Senior union leaders yesterday indicated their support for a system of electing the leader for five years instead of until retirement. Behind-the-scenes criticism of Mr Willis's leadership is re-emerging on the eve of this week's TUC meeting in Blackpool, although he confirmed last week that he would retire early. He could leave at any time in the next five years and he will come under pressure this week to 'name the day'.
The idea of a five-year term of office emerged yesterday in an article by Gavin Laird, general secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union. He believes the next TUC leader 'would certainly have more authority than he does today' if elected for a specific term.
Under the present system, unions use block votes at congress to choose the TUC general secretary. In reality, the leader is appointed on the principle of 'Buggins's turn', with the next general secretary likely to be John Monks, Mr Willis's deputy.
Mr Laird said: 'There is no justification for the general secretary of the TUC to be exempt from periodic accountability.'