The left in UNISON has missed an opportunity to follow the lead of other unions like Amicus and the TGWU when the Service Group Executive Committees are elected next month.
The Service Group Executives are the "industrial" leaderships of the union. Although they lack the profile of the NEC, they have decision-making powers on issues of pay and conditions and negotiations, thus making them just as important as the NEC. Yet the left, traditionally, hasn't contested them. After a better showing two years ago, this seems to be the case again in 2004.
Two thirds of all the seats up for election will be filled without a contest - mostly by the same people who are in post now.
Even in local government and health, the two largest and liveliest Service Groups, the situation is bleak, with few contests, and several seats failing even to attract one candidate. Most of the contests in the Health group will feature members of the left minority of the SGE defending their positions, so the scope for making gains is very, very small.
One slight ray of light from local government, where Anne MacMillan-Wood will return to the SGE for the East Midlands low-paid seat.
The elections take place from the end of March, with results out on 24 May.