Home > Updates > Paddy Lillis Becomes General Secretary Unopposed – Lack of Election Highlights Democratic Deficit in Usdaw

Paddy Lillis Becomes General Secretary Unopposed – Lack of Election Highlights Democratic Deficit in Usdaw

Most active members of Usdaw will be unsurprised to see the announcement that Paddy Lillis will be Usdaw’s next General Secretary. With the high nominations threshold of 25, raised after a grassroots challenger, the late Socialist Party member Robbie Segal, won 40% of the vote in the last election in 2008, it was unlikely anyone would be able to challenge Lillis who is the current Deputy General Secretary of the union.

This election also highlights a democratic deficit in the union – as ordinary members have been denied a debate around the policies put forward by the person in the most powerful position in Usdaw since 2008. Not only that, but as Lillis was elected by a branch vote for his current position of Deputy General Secretary this means he has never faced a national vote by the full membership.

High nomination thresholds are a tool of the right wing to subvert members democratic rights – the right in Usdaw opposed the recent rule changed moved by an Activist supporter at this year’s ADM, which attracted the support of around 20% of delegates, because it would have opened up the possibility of a contested election instead of a coronation, just like the Blairite MPs tried to keep Jeremy Corbyn off the ballot paper via such a threshold in the 2016 Labour leadership election and John McDonnell had been kept off in 2008.

The Activist believes that future ADM should reduce the nominations threshold for General Secretary down to five which would allow Usdaw members to debate the direction they want the leading figures of the union to take us in.

Many members will be glad to see the impending retirement of John Hannett, whose leadership was closely linked with support for the Blairite wing of the Labour Party against those around Jeremy Corbyn including speaking on the platforms of right-wing Labour organisations such as Progress and Labour Friends of Israel. Industrially, members have seen pay decline in real terms, increasingly insecure hours of work and terms and conditions surrendered without a real fight.

It is welcome that at speeches at Usdaw divisional conferences and other meetings Paddy Lillis has been much more positive towards Jeremy Corbyn and the radical policies that were in the most recent Labour election manifesto – many of which have been passed as policy at Usdaw ADMs in the recent period. However, Lillis was also chair of the Labour NEC during the 2016 leadership election that went to court to deny many Labour Party members a vote in that election. Therefore many Usdaw members will be waiting to see how much he distances himself from Hannett’s legacy once this election period is over.

The best way to advance the union in a new direction is to elect a fighting EC in the coming elections to work alongside Paddy Lillis. There are a number of Broad Left candidates standing in the election for EC seats around the country, as well as Broad Left supporter Amy Murphy standing for President. In 2015 with 10 nominations, Amy won 45% of the vote, but with several times that many nominations for the forthcoming elections, many Usdaw members will be working for a victory for Amy and the defeat of the right-wing candidate Barbara Wilson.

Ahead of even an announcement of the election of a new Deputy General Secretary a number of candidates have put their name forward – the Activist will comment further as the various candidates and their policies emerge.

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