godrich, having been elected as Left Unity’s AGS candidate, was no longer well enough to continue. We would like to send our very best wishes to Janice and wish her a speedy recovery.
Left Unity will now need to consider what to do next. As Janice is not able to continue, hopefully another candidate can be found who can best fill her shoes.
As Fran Heathcote explained: “This matter will be dealt with as a priority by the incoming Left Unity National Committee in order that Left Unity can move forward with the maximum unity.” We will have to wait and see what happens.
The result was nevertheless a shattering blow for the Socialist Party, which had dominated the left of PCS for a long time. Their defeat was compounded by the removal of SP members from leading positions within Left Unity.
However, it must be said that the SP's narrow sectarianism was ultimately responsible for its own humiliating defeat. Their increasing isolation in the left has been due to their false methods, sectarian politics and mistaken perspectives.
With such methods, they are destined to vegetate on the fringes of the labour movement. History is littered with the wreckage of many such ultra-left groups - and the SP will be no exception.
The Left Unity conference marks a turning point. The left within PCS is in the process of renovating itself. Left Unity must now be armed with a clear socialist programme. On this basis it can play a key role in the events that lie ahead.