Tuesday, 31 August 2010

People in Glass Houses

Dave Prentis has been elected to a third term as Unison's general secretary - apparently.

The good news was reported recently in the press - with little fanfare and sparse details about the ballot result.

Even a vist to the Unison web site throws little light on the subject - beyond the number of votes cast for each candidate - which are reported as follows:

1 Dave Prentis 145,351 (67.2%)

2 Roger Bannister 42,651 (19.7%)

3 Paul Holmes 28,114 (13%)

What's not available is information about the national turnout - or a breakdown of how votes were cast region by region, for example.

Elsewhere on the Unison web site - the union proudly boasts to have in excess of 1.3 million members - how much in excess is not explained.

So, what does this mean in terms of turnout for the general secretary's election?

Well, 1.3 million divided by 216,116 (the total number of votes cast for all 3 candidates) - equals a turnout of 16.6% of the entire union membership - at the very best (since using 1.3 million instead of 'in excess of 1.3 million' inflates the percentage share).

Taking the votes cast for Dave Prentis on his own - 1.3 million divided by 145,351 - equates to the support of just 11.2% of Unison members - again at the very best.

The trade unions are secretive and sensitive about these issues - for obvious reasons.

What they have to face up to is that a very low turnout in a union election - means just the same as it would in any other election - a poor and questionable mandate for the winner.

So, as the trade unions' self-declared 'war' over public spending hots up - no doubt some will challenge the mandate of the coalition government to carry out its programme.

But before they start throwing stones at other people - Dave and his chums should check on their surroundings.