Back Bev Laidlaw for PCS General Secretary!

Submitted by Matthew on 25 September, 2019 - 8:30

The election for general secretary of the civil service union PCS is now well into the branch nomination phase.

Nominations close on 14 October. Voting will run from 7 November to 12 December.

There are three known candidates: Mark Serwotka, the existing General Secretary; Marion Lloyd, the candidate of the Socialist Party (SP), a current PCS NEC [National Executive] member Marion Lloyd; and Bev Laidlaw, candidate of the Independent Left (IL), and also a current NEC member.

Bev Laidlaw has been a consistent opponent of the bombastic and failed PCS leadership. She has been elected to the NEC against the opposition of the existing Left Unity (LU) leadership, including Marion Lloyd. She is standing on a manifesto for transforming PCS and is committed, if elected, to returning much of the hyperinflated PCS General Secretary salary and to taking a wage in line with her current low grade salary and the benefits she receives to supplement her income.

In contrast, Serwotka and Lloyd were component parts of the same watertight PCS leadership for some fifteen years before the dramatic split in the dominant PCS LU group in May 2018.

Their current differences — as reflected in the actual policies they have supported and voted for within PCS — are not especially substantial, are certainly containable within LU, and are in large part invented or exaggerated to give some political dignity to their fallout.

Serwotka and Lloyd both offer more of the same leadership with this difference: Serwotka has kicked away the political double act he happily formed with the SP for many years, during which time it would have been nigh on impossible to get a policy feather between them. Now he wishes to reduce them to a minor nuisance (to himself) within PCS. However he views his many years of shared leadership with the SP in glowing terms.

Marion Lloyd wishes to return the SP to its former centrality within the PCS leadership and kick away Serwotka and his allies in the process. But she similarly sees their shared past history as a glorious one.

She does not wish to fundamentally change the culture of the PCS leadership, to frankly review the history of the Serwotka/SP joint leadership (seemingly no errors to spot), to review the salary structure of PCS to bring it closer into line with that of the great majority of members, or to fight for the election of all full time officers.

Serwotka’s candidature is supported by LU but he clearly intended to stand irrespective of LU.

In the Assistant General Secretary election earlier this year, won by rank and file activist John Moloney standing for a radical transformation of PCS and committed to only taking a worker’s wage, Serwotka was very keen that members should elect a woman to such a senior PCS position (a woman who was committed to taking the exceptionally large AGS salary). Serwotka’s keenness, however, does not extend to the position of General Secretary or for a woman candidate – Bev Laidlaw — refusing to accept anything like the £94,000 pa salary that he enjoys.

Lloyd has stated “If I win, I will not take the full general secretary wage. I pledge to remain on my current civil service salary and not materially gain if elected.” This differentiates her from Serwotka but has nothing to do with the long standing radical socialist and Marxist position on full time officers not separating themselves out from the working class with incomes the rest of us can only dream of. The SP itself demands that full-time union officials should “receive no more than a worker's wage” but Lloyd occupies a senior manager grade, receives the senior management salary that goes with that grade, and implicitly argues that is a workers’ wage.

She and the SP should argue the point explicitly.

For her part, Bev Laidlaw is standing explicitly on a commitment to only taking a worker's wage and returning the great bulk of the obscene salary paid to the PCS General Secretary – more than is earned by over 99% of the entire civil service.

Serwotka’s allies in the PCS Socialist View (SV), founded as a website in support of their campaign to oust former Assistant General Secretary and SP member Chris Baugh, acknowledge the SP’s “historically proud record” within PCS.

This seemingly generous comment is self serving. Leading members in the SV had been SP members within PCS for decades until their break in 2018 and none of their non-SP allies had ever publicly expressed concern about the role of the SP. They can now all safely note that the SP has abandoned its “proud role” in pursuit of its own sectarian aims, “jeopardising all the gains made during Mark Serwotka’s leadership.”

The cult of Mark Serwotka is summed up in the SV statement: the coyly unstated “gains” were achieved under his leadership — makes one wonder why we need to elect an NEC — but the SV message is clear: dump the SP and re-elect our “outstanding” General Secretary.

The same risible approach can be found in the Marion Lloyd/SP campaign, and she most definitely is the candidate of the SP: the website of the Broad Left Network, which they founded within LU to give themselves greater factional leverage, is silent on her candidature.

When we dig beneath the sophistry of the SP, the essential message is, all was great in PCS until... relatively recently! On 15 May 2018, in The Socialist, Lloyd described LU’s success in that year’s NEC elections as “…a vote of confidence in Left Unity based on its record and on what it offers taking the union forward.”

The SP could only see left wing merit where they now see bureaucratic drift and a retreat from a fighting union.

We have bland manifestos from Serwotka and Lloyd because they are in reality offering members more of the same misleadership that has dominated PCS for far too long.

People who want real change should nominate and campaign for Bev Laidlaw.

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