Challenge to new Aslef leader

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THE SHOCK victory of the hard left in the election for the leadership of the train drivers' union is expected to be challenged in the courts, The Independent understands.

Senior officials at ASLEF are considering legal action against Dave Rix, a senior activist in Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour party, who defeated incumbent Lew Adams in the poll for general secretary.

One allegation which may be levelled by the present ASLEF leadership is that members of the SLP at the RMT, the rail industry's biggest union, interfered in the election process.

It was announced last week that Mr Rix had won by 4,558 votes to 3,357 for Mr Adams. The unexpected defeat of the present general secretary was expected to usher in a new era of industrial militancy because of the victor's membership of the hard-left party, a Marxist organisation which believes in industrial confrontation rather than negotiation.

The union's executive yesterday "noted" the election result and instructed Tony West, ASLEF deputy general secretary, to investigate the legality of the poll process.

Another allegation levelled at Mr Rix is that he took two to three months' sick leave from his job as a driver with Regional Railways North East and used it to campaign throughout Britain. The union's constitution attempts to ensure there is a level playing field between candidates, with strict rules about resources used in campaigns.

The SLP's success at ASLEF is seen as a major blow to leaders of other unions which are attempting to foster an image of moderation.

The present leadership of the union will face a considerable battle against Mr Rix, considered to be an expert on ASLEF's constitution.