THE defeat by Mr. W. J. Carron, a Catholic, of Mr. Reg. Birch in the fight for the presidency of the 950,000 strong Amalgamated Engineering Union has administered a rebuff—though not an unexpected one—to the Communists.
But it does not mean that their hopes of capturing the leadership of Britain's second largest union are ended. When Mr. Carron takes over the presidency from Mr. Openshaw in September the fight to keep the union out of Communists hands will be in full swing.
Standing for the general secretaryship, which was made vacant by the death of Mr. Ben Gardner, is Mr. Joe Scott, who is probably the most popular, forceful and efficient Communist among those prominent in the union.
He has for years been a fulltime official of the onion, and his name is known to all—a considerable asset at election times when members are confronted with a list of names most of which are unknown to them.
Scott is •what might be described as the polished Cockney. He is
consciously the well dressed urbane representative of the aristocrats of labour but with enough of a Cockney accent and Cockney humour to make it plain that he has not climbed up to and been "corrupted" by the middle class. He is both a vigorous fighter with a long record of "militancy" and an astute negotiator. In other words he is what a very active and vocal section of the engineers like their leaders to be. He is therefore a man 'to watch and non-Communists will have to break with their tradition of apathy if he is to be defeated.
SPECULATION .Scott is a far more formidable man than -Birch and a strong opponent is required to heat him. With Mr. Carron's election to the presidency, the most obvious opponent is out of the running.
One might speculate that had the secretaryship become vacant before the nominations for the presidential elections opened, Mr. Carron might have run for this position instead.
Scott's two opponents—the nonCommunist vote is as usual split —will be Mr. Cecil Hallett and Mr. John Boyd.
Mr. Hallett is one of the union's two assistant general secretaries and has earned the reputation for being an efficient first lieutenant.
Mr. Boyd is the stronger candidate of the two. He is well known as a vigorous anti-Communist and has the backing of the whole of the highly imnortant Glasgow I area. He is a Nonconformist who does not hide his Christianity under a bushel.
VACANCY Mr. Carron's election as president has created a vacancy on the executive council, on which he represented the Fast Midlands area. This is one of the Communists' two strongest areas—in particular they dominate the important Sheffield district—and they therefore place high hopes of success on Mr. H. Ullyatt, who is a Communist.
Mr. Uilvati narrowly heat Mr, P. R. Hanky. the strongest of the anti-Communists now running against him, in a recent fight in his own Sheffield branch.
If the non-Communists in the area rally around Mr. Hanley in the way in which the Communists will work for Mr. Ullyatt, the defeat of the Communist is assured.
But unless this is done the COMmunists may gain one of the extra seats on the Executive Council they are seeking to capture. Mr. Scott's decision to run for the general secretaryship makes vacant his place on the national executive. He represents the London division—the Communists strongest area— which the nonCommunists have in the past almost written off as hopeless.
The Communists' candidate will be Mr. Claude Berridge, second only to Joe Scott among the Communists in popularity in the workshops.
Mr. Berridge is one of the Communists most seasoned and experienced members and has been a party national executive member. A tough fight will be needed if the Communists hold on the London division is to be broken.
Mr. Carron is, therefore, taking over the presidency at a decisive moment in the life of his onion. He will need all the quiet diplomacy and good humour for which he is well known.
Whatever the outcome of the present struggle for power in the A.E.U., his position will be strengthened by the fact that he is no purely negative anti-Commun ist. He is the union's authority on automation, a positive, constructive and up-to-date thinker who will have a greet contribution to make in the years of difficulty and change which he ahead of Britain's key industry. 0.11.