Monday, February 28, 2022

Newham Voices: Local Politics 2022


The article above is from our local community newspaper "Newham Voices". I was interviewed as the elected Chair of Newham Councillors Labour Group, regarding local politics and the May 2022 council elections. However, my views on "first past the post" and electoral reform are clearly only mine.  Click on picture to bring up details. 

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Thaxted Circular Walk (and return to the Church of the "Red Vicar")


Gill and I returned today to Thaxted in Essex to follow this 6.5 mile  circular walk from our old version of the local Pathfinder Guide. We did this walk previously in 2014. 

Today was a lovely tramp through largely quiet countryside but had no great challenges.  There was however noise from planes passing over to land at Stanstead airport. 

The weather was lovely, with blue skies and sunshine but a cold wind. We hardly saw anyone during the walk. There were a number of my favourite ancient enclosed green lanes. Some paths were a little muddy but if it had been wet, you would need to wear wellies or gaiters. 

We saw wild deer, red kites birds of prey, squirrels, numerous other birds, lots of snow drops, daffodils and beautiful early tree blossom. Spring is definitely on its way. 

In 2014 I posted here on this walk that a past priest of the amazing Thaxted church, was known as the "Red Vicar", who use to fly the Red Flag banner of the Soviet Union and Shin Fenn, inside the church and then had to be protected by dismissed Police strikers from outraged locals. 

On the way back we stopped off at the 15th century timber framed Guild Hall and noticed a remembrance plaque to local men, who had died in the first and second world wars. Apart from noting that 55 killed during the first world war, compared with "only"10 in the second. You can see that liberty and freedom can some times come at a terrible price. 

Gill noticed that the names of a "John Gray" and a "Walter Gray" were recorded on the plaque as being killed in action during the first world war. It would appear from my internet searches that both of them were local young men who were killed in 1917 and may have been related but were not siblings. 

After a pleasant drink in the local "Swan Pub" we drove back to London, listening to the dreadful news updates on the vile and fascistic invasion of brave Ukraine by Russia and its foul dictator, Putin.  

Check out more photos

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Street Surgery in West Ham followed by coffee & Ukrainian cinnamon bun


This morning we went on a Street surgery in my ward with fellow councillors and local members. It was a lovely day, although a little cold but blue skies and sunshine. It really felt like spring is just around the corner. 

The surgery itself went well, residents were on the whole very pleased to see us.  We had a number of interesting conversations with passionate and informed residents about local services, council policies and wider politics. 

Including one resident who proudly said he had never voted in his life (in his 60s I guess) since "all politicians are the same and they are all corrupt". I begged to differ that we are not all the same and explained why. He was polite and listened but I am not sure it will change his mind, but it might. 

I picked up case work about replacement block keys, a damp problem in a kitchen and a landlord who appears to be not keeping to his licence conditions. There was also a young tree which was blocking the footway and was either blow down by storm Eunice or perhaps hit by a car. 

I rang one modern looking door bell and was asked by it to leave a voice message - which is a first. 

We came across a fascinating local history boundary plaque on a wall (middle left of collage) which I have meant to research further for many years. It seems to date from 1884 and despite being worn my understanding is that this area was once "owned" by St Mary's Church in Rotherhithe.  There is another movement nearby in Stratford. I will post in Newham History Facebook site to find out more. 

Afterwards some of us were able to go to the Sawmill cafe in Stratford for coffee and a delicious shared cinnamon bun. The family run cafe is run by young Ukrainians and we went to show out solidarity and support (the Ukrainian flag was proudly placed on their window). 

The staff were obviously very distressed and said they could not understand how these things could happen like this in Europe in 2022. Nor could I. 

Friday, February 25, 2022

UNISON "We stand in solidarity with our sister trade unions and all workers across Ukraine"

 "As we witness shocking reports today of more suffering in Ukraine, we think of the public service workers - the first responders to devastating scenes, doing all they can to save lives.
We stand in solidarity with our sister trade unions and all workers across Ukraine - Christina McAnea, general secretary of UNISON, UK’s largest trade union for public service workers" UNISON Facebook

Well said Christina. Who would have thought in 2022 we would have again in Europe, fascists invading independent democracies. 

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Solidarity to the People of Ukraine by Labour Leader, Keir Starmer, against Putin's gross lies and murderous aggression

Putin is killing innocent Ukraine civilians and soldiers from both sides to satisfy his ego and protect his fascistic regime.  He has shamed the reputation of Russia.

"Keir Starmer MP, Leader of the Labour Party, today gave a televised address in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He said:

In this dark hour, our thoughts, our solidarity, and our resolve are with the Ukrainian people.

They have been cast into a war, not through fault of their own. But because Putin knows that no people will choose to live under his bandit rule unless forced to at the barrel of a gun.

The consequences of Putin’s war will be horrendous and tragic for the Ukrainian people but also for the Russian people, who have been plunged into chaos by a violent elite who have stolen their wealth, stolen their chance of democracy, and stolen their future.

And we must prepare ourselves for difficulties here. We will see economic pain, as we free Europe from dependence on Russian gas, and clean our institutions from money stolen from the Russian people.

But the British public have always been willing to make sacrifice to defend democracy on our continent. And we will again.

Russia’s democratic neighbours and every other democracy that lives in the shadow of autocratic power are watching their worst nightmare unfold.

All those who believe in democracy over dictatorship, the rule of law over the reign of terror, in freedom over the jackboot of tyranny, must unite and take a stand and ensure Putin fails.

We must make a clean break with the failed approach to handling Putin, which after Georgia, Crimea and Donbas fed his belief that the benefits of aggression outweigh the cost. We must finally show him he is wrong.

That means doing all we can to help Ukraine defend herself -urgently reinforcing and reassuring our NATO allies in Eastern Europe, and the hardest possible sanctions must be taken against the Putin regime. It must be isolated. Its finances frozen. It’s ability to function crippled.

And there are changes we must make here in the UK. For too long our country has been a safe-haven for the money that Putin and his fellow bandits stole from the Russian people. It must end now.

And this must be a turning point in our history, we must look back and say what this terrible day was actually when Putin doomed himself to defeat.

He seeks division, so we must stay united. He hopes for inaction, so we must take a stand. He believes that we are too corrupted to do the right thing, so we must prove him wrong.

I believe we can. But only if we stand together.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

UNISON Greater London Region Labour Link Elections recommendations 2022


It is election time for London Regional Labour Link. Please consider voting for this slate. Obviously a lot of compromises and horse bargaining has gone on and there are good candidates missing from some or all positions in my strictly personal set of recommendations. 

Ballot papers have been sent out to all London UNISON Labour Link branch officers or Branch Secretaries if the Labour link post is vacant. Please return ballot paper to Cally Thompson by email to by no later than 12 noon on Thursday 3 March 2022. If you will have problems submitting your ballots by scanned email, please contact Cally as soon as possible.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

in-UNISON - A wake up call on our SGE elections: Gordon McKay

(This is a really important post by a current UNISON NEC member, our former President and front line NHS hospital worker. Please share)

"The way in which UNISON moves forward as the largest trade union in the UK will take a significant, but not completely final, stride in the next few months as members decide who they are going to put in charge of their Service Groups, the industry wide bodies who set UNISON policy on pay, terms and conditions, and all matters relating to members interests in that industry.

For the first time since the formation of UNISON in 1993 power last year transferred to a group known as Time for Real Change. This group is made up various hard left groups such as the Socialist Workers Party, and some on the extreme of the Labour Party, including some recently expelled from Labour.

The Socialist Workers Party, one of the central groupings of Time for Real Change describe themselves as seeking ‘revolutionary change’ in Britain and admit they organise through strikes. In the last UK Parliamentary General Election they stood in, across the country they attracted a total share of the vote of 0.1%. 

With that level of appeal to ordinary working people one wonders how they have come to take control of UNISON with 1.3 million members working in public services. 

The answer lies in the lack of member participation and in the inability of those who would wish to challenge them to motivate members to take an active interest in their union and to vote in elections. 

Where the core views of UNISON members lie was shown in 2021 when Christina McAnea was elected as UNISONs first ever female General Secretary beating the Time for Real Change candidate by over 18,000 votes. 

Such engagement however does not transfer to other UNISON elections, and seats can be won on UNISON’s National Executive and its Service Groups on turnouts of 2 to 3%, which means elections are currently determined by the highly politically motivated, particularly those whose interests lie in areas wider than representing members. 

It was this level of turnout which saw Time for Real Change win UNISONs National Executive elections.

In the forthcoming Service Group elections, held in April and May, UNISON members need to make a choice. 

It is whether to leave their ballot papers uncompleted and have no say in how the trade union they pay into every payday organises on their behalf and leave decisions to the unrepresentative few, or to engage with their trade union and ensure their unions voice is one they have helped construct. 

The responsibility to get members engaged however lies not just with the members themselves but lies equally, if not more so, with those who believe they reflect the views of UNISON members across the UK. 

There are less than three months until UNISON members start to receive ballot papers in the post or by email. 

Members will decide whether they want their union to organise to speak up for them and public services, to campaign for and win better pay, and to achieve safer working environments, or whether they want their union to be engaged in permanent revolution and to be used as weapons in political struggles.

UNISON members have shown they make people’s lives better. It is now for those who believe they are the representative voice of those public service workers to step up to the plate and make the case why those workers should vote for them. 

If they do, there are successes for every public service worker to be gained, If they let those members down the responsibility is ours. 

Elections are not won in the weeks of voting, particularly as if most people don’t vote in the first five days after receiving their ballot papers they won’t vote at all. They are won by candidates telling members now they are standing, by telling them now what their platform is, why it is important to vote, and why it is important for each and every member that those leading their union reflect their views. 

Candidates need to be getting out their message now, by every route they can and encouraging others to assist in spreading that message. The alternative is to sit for the next ten years telling each other how unfair it all is. 

UNISON members deserve better than that. 

Christina McAnea enthused UNISON members by the fact she reflected what mattered to them and was their voice, it is now for others to do the same".

Monday, February 21, 2022



by Carole Jones

The trend for more interviews via Zoom or Facetime, etc. continues to grow, and it is essential that UNISON’s voice is heard. Many of us will have become familiar with online meetings, but for media interviews it really is a different technique, and a matter of giving yourself the chance to get your points across effectively, and looking and sounding your best.

Here’s our ten top tips for appearing in media video interviews.

1. If approached to give an interview, contact the UNISON Press Office, and let them have the following information about the interview:

- the time and date of the proposed interview

- the name of the programme and the news organisation conducting the interview e.g. BBC TV News, LBC radio etc.
- the subject
- if known, the name of the interviewer

2. Think about the one or two key points you want to get across, and the simplest way of

saying them.

3. Think about the counter-arguments that might be put to you and the most effective way of

responding to those.

4. Check your connection (visual and audio) by conducting a quick test of it with a friend

5. Position your phone, computer, or camera safely at eye-level (this avoids looking down into the camera, giving the impression of looming over the viewer, and perhaps looking menacing!)

6. Place a lamp or other light source behind your computer etc so that your face is properly illuminated.

7. Think about what is in your background. If you’ve got UNISON material you can display, all

the better. But keep it simple, not too busy.

8. Just before the interview check yourself out in a mirror for messy hair or food-stains!

9. Let others in your household know you’ll be doing the interview so you are not disturbed.

10. Speak as clearly as you can.

Good luck!

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Avebury rings, Silbury Hill, White Horse Walk & Whatever happened to Custom House wartime evacuee Sheila?

Despite the storms, we are back from a lovely weekend in Marlborough, Wiltshire. On Saturday Gill and I visited nearby Avebury World Heritage Site. An amazing experience to see all these simply huge standing stones, some weighing many tons, built thousands of years ago and a massive deep circular ditch nearly a mile in length. Dug out of the local chalk with animal bones and anklers. 

Afterward we visited Silbury Hill (bottom right of collage) which is yet another breathtaking ancient Neolithic Britain site which, 30m man made hill which must have taken huge effort and resources to build but no one nowadays really knows why our ancestors did this?  

Despite the aftermath of storm Eunice wind and rain, we were able to go for a short walk along Calstone and Cherhill Downs. It was a hard, slippy climb up and super windy on top but fantastic ridge views and we walked around the "Cherhill White Horse" site. 

The central picture in the collage is of Avebury Manor (National Trust) which is well worth a visit but I noticed a mention there in information panels that in September 1939, a number of children from Custom House, East London (my part of the world) were evacuated there because of the fear of German bombing including "Sheila" (see painting by Doris Kellier). Shella was not well and stayed there longer than her siblings. I wonder what happened to Sheila and will ask Newham History Facebook if they know. 

Friday, February 18, 2022

Is Putin going to launch his own false flag “Operation Himmler”?

In 1939 we had a murderous dictatorship massing troops near the boarder of a independent sovereign country, Poland, which it wanted to take over and rule. In order to try and justify an invasion, Nazi Germany, carried out a secret raid on one of its own radio mast facilities in order to justify war. This operation was led by Hitler's’ right hand man, Himmler. 

It is pretty clear that Putin is thinking of using the same tactics against Ukraine. We cannot let this happen. We know what happens if we appease murderous dictators. 

UPDATE - Check out this BBC report on "false flags"

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Boris "eyes up" council pensioner money to invest in his "vanity" infrastructure projects?

Many of us are worried about the recent Government announcement on "levelling up", not least because it included a legislative commitment on Council pension funds to “publish plans for increasing local investment, including setting an ambition of up to 5% of assets invested in projects which support local areas”.

We know that the Government has long had an interest in the £337bn invested by pension fund members in Council schemes.

Some 6.1 million Brits currently have savings in the UK Council Pensions. I declare an interest. I have in it 28 years worth of savings.

Now I do not have a problem with council pension funds deciding to invest in infrastructure projects if they think they are good investments for the funds.

If the Government thinks that pension schemes should be investing 5% of its assets regarding of its finances then surely they should be prepared to compensate the funds if this proves to be a disastrous decision. Such infrastructure projects can be high risk.

Now, so far this is being peddled as being purely voluntary but we know that the Government has form on this. In the past Council pensions funds were forced to merge into large investment pools whether they liked it or not, in order to support infrastructure investment. 

Also, I understand that they are going to re-introduce plans to force council pension funds to only invest in line with "British Government Foreign Policy" (whatever that means).

What makes me most fearful is Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and his record as a supporter of "vanity" infrastructure projects as London Mayor (he wanted a floating airport in the sea and the £46 million of public money he wasted on the "Garden Bridge") and more recently his £20 billion plan on a bridge from Scotland to Northern Ireland and a £200 billion project link England and France.

Worrying times. We need to crank up our opposition to these plans to protect our pensions and make sure that import investment decisions are made on merit and not government personal edict. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Message to our General Secretary Christina from a female UNISON member

"Hi Christina 

Trust you are well

I'm writing to  express my concern and dismay about the President Paul Holmes  addressing Women's  Conference next week. 

It is my understanding that he has now been dismissed by the Employer following allegations of Bullying and harassment of women he managed. 

I also understand that the two Vice Presidents offer him their unconditional support.  This is unfortunate and they  should  at least have the courtesy to be impartial given the complainants are themselves women and members. 

 I believe this gives the completely wrong message to Women delegates. Women are the life blood of UNISON  and look to our Union for progressive policies; support and leadership on Equalities. 

All Trade Unionists as I do embrace positive change. Sadly the faction group now in control of our NEC, Time for Real Change, seem to have forgotten some of the  fundamentals  that is democracy and accountability.  

I regret I have have had to write  to you but  believe that this can only reflect badly on UNISON in the long-term and we cannot allow women members over 75% to lose trust in our great union. 

With Kind Regards", 

Monday, February 14, 2022

#HeartUNISON #HeartUnions week 14-20 Feb: Celebrating the work of unions

This week is "Love Unions" week. So check out why Labour's new deal for workers is so important  Sectorial bargaining alone in my sector will be a game changer for the lives of millions of low paid, insecure and vulnerable workers. 

I really cannot understand how some union leaders appear to think that getting rid of the Tories at the next general election, somehow, does not matter????

"A Labour government will:
  • strengthen rights at work for all workers, from day one on the job;
  • end fire and rehire;
  • make work more family-friendly, and make it easier to balance work with home, community and family life;
  • ban zero-hours contracts and ensure everyone has the right to regular hours they can rely on;
  • strengthen trade union rights, raising pay and conditions;
  • bring in fair pay agreements to drive up pay and conditions for all workers, using sectoral collective bargaining".

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Ukraine Holodomor - killing by starvation.

If anyone wonders why so many Ukrainians cherish their freedom and are willing to fight against Russian military aggression, then check out this BBC report on the deliberate murder of 4 million people in the 1930s by Vladimir Putin's role model.

Picture The Road of Sorrow by Marchenko Nina

Saturday, February 12, 2022

West Ham Ward Labour Street Surgery & Canvass - Meath & Chaplin Road


At the first door I knocked at this morning, the resident opened his front door with his hand raised upwards, clearly expecting a parcel. Despite this he was pleased to see a local Councillor, had no issues with Newham Council and confirmed that he was a strong supporter of the Labour Party. 

The next home that I had a response was marked on our Labour doorstep app as all "Against" (Labour). However, the young man who answered said "we all vote Labour here". Result. 

I knocked on the door of a former Tower Hamlets Council Housing colleague, June (and UNISON member) who is now a black cab driver, it was good to chat, catch up and reminisce. 

Next, I reported a footway paving stone trip hazard via app. 

After this, I had a long conversation with a resident about Newham Council traffic tickets. I didn't think it would go very well, when he started by pointing out he has had £500 of tickets recently for contravening moving traffic restrictions. However, he totally got that the Council needs to stop "rat runs" and protect his grandchildren from traffic fumes as well as reduce carbon emissions. 

What he wanted was greater consultation, publicity and a "grace period" when new restrictions are imposed. He will send me details of what he believes to be unreasonable impositions which I will investigate. He did say at the end of his conversation that he will always supports Labour. 

My next serious conversation was with a resident who wanted me to see a serious damp issue in her bathroom. She was Turkish and could not speak English that well, so she introduced me to Google Translate.  Which worked really well and I will download for use as a Councillor and for work (and foreign holidays).  

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Lyn Brown MP speaks up for Newham over Covid Robbery

Lyn Brown MP "As I sadly predicted Newham council has not been, and under current plans will not be fully compensated for their Covid costs in direct contrast to what the Govt promised. There's currently a £10m gap. Today I pushed the Govt to look at this and provide the money they promised".

Wednesday, February 09, 2022

Kwame Nkrumah: First President of Ghana lived here 1945-47


While out today on work visit to residents in Camden I noticed this blue plaque about Kwame Nkrumah, who lived here NW5 while studying. Ghana was the first British colony in Africa to gain independence. 

Tuesday, February 08, 2022

Today BP announce their highest profits in 8 years (Tax 'em)

Makes perfect sense to me

"Today BP announce their highest profits in 8 years - just as many people’s energy bills hit the roof. It’s time for the Chancellor to back Labour’s plans to cut energy bills, by bringing in a one-off windfall tax on North Sea oil and gas producer profits".

Sunday, February 06, 2022



A great post by UNISON NEC member Stephen Smellie. We still have pragmatic and committed NEC members such as Stephen, a great General Secretary, branches, staff and activists. But what a complete and utter mess our union is in due to these "incompetent" bullies and harassers...

"I should quickly answer- I don’t know!

Last week there were the scheduled meetings of the NEC sub-committees of Finance and Staffing. I am not a member of either so can’t give any first-hand accounts. However there have been statements issued by the group Time For Real Change (TFRC) and by a number of NEC members not affiliated to that group. The General Secretary has also written to NEC members to say that the Staffing Committee was cancelled, as was the meeting with the staff trade unions. 

What seems to have happened is that at the Finance Committee an issue was raised where the Chair reported that he had asked for details of payments made to NEC members to cover their release from their jobs. The overall costs of this were provided but not a breakdown of which NEC members were involved and how much this was for each. Staff advised that they could not release names or the costs of each as this would be a breach of GDPR.

There then followed a disagreement and, allegedly a staff member was told that they would be disciplined if they did not release the information requested. This led to staff withdrawing from the meeting.

The Staffing Committee meeting due to take place the following day was then cancelled by the General Secretary as no staff would attend. She has reported that she is trying to arrange meetings with the Presidential Team and staff trade unions to try to resolve issues.

The Chair and Vice Chair of the Staffing Committee were, apparently, not consulted about this and they decided to proceed with the meeting without staff being present.

In this meeting they put forward proposals that current vacancies for Assistant General Secretaries and Regional Secretaries (including the Scottish Secretary) should not be filled till a proposal that they should be elected positions be considered by the NEC and then the National Delegate Conference.

I accept there may be inaccuracies in the details above but that is what I think has happened.

These events are against a background where the TFRC faction on the NEC, who gained a majority at the NEC elections last year, have been pushing through changes to the way the union’s NEC operates to effect the Real Change that they stand for. As I have written before, exactly what these real changes are, have not been clear, either in their election material during last year’s NEC election campaign, nor since.

However, one by one, proposals have been unveiled and presented as proposals which are then agreed by the majority at the NEC or sub-committees.

These latest proposals, of which no-one outside the TFRC faction were consulted on or asked for an opinion on or even given pre-warning of, are the latest to cause controversy and generate great heat.

Before the past week’s events the actions of TFRC and the decisions their majority have taken have caused considerable kick back. Several Regional Councils, including Scotland, have passed motions condemning the NEC for its actions, a number the National Self Organised Groups have raised concerns at the lack of diversity in the appointments to NEC positions and the perceived attempt to not allow the SOGs to nominate the members to represent them at TUC conferences and committees. The have also enraged some senior staff members with talk of discipline if they do not carry out instructions.

Alongside these controversies is the long running saga of the TFRC appointed President who was suspended from the union for near 2 years. While suspended he ran for General Secretary and received around 30% of the votes cast and was re-elected onto the NEC in the male Local Government seat. His suspension was recently lifted by a decision of the Chair of the Development and Organising Committee, as per the adoption of the controversial motions. What he was suspended for and what charges were levelled against him, I do not know, although there seem to be plenty of people who claim they do know!

The suspension being lifted, the President was able to chair the last NEC meeting. I missed most of the meeting due to other commitments, but he did a competent job in chairing the meeting.

He has also been suspended by his employer and faces possible dismissal. Again, I know nothing of the charges he is facing but, again, many other people seem to. Some claim it is a witch-hunt against a trade unionist whilst others say the complaints made by UNISON members regarding his conduct may justify the possibility of dismissal.

(Note: this was written before the President was dismissed by his employer)

If he is dismissed, he can apply for unemployed membership and that can be approved by the NEC. This would allow him to continue as President and NEC member whilst he appeals against the decision. Rather strangely the Vice-President announced that if he is dismissed, his application for unemployed membership will be approved. This without consideration of what he is to be, or may be, dismissed for. I find that strange. Not that this is what is likely to happen, but that the Vice-Presidents should announce so boldly that this was their intention, no matter what the case is. They added to the consternation by saying that any member of staff who sought to block this would be disciplined. This was interpreted by staff as a bullying threat. The VP’s statement was, wisely, withdrawn and not voted on at the NEC.

When TFRC members (I am assuming they are members of the faction which is operating quite openly as a ‘party’ within the union – as an aside, I would like to know what the membership conditions are and what forms of accountability and democracy they apply) called for Real Change they were not clear what they meant or intended.

Some of the proposals they have put forward are, to me, not unreasonable but they were not part of any published manifesto. Their election statements were vague and populist. They stood for change in the leadership, for fighting back against austerity and so on.

They did not say that they were for fewer women and black members in leadership positions. Or for undermining the role of the Regional Convenors group or the Self Organised Groups. Or for pre-judging the outcome of investigations and hearings. Or for disciplining staff for refusing to breach GDPR legislation. Or for usurping and undermining the role of the elected General Secretary.

All of these things they have been accused of doing.

My observation is that they have so far been incompetent and insensitive in how they sought to bring about change. They are relying on the fact that they have a majority and so can do what they want. Without needing to persuade others who are not in their faction and sometimes without even bothering to learn how things work.

The recent issues are a case in point.

It has been known that some NEC members, for some time, have been getting their wages paid by the union. This may be justified as the employer may not have been willing to grant the amount of time that senior elected activists need to be able to fulfil all of the tasks asked of them. However, there are risks in this. The NEC member is then accountable not to their employer, or their branch, for their time, but to the union officials who pay the wages. They are now, potentially, a paid servant of the union official. This is especially the case when other NEC members are not advised of who is getting paid and who is not. It is therefore perfectly reasonable to ask for some transparency on this issue.

However, prior to this week, I as an NEC member was not aware that this longstanding arrangement was being challenged or that it was even being questioned. Demanding the release of what is personal information covered by GDPR, and threatening staff who say they cannot do this, is stupid. The issue should be discussed, and the practice considered openly. Who is currently involved, and how much each individual might be costing the union, is not the point. Discussing whether we want this practice to continue and how it might be done in a more transparent way, perhaps with agreed criteria, is entirely justified. Threatening staff with discipline and provoking a possible dispute with the staff trade unions is not.

The issue discussed at the Staffing committee, the election of senior officials rather than their appointment, is a legitimate issue to raise. I think motions to NDC in the past have been ruled out of order as staffing matters were not to be discussed. That always begged the question, how do we discuss such a proposal? What are the pros and cons of such a proposal?

I am not sure whether putting a motion forward to the NEC, voting it through with the majority they have, and putting it to the NDC is the best way to take the issue up. Some folk with longer memories believe the issue has been discussed previously at NDC and not supported. If this is true then the proposal that the NEC put forward a motion, contrary to NDC policy, is itself problematic for a union that believes conference is sovereign. The NEC has agreed to the Staffing Committee recommendation that there be a review of staffing. That would be a process where this issue, amongst many more, could be openly discussed and debated. Attempting to reach a consensus is usually a good way to proceed, developing understanding, building bridges before forcing your view through and creating opposition and resentment.

I have said before, the task of a faction that purports to be of the ‘Left’ and seeking to bring about change for the benefit of the union membership, and not simply their own interests in gaining and holding power, is to build support for their ideas and policy options. TFRC are in such a hurry to take power in the union that they don’t seem to want to give anyone else time or space to voice their opinion, or to develop working partnerships with those other activists, and staff members, who are sympathetic to the general idea that Real Change is needed.

For the record, no-one in TFRC, nor anyone from the faction that previously held the majority on the NEC, or any member of staff was consulted on the contents of this article or sought to influence it. I would venture that very few of them will ever read it!"

Stephen Smellie