Matt Wrack, a militant activist from the London region, has been elected as the Fire Brigades Union’s (FBU) new Assistant General Secretary, and will soon challenge Andy Gilchrist for General Secretary position.
Wrack received 6,260 votes, John McGhee (the leadership’s favourite) won 5,527, and “middle ground” candidate Dean Mills got 1,981 votes.
While many members of the union remain disheartened and demoralised (the turnout, at around 25%, was low for an FBU national election), there is a developing movement for radical change within the FBU. Wrack’s victory follows that of rank-and-file activist Paul Woolstenholmes last year in an election for FBU National Officer.
The Gilchrist leadership is expected to react to Wrack’s victory with a further attempt at a witch-hunt against grassroots activists. However, previous attempts at witch-hunts have mostly failed, with the exception of a successful attempt to block Steve Godward from standing in a recent election to a position on the Executive Committee from the union’s region 7.
Wrack has already been nominated by a number of Brigades for the General Secretary’s position, the election for which is in April. The existing leadership group have already issued several documents which attempt to smear Matt Wrack, or undermine his campaign for the General Secretary position — a highly unusual situation, given that he is the newly-elected AGS of the union, and the FBU has exceptionally strict rules preventing “canvassing” during internal union elections.
Although holding Gilchrist to account will be a key part of his campaign, Wrack must also have a positive strategy on issues such as the threat to pension rights — the union has still to agree to a strike ballot on this issue. He must show that a Wrack-led FBU would be democratic and accountable to rank and file firefighters. FBU activists should help him do just that.