Won’t supporting Ian Allinson “split the vote”?

Supporters of both McCluskey and Coyne are trying to prop up their candidate’s support by warning that a vote for Ian Allinson could “let in” the candidate they least want. This article argues that fear of Coyne – clearly the worst candidate on offer – does not justify a vote for McCluskey.

Unable to put forward positive reasons why McCluskey is a better candidate than Ian Allinson in this eleciton, his supporters are resorting to Project Fear – vote for McCluskey or you’ll get Coyne. This has some traction because Coyne is an almost pantomime villain candidate – promoted by union-buster Rupert Murdoch’s Sun and Labour right-wingers who spend more time attacking Corbyn than the Tories. But it isn’t an argument that should decide your vote.

  1. If McCluskey really saw the right as such a threat, surely he wouldn’t have forced this unneccessary election? One moment McCluskey’s supporters are crowing at how Coyne’s campaign is faltering and getting no traction, next minute they are bigging up the threat to take votes off Allinson.
  2. Coyne’s campaign has been almost entirely negative – about Unite in general and McCluskey in particular. The right wing press have assisted him in this, along with the right of the Labour party. The result is that lots of members will be opening their ballot papers to vote McCluskey out. Thank goodness they will see a candidate other than Coyne that allows them to do this. Allinson’s campaign will take votes off both other candidates, and people who would otherwise not have voted.
  3. If McCluskey was really worried about losing to the right because of an (entirely predictable) challenge from the left, why didn’t he ask the EC to approve Single Transferable Vote for the election, as many other unions do? This voting system allows members to put candidates in preference order, and completely removes the “splitting the vote” issue.
  4. Coyne’s negative campaign weakens the union, making it harder to recruit and retain members. Using fear to boost your campaign, as McCluskey’s supporters do, isn’t healthy either – unions thrive when members are confident and can freely debate issues.
  5. The “split the vote” argument has a pretty bad history. It was the argument used by McCluskey to justify supporting Burnham rather than Corbyn when Corbyn first stood. Worse still, it encouraged Democrats to back Clinton rather than Sanders – and end up with Trump.
  6. In this election Allinson has been able to undercut all Coyne’s arguments far more effectively than McCluskey. Coyne wants a younger leader – Allinson is the youngest candidate. Coyne claims to want to “clean up” Unite. Allinson is the only candidate who hasn’t been part of the Unite machine for decades, and the only candidate pledged to do the job for a workers’ wage not a six figure salary. Coyne says the Unite leaders should focus on workplace issues not Westminster politics. Allinson is a workplace activist who has called out Coyne’s hypocrisy on this question – Coyne spends his time plotting with his Blairite backers.
Picket with banner "Unite 4 Jobs"
Picket at Ian Allinson’s workplace, Fujitsu Manchester, 27.3.2017

The most fundamental reason why you should vote for Ian Allinson is the basic message of his campaign. More of the same simply isn’t good enough. Members are facing huge pressure on our jobs, pay and conditions, our public services and our rights. Just this week we’ve had the announcement of another year of pay cuts for NHS staff, with a 1% “pay rise” as inflation picks up. And though we have much to be proud of in Unite, it simply is not matching up to the task. Unite needs a shake up. Whatever the eventual result of the election, the bigger the vote for Ian Allinson, and the stronger the network of supporters built around Ian’s campaign, the better position members will be in to face up to the attacks from employers and government. And that’s what Unite is actually for.