Defeat for UCU Left in vice-presidential ballot

The increasingly influential University and College Union Left group has lost out in elections that lead to the union’s presidency in 2013.

March 8, 2011

Simon Renton, a UCU national negotiator and the Independent Broad Left candidate, won 61 per cent of votes cast in the election for vice-president higher education.

The only other candidate was Jim Wolfreys, the King’s College London branch president and UCU Left candidate.

The result means Mr Renton, a history lecturer and computer technician at University College London, will be the union’s president in 2013-14. The post alternates between higher and further education.

The UCU Left is likely to stand a candidate against the union’s general secretary, Sally Hunt, in elections later this year, according to both supporters and opponents of the group.

Divisions within the UCU have widened in recent months. The UCU Left successfully pressed for the union to give official support to January’s protest by student left groups against fee rises and funding cuts, and it criticised the union’s leadership for failing to mobilise behind the march that took place in December.

The angry response from the Left’s opponents included a “Reclaim the Union” email circulated to branches by three members of the union’s national executive committee.

The email attacked “the sectarian behaviour of the Socialist Workers Party, which dominates and controls...UCU Left”, saying the groups “are seeking to take over our union”.

The UCU Left says on its website that “a public schism is not what the UCU needs at a time when we are entering a period of national action in defence of jobs and pensions”, describing the email as “redolent of the worst anti-communist ‘witch hunts’ of the Cold War”.

Although the result of the ballot for the next vice-president went against the UCU Left, all four of the higher education candidates it stood in elections to the national executive committee were successful.

In the vice-presidential ballot Mr Renton won 8,533 votes and Dr Wolfreys 5,409. There were 649 spoiled papers.

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