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Arguments for socialism :: Democracy
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Like Newham's mayor Sir Robin Wales, Leicester has its very own Blairite mayor - Sir Peter Soulsby. And like Newham council, Leicester is dominated by the Labour Party - with 52 out of 54 councillors.
Since becoming Leicester's mayor in 2011, Soulsby has been busy cutting services and attacking the pay and conditions of workers. This is why last year, Unison city branch submitted a no-cuts budget proposal which called on the council to use their plentiful reserves to prevent making cuts for the next three years. This proposal was backed by all other unions, but rejected by Soulsby and his Labour regime.
But times are changing, and in recent months a group of frustrated Labour councillors and anti-austerity Labour members have campaigned for an open selection process in a 'trigger ballot' to decide who Labour's next mayoral candidate will be.
On 6 March the ballot results were announced, and a majority of the city's Labour branches voted for an open process (eleven to nine). But another 41 affiliate organisations still had a say. This then led to an unexpected victory for the mayor, with a total of 38 branches and affiliates opposing an open selection process.
Block votes cast by CWU, Usdaw, GMB and Unison all opposed an open selection process, with only Unite bucking this trend by casting its nine votes in favour of a democratic process.
In the case of Unison, its eleven-strong block vote was decisive and controversial. This is because Unison's Labour Link regional committee, which made the final decision, backed the mayor despite guidance from the city branch that favoured an open selection process.
Former Labour council leader Ross Willmott, who campaigned for an open process, vowed to challenge the result along with the support of many other disgruntled trade unionists and Labour members.
This, of course, is why fighting for transparency and democracy at all levels of the Labour Party must always be accompanied by efforts to reclaim our trade union from Blairite bureaucrats.
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Article dated 14 March 2018
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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