Men fight and lose the battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name. (William Morris - A Dream of John Ball)

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

The end of Boris Johnson

 In the spring of 2020, as I blogged is here at the time, my father died.

We had his funeral, such as it was, on the 19th of May 2020.


A dozen of us were allowed to be there. We couldn't have a wake. 


Not everyone who should've been there to celebrate the life of my lovely father could be there and none of us could join together meaningfully after the brief and socially distanced ceremony.


If only we had thought to “Bring our own booze”…


The following day dozens of senior officials had a party in the garden of Downing Street.


This government is beyond belief.


Today Boris Johnson walked into parliament. Behind him with his MPs did he recognise they were a party? Perhaps they were just a gathering...


Of course Johnson has to go and of course Starmer is right to demand this.


However the Tories will probably dump him at a time of their choosing whilst enabling a new leader to have a good run up to the next general election.


Obviously we should enjoy watching Boris Johnson flapping around like a dying fish.


However, we need to be prepared to fight a general election against a rejuvenated Tory party under a new leader.



Wednesday, December 15, 2021

The perils of forgetfulness...

I have been letting down regular readers of this blog (Sid and Doris blogger) because on top of my other health problems I have serious problem with my shoulder and can't use the keyboard.

However, I have now discovered how to use the dictation software that is built-in to my MacBook and therefore can start pestering you all again.


I was very pleased to hear that my friend and comrade Paul Holmes, who is President of UNISON, has had his suspension by the trade union lifted and he is therefore able to carry out his presidential duties.


Paul is an exemplary trade union activist and it is good news for UNISON members that their President is now able to operate effectively on their behalf.


It is perhaps no accident that just at the point at which UNISON lifted Paul's suspension somebody mischievously leaked to the media details of unproven allegations against Paul which are being pursued by his employer.


This is an obvious attempt to undermine UNISON’s elected President by people who have no loyalty to the trade union. It is disappointing that a former UNISON president took to Facebook to comment upon this news report as follows;


“I’ve been honoured to be a Unison President and didn’t think wearing a suit was a problem… …but I would be horrified if I was ever accused of bullying my colleagues…”


It appears that this former president has forgotten that he put his name to an email circulated widely within UNISON six years ago (about which I have blogged before) and which was described as follows by the Assistant Certification Officer when she upheld various complaints made by myself and others about misconduct in UNISON's general secretary election;


This "quite extraordinary email” was "an attempt by the victors to write the history (regardless of accuracy)” which "had the no doubt desired effect of undermining Mr Rogers”.


Since the former president was, at the time of publication of that report, Chair of UNISON's Development and Organisation Committee I had assumed that he would have read those comments and would have understood them as accusing the authors of that email (of which he was one) of having bullied one of their colleagues. Or, at least, of having tried to do so.


I can only assume that the former president of UNISON had just forgotten his previous conduct when making his remarks about the current president of UNISON, to whom perhaps he will now apologise.


Or maybe he won't.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

UNISON NEC vindicated - time to accept democracy

I was pleased to read the opinion of Lord Henry QC on the propriety of motions discussed at the last meeting of the UNISON National Executive Council (NEC) (available online here).

The Presidential Team of the Union, on behalf of the NEC, have sought the opinion of the country’s leading specialist lawyer in the field in order to resolve a confected controversy which has been causing storms in tea cups on social media and in certain UNISON meetings.


When the NEC met on 6 October, knowing that the Vice Presidents proposed to move six motions concerning the conduct of the business of the NEC, it was presented with an unsolicited opinion from junior counsel to the effect that four of the six motions were in breach of UNISON Rules.


Happily - and sensibly - the majority of NEC members did not allow themselves to be browbeaten and passed the six motions, with the proviso that definitive legal advice should be sought from an authoritative source - and the motions would only be enacted if, on the basis of that advice, they were constitutional.


Lord Hendy’s detailed opinion persuasively and convincingly demonstrates that all six of the motions agreed by the UNISON NEC are constitutional and lawful, and demolishes the contrary opinion of junior counsel previously offered to the NEC. 


Speaking in my (unofficial) capacity as “Rule Book Rogers” I can only endorse the opinion of the learned Lord. The UNISON NEC is quite entitled to decide to;

  • Increase the frequency of its meetings;
  • Regularise and clarify the long-established role of the Presidential Team;
  • Authorise the Presidential Team to seek legal advice from a lawyer of their choice;
  • Confirm the delegation of its disciplinary powers to the Development and Organisation (D&O) Committee;
  • Make a ruling that the power to suspend members includes the power to review suspensions;
  • Exercise its authority to agree that elected officials who are dismissed by their employer shall not automatically be ejected from the position(s) to which they have been elected.


This seemingly obscure controversy is a necessary prelude to the majority of UNISON NEC members being able to assert their democratic right to make the difference for which UNISON members voted when they elected them. 


Now that any doubt about the NEC decisions (however ill-founded) has been resolved it is time for the officials to work constructively with the NEC in accordance with its powers and to implement its constitutional decisions.


As to the minority of NEC members who did not support the decisions which were  (wrongly) considered to be controversial - if anyone needs counselling or support in coping with losing votes on the NEC (without subsequently behaving in a way which makes one look foolish) I am available to assist at reasonable rates.




Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Solidarity with GMB members on strike in Brighton and Hove



It is not often that Brighton and Hove gets a mention on the national evening news, but this evening - as industrial action (now set to escalate) by GMB members in refuse collection enters its second week we were mentioned by the BBC.

It’s not difficult to work out whose side to take. No workers lightly take strike action with all the sacrifices which this invariably entails. The GMB members are taking action pursuant to a democratic decision by one of the best organised groups of workers in the city.


The opposition Labour Group have sensibly called for an independent mediator to be brought in to bring the two sides together - an approach which helped to avert a dispute under the previous Labour administration (when, two years ago, we came to the brink of a dispute).


The Green leadership of the Council should take heed. It is unfortunate that - because the Council has lacked a stable political majority this century - a culture of officer domination of the Council has emerged. The senior officers of the Council either fail to understand, or actively resent, the collective power of the organised refuse workers.


Labour Party members should support our brothers and sisters in the GMB.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Are we Turkeys to vote for Christmas?


Labour’s leader has chosen to take the tired old path of demonstrating his leadership credentials by
picking a fight with the left of the Party at this year’s Conference. One part of this project is a proposal to change the system for electing Party Leader back from “one member one vote” (OMOV) to an electoral college in which a third of the votes would go to members, a third to affiliates and a third to Members of Parliament.

UNISON’s delegation to Labour Party Conference will have to decide how to cast our block vote at the Conference, constrained only by the requirement to act in accordance with UNISON Labour Link policy.


The previous electoral college system - a compromise adopted in the 1980s to stop the Leader being chosen exclusively by Members of Parliament - eventually evolved to the point at which union members voted in order to cast our union votes which were then weighted as were votes from individual members and Members of Parliament.


Under Ed Miliband’s leadership the rules were changed at a special Conference to remove the electoral college and have a simple “one member one vote” (OMOV) system (in which affiliated members could cast their - equal - vote alongside individual members and Members of Parliament).


UNISON supported Miliband’s rule changes in 2014, so establishing that UNISON Labour Link Policy is to support OMOV in the Labour Party for leadership elections.


The OMOV system did not remove the ability of trade unions to make recommendations as to who to support, nor to campaign to get our members to cast their votes.


UNISON Labour Link backed Corbyn in 2015 (having consulted Labour Link payers) and Dave Prentis was then fulsome in his praise for Jeremy Corbyn when he won.


Having repeated the consultation exercise following the abortive 2016 leadership challenge UNISON supported Corbyn once more.


In 2020 the Labour Link Committee made a recommendation without consulting members and that recommendation was for Keir Starmer - but the fact that the union recommended support for the current leader does not reverse established UNISON Labour Link policy from 2014 to support the OMOV system.


Starmer’s cheerleaders within the Party are trying to persuade trade unionists that a return to the electoral college in some way increases the role of trade unions in the Party. This is (of course) completely untrue.


The point of the proposed return to the electoral college is to empower the Parliamentary Labour Party at the expense of individual and affiliated members of the Party. That this is dressed up as “making the Party more electable” by “putting the Corbyn era behind us” simply demonstrates how little respect the leadership has for the intellectual capacity of those same cheerleaders. 


The more right-wing rule changes the leadership can get through this year’s Conference the more emboldened they will be to complete the transformation of the Party away from its roots.


If UNISON’s Labour Party Conference delegation were to support these changes they would truly be turkeys voting for Christmas.



Sunday, September 05, 2021

Solidarity with Paul Holmes

 


Paul Holmes is one of the most dedicated - and decent - trade unionists I have ever met. He is the long standing Branch Secretary of one of UNISON’s largest branches ( Kirklees large by virtue of a high UNISON density rather than the size of their main employer).


It’s not just me who thinks this. Paul has been repeatedly re-elected to the UNISON National Executive Council (NEC) since 2007 and won a third of the vote in last year’s election for General Secretary (the best result ever achieved by a rank and file candidate).


With Paul as a figurehead the left in UNISON won, for the first time, a majority on the NEC in the elections earlier this year - and his NEC colleagues elected him as UNISON’s President and as one of our representatives on the General Council of the Trades Union Congress (TUC).


Knowing Paul (as I am proud to say that I do, as a friend and comrade) I know that - for him - it is the more than thirty years he has served as a Branch Secretary that is most important to him, because it is through rank and file activity that an ordinary trade unionist can make a real difference.


Paul’s employer, Kirklees Council, have given him perhaps the ultimate tribute by suspending him from work in December 2019. Only now, after more than twenty months, they are beginning a disciplinary hearing against him (at a private venue in a hotel) tomorrow morning - Monday 6 September 2021.


I have no hesitation in saying that this is an act of trade union victimisation and that every UNISON member, every trade unionist - and every self-respecting member of the Labour Party (or any other Party) - should stand with Paul in opposition to his victimisation.


If you can get to Huddersfield tomorrow morning join the lobby outside the Clarion, Cedar Court Hotel, Ainsley Top, Huddersfield, HD3 3RH.


If not, joint the online rally - details on the leaflet below;



Monday, August 16, 2021

Injustice in the Labour Party


Whilst I was away for a few days I missed (for the first time in a couple of years) a meeting of the General Committee of Brighton Pavilion Constituency Labour Party (CLP), of which I am proud to be Chair. I was also proud to hear that our GC expressed solidarity with Ken Loach, the socialist film-maker who has - quite absurdly - been expelled from the Labour Party.

The repellent use of administrative means to resolve political differences in the Labour Party has now reached a ridiculous stage, at which individuals are being “auto-excluded” unless they can disprove the allegation that they are associated with”proscribed organisations” which are barely even organisations.


Ken Loach has a lifetime of commitment to socialist ideals, but has not always been a Labour Party member - eight years ago I was critical on this blog of his decision to launch the short-lived (and badly titled) “Left Unity”. When socialists such as Loach felt they could join the Party that was a very good sign that our Party was avoiding the decline into irrelevance which has been the fate of many European social democratic parties this century.


Whilst this one expulsion has attracted particular attention, there are others subject to similarly unjustifiable administrative action, including a former member of my UNISON branch, Leah Levane and my old friend and comrade Graham Bash - someone who has given exemplary service to our Party and movement over many decades.


Ironically, on the day that my CLP, in my absence, rightly expressed solidarity with Ken Loach, my partner and I met up with  a former UNISON comrade who had been part of our fight against a political witch hunt in UNISON twenty years ago. We reflected upon the approach of “guilty until proven innocent” which had been applied then in our trade union and is applied now in our Party, and also upon the smearing of those who oppose such witch-hunting.


In UNISON at the turn of the century (and from time to time subsequently) those whom the union bureaucracy wanted rid of were frequently accused of bullying and harassment - and those who argued against obviously politically motivated misuse of disciplinary procedures were accused of defending such bullying and, by extension, of being bullies themselves.


In today’s Labour Party those whom the Party bureaucracy want rid of face allegations of anti-semitism - and those who protest at what they see as politically motivated misuse of the Party’s rules and procedures are accused of defending anti-semitism, and hence of being anti-semitic themselves.


This is not to say, of course, that there was never any bullying in UNISON (either then or now) (indeed, over the course of twenty five years as a Branch Secretary and fourteen as a members of the UNISON National Executive Council (NEC) I witnessed a fair bit, though rarely from those accused of it). Nor indeed is it to say that there is no anti-semitism among Labour Party members, nor (of course) that action should not be taken against members responsible for anti-semitic conduct.


However, the shared features of political witch hunts, which can be very obvious, include “guilt by association” and “guilty until proven innocent”. I have seen these time and again over a lifetime of labour movement activism and see them again now in today’s Labour Party. The motive for the current misuse of Labour Party administrative procedures is plainly to discourage socialists from Labour Party activism and encourage them to leave the Party.


This desired objective is being achieved by the actions of those who joined the Party  as individual “fans” of our former Leader and are now departing because they simply can’t bear what they see the Party becoming. Waiting outside the Party are those in various small organisations hoping to recruit disillusioned ex-Labour Party members. They won’t have much joy with people whose engagement with politics has always been about their own individual feelings rather more than any experience of collective activity.


Of course the answer to injustice is not to do what the perpetrators of injustice want you to do - the result of the elections to the Conference Arrangements Committee have demonstrated that socialist ideas continue to be held by a majority of Party members, but the right-wing candidates (who self-identify as centre-left) secured their best share of the vote in six years. Every individual socialist who gives up their Party card contributes to the project of those who want to eliminate socialism from the Party and, by extension, from our society.


Now more than ever socialists are needed inside the Labour Party - not keeping quiet about our socialism but campaigning positively for the changes we need. Perhaps one day Ken Loach will make a film about it!