The other day I received a canvassing email from Sally Hunt, one of the contenders fighting to be the first elected general secretary of the University and Colleges Union.
Her email pledges her to do this and that; you know the usual stuff we’ve come to expect from an electoral communication. But there were a couple of things toward the end that leapt out at me.
Writing on the academic boycott of Israel she makes the reasonable point that it should be put to the membership. Given the slim majority the boycott motion won on the old Association of University Teachers Council (which was later overturned) and the support for a conditional boycott passed at the last National Association For Teachers in Further and Higher Education conference in the summer it makes no sense to oppose such a move. I do however suspect that Hunt’s agenda has little to do with raising the understanding of UCU membership via the medium of democratic debate.
Indeed one does get the sense this is the last thing on her mind. The final substantive paragraph reads “I believe that UCU should be a politically independent, industrially confident union and I am disappointed that political parties such as the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and others are seeking to influence this election. I think they should leave the decision to you - the members”.
Shiver me timbers! We can’t have political parties going round trying to influence things now can we? People getting together on the basis of shared ideas and then acting in concert to win people to those ideas is well, dangerously democratic! It’s purely coincidence of course that SP, SWP and others on the UCU left have been her most vociferous critics over her handling of the action we took earlier on in the year. Hence her dark hints at a witch-hunt, in the interests of the members of course.
Well Sally I hope your half-baked populism fails. I’ll be voting for Roger Kline, and I urge everyone in the UCU who wants a bottom up democratic fighting union to do the same.