Now -read the book!

Here is a link to my memoirs which, if you are a glutton for punishment, you can purchase online at
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)

Monday, November 30, 2015

Support Corbyn's stand for peace

Len McCluskey is right to emphasise the breadth and depth of support for Jeremy Corbyn across our movement.

It is unlikely that any significant number of the clear majority who voted for Corbyn as Labour leader did so because they hoped and expected that he would be swept along with the herd the next time the drumbeats for war started to sound.

British bombs falling on Syria will no more bring peace to the Middle East (nor security to European cities) than the American or French bombs already raining down. It is pitiable that right-wing Labour MPs have chosen this issue on which to try to assert themselves.


But not surprising.

The history of our Party (going back to the Zinoviev letter or the plots against Wilson) shows that the deep state bares its teeth should it ever appear that Labour offers the possibility of a Government which might break with the imperialist foreign policy beloved of the establishment.

The role of the right-wing in the Labour Party is always to try to drag the Party into a foreign policy consensus with which the securocrats, the military top brass and the Central Intelligence Agency can be comfortable. That is what they are doing once more (just as they did when they supported Blair's illegal invasion of Iraq).

Corbyn is right to stand firm as a voice of sanity and humanity - and every trade union member should stand with him.

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.

Friday, November 27, 2015

The UNISON General Secretary Election and the Single Transferable Vote...

I realise that I am in a tiny minority in UNISON, on the left on UNISON and generally in believing that we should use the Single Transferable Vote (STV) to elect our General Secretary.
Happily I don’t mind being the one person who is right when all the rest of you are wrong. (I can even be generous about your error!)
No one can predict the outcome of the current General Secretary election. The incumbent must be the favourite and it may well be that (given his mastery – properly or otherwise – of the machine) he may secure more than 50% of the vote as he has three times before.
Certainly, were he to fail to do so, that would signify the end of his tenure (the longevity of which is hardly assured otherwise in any case given the outrageous conduct of his supporters).
For those who think it obvious that a trade union should use an electoral system which can ensure majority support for a General Secretary this is the amendment to move for next year’s National Delegate Conference;
Delete Schedule C.7 and replace with;
7. The method of voting shall be by single transferable vote. The National Executive Council shall have the power to determine any other matter of procedure or organisation or administration of or relating to the election.
This amendment would require only a simple majority since it amends only a Schedule to the Rule Book.
Any UNISON member could propose this in their branch as a motion to Conference.
Or you could prepare now to oppose this.
It’s in your hands.

Credit to Dave Prentis

This blog always give credit where it’s due.
It’s a good thing that UNISON General Secretary, Dave Prentis, has today spoken out against a “snap decision” to bomb Syria. That is right of course.
If the answer is ever a UK military intervention you must know that you have asked the wrong question.
UK military interventions are never in the interests of working class people in this (or any) country (nor will they assist progressive opponents of the Islamic fundamentalists oppressing the people of those areas where they can seize power).
It’s a good thing that Dave’s political judgement has improved since the weekend, when his ill-timed criticism of disagreement in the Labour Party was predictably reported as an attack on UNISON member Jeremy Corbyn (however much some of Dave’s fan club wish to deny that this was intended).
Since I’ll have to blog in the next few days about the various ways in which the mediocrities who are all that is left of Dave’s base in UNISON have breached our Rules and procedures it is only right now to record credit to Dave Prentis.

Dave’s opposition to bombing Syria is up there with his consistent and principled rejection of any possibility that he would ever take up a seat in the House of Lords (if you don’t believe me about this ask @electprentis and he will immediately tell you that he would never accept a seat in the Lords).

Sunday, November 22, 2015

UNISON never sleeps

‎Your humble blogger, together with a candidate in the election for UNISON General Secretary, were honoured this afternoon with the following message from a senior UNISON official;

"It may have escaped your notice that the comments made by bob oram et al have been removed.they are now subject to legal action by the union
I would suggest you also remove the comments.‎"

I replied in the following terms;

‎"What on earth are you talking about (using UNISON resources)?

To which comments do you (as an Assistant General Secretary of our Union, using the email address which the Union gives you) object and where have these comments been made?

With what authority do you threaten litigation on behalf of UNISON?‎"

The essence of the response which I received was as follows;

"Jon I do it in my capacity as the Assistant General Secretary responsible for our press office and our external profile and reputation
A serious allegation has been made against our union and our press operation I am perfectly entitled to protect the reputation of our union using this email .Our press office staff are currently doing the same using Unison resources .It is what we are paid to do.
It falls to us all to ensure we do not spread or perpetuate unfounded information that has the potential to damage our union‎."

I replied as follows;

"I still have no idea to which comments your earlier email referred.

Obviously you wouldn't have been using your UNISON email address, and your position as Assistant General Secretary, to intervene in a partisan way in the current General Secretary election!

Nor would you abuse your position and authority to silence legitimate criticism of the monumentally ill-judged comments reported from our General Secretary (and promoted by the @electprentis twitter feed). I imagine that, as a staunch Corbyn supporter yourself, you will be as distressed as I at how these unfortunate remarks have been (so predictably) spun.

I remain therefore perplexed as to which comments it is that you think that I and Mr Burgess should remove (and from where they should be removed).

Certainly, if you think that I have been associated with any unjustified attack upon UNISON I would be grateful for your immediate clarity on this point so that appropriate remedial action might be taken most promptly."

I am waiting for a further response and so want to make clear now that I utterly disassociate myself from any comments made anywhere and at any time which could bring UNISON into disrepute.

In particular, I disassociate myself from the remarks reported to have been made by our General Secretary in the Sun on Sunday, which have been spun as an attack upon Jeremy Corbyn.‎ (‎).

I salute those UNISON officials who are working on a Sunday evening at damage limitation after the all-too predictable reporting of these remarks elsewhere (‎).

‎And I have to say that I agree with those who have criticised the poor judgement which was shown in the making of these comments by a General Secretary who is surely experienced enough to have known better (‎).

Just to be clear, I assert that, in making these ill-judged comments our General Secretary breached UNISON Rules in that he acted against the interests of UNISON members.

That said, we all make mistakes and - in the spirit of the new politics for which Jeremy Corbyn has called - it would be wrong to denounce Dave Prentis personally for this error of judgement.

I hope that the UNISON officials who are working on our behalf this very evening are already drafting an unequivocal statement of support for Jeremy Corbyn around which UNISON members can unite.

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Ooops! Prentis does it again...

‎Those who think that the campaign for the re-election of UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis is being organised solely with a view to an eventual (slapstick) film version today received evidence to support their view.

The Prentis campaign today used a database of Branch Secretary email addresses (disclosed to them for the purposes of soliciting nominations) to circulate an email calling for support.

Pedants (such as your humble blogger) might consider this to breach paragraph 51 of the election procedures, but such a breach might excite little attention in a Union where it is felt appropriate to use the monthly shop stewards' magazine for the transparent promotion of the incumbent candidate.

However, Mr Prentis (or whoever writes his emails) hasn't just made use of UNISON resources to send a campaigning email to hundreds of Branch Secretaries - he has encouraged recipients to "pass this message on to members in your branch."

That is, quite plainly, a deliberate attempt to encourage Branch Secretaries themselves to breach the election procedures by using UNISON resources to pass on campaign materials for a candidate in the election.

The only question which remains is whether this conscious soliciting of a breach of UNISON Rules is motivated by arrogance or stupidity. 

What do you think?

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

UNISON has been failing for the past five years - it is time for a change

Much is made, by supporters of incumbent UNISON General Secretary, Dave Prentis, of his experience and track record as reasons he should be supported. Their arguments are generally fairly light on evidence however.
How should we judge the effectiveness of trade union leadership? How should we measure it? One obvious measure, frequently employed within the movement is to look at our success in recruiting and retaining members. An official source for membership data is provided by the annual returns made to the Certification Officer.
In the latest published annual return, for 2014, we report 1,254,250 members “contributing to the General Fund” (i.e. paying subscriptions). This compares with 1,327,500 five years before in 2009. That is a decline of 73,250 (5.5%) over the third term of our current General Secretary.
Of course this disappointing decline is proportionately much less than the catastrophic collapse in public sector employment over the same period – but there are two ways to view that. On the one hand it is a testament to the vigour of our recruitment efforts – but on the other hand it is a painful reminder of our failure to protect jobs.
Employment in our largest sector, local government, has declined from 2,905,000 in the second quarter of 2010 to 2,270,000 five years later (the latest available figures). That loss of 635,000 jobs arguably represents one of the most catastrophic failures in the history of UK trade unionism, contributing not only to the misery of unemployment but to the intolerable pressure upon the remaining workforce.
It’s not just the local government workforce which has plummeted by more than 20% during the third term of our current General Secretary – as our pay claim for local government workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland makes clear, the pay of remaining local government workers has also fallen by 20% in real terms since 2009.

UNISON’s record, over the most recent term of our incumbent General Secretary, is of a declining organisation failing to protect jobs or earnings in its largest sector. It is surely clear that, if our Union is to live up to its potential to protect the interests of our members and potential members, it is time for a change. That is why I have voted for John Burgess.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Time's up Dave

Whilst this blog has often been critical of the leadership of UNISON General Secretary, Dave Prentis in recent years, he has not here been accused of running a ruthless meritocracy.
Because that would have been unfair.
The fact that the shower of overly ambitious mediocrities who are now left as the last of his dwindling band of supporters have transparently abused UNISON resources demonstrates that.
November’s edition of UNISON Focus is an embarrassment to our entire labour movement.
A magazine paid for from the subscriptions of low paid UNISON members to provide useful information to activists has been reduced to a partisan propaganda rag in the current General Secretary election.
Dave Prentis on the front cover.
Dave Prentis with his column at the front of the magazine.
Dave Prentis with his picture all over the front pages of the magazine.
If this were a calculated insult to UNISON activists throughout our Union it would be well calculated.
Don’t you get it Dave?
If you can win like this we will all have lost.
We don’t have the time or energy to subordinate the interests of UNISON members to whichever ego is demanding that you carry on beyond reason.

Are you going to force us to take complaints outside the Union to address this blatant abuse?

Friday, November 13, 2015

It's all gone quiet over there?

When the world was young, in early 2010, the (then fairly new) UNISON Active blog (written by and for UNISON activists)(though mostly ano‎nymously) was full of posts promoting the candidacy of incumbent General Secretary, Dave Prentis (then seeking his third term, having agreed to face an election he could lawfully have avoided given his proximity to retirement age).

Now, however, a reader of that blog would not know there was an election. They would certainly not be encouraged to support a fourth Prentis term.

Dave's regrettable decision not to plan for succession - and therefore to seek a fourth term without the backing of those who first promoted him (some of whom he subsequently promoted) - has led to an election in which the decline in support for the incumbent General Secretary is all too clear.

Dave's much reduced campaign team can this time barely manage to sustain a poorly written and unoriginal anonymous wordpress blog with which to smear opponents. 

UNISON needs, now more than ever, the energy and vision of the new approach offered by rank and file left candidate John Burgess.

I wonder if the writers over at UNISON Active agree?

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Exit payment cap presages further attacks on pensions?

Clause 26 of the Enterprise Bill, which imposes the "public sector exit payment cap" has emerged largely unscathed from the Bill's Committee stage in the House of Lords.

Government Ministers blithely accepted that the cap, which has been marketed as aimed at the handful of "fat cats" who are the focus of attention for the Daily Mail and the Taxpayers' Alliance, will in fact hit long serving public servants a long way from the earnings stratosphere.

The impact of the cap will be to impose reductions on the pensions of staff made redundant at (or over) 55 if the "strain payment" for paying them an unreduced pension would tip their total package over the £95,000 threshold. Such reductions would be made for life - meaning that workers forced out of employment through no fault of their own would not simply suffer the immediate consequences of their redundancy but would be impoverished for the remainder of their life.

The Government won't even be clear about the implementation date for the cap, stating only that this will be after the Bill receives Royal Assent (obviously) and that this will be next summer.

It seems the Lords were reluctant to undo a manifesto commitment - when the Bill reaches the Commons we'll need to lobby MPs so that they understand the consequences of this vindictive measure.

We'll also need to alert trade union members to this attack on our rights. 

In local government the change to our pension regulations consequent upon the imposition of the cap breaches the promise of the last Government that the 2012 pensions settlement would last a generation.

This doubtless presages ‎further attacks on public service pensions. We need to mobilise our members to prepare for action to defend our jobs and our pension rights.

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

The antidote to weariness

‎I hope it's ok to be weary sometimes, after a quarter century in the union branch office (with -perhaps deservedly - all too little time off for good behaviour).

I'm weary of (some) youthful Labour Councillors who don't understand that politics is a game of two sides and that we (the workers and community) must always try to stand against them (the ruling class and Government).

This Saturday hundreds of local people will march north from Brixton. This won't be the occasion on which we head straight for Westminster to seize state power - this time we're simply heading for South Lambeth Library to highlight opposition to the local Council's proposals for cuts in the library service.

Labour Councillors who can see how the world around them is changing and developing are on our side in tackling the tricky question of how a Council facing such savage cuts can (as Southwark has) protect libraries. I am weary of the young and ambitious politicians who believe that resisting opposition to austerity will develop their political career rather more than resisting austerity (also they're plain wrong).

Mind you, I am weary of ambitious people generally - little good can come from them.

So I am weary of those who want to be UNISON General Secretary because they believe it to be their birthright or their destiny.

I am weary of Dave Prentis, who failed his own supporters by comprehensively refusing to contemplate realistic succession planning and has reaped the whirlwind of a catastrophic decline in branch nominations (such that, even were he to win he would be a lame duck General Secretary).

I am weary of Heather Wakefield, who failed to stand five years ago when she might have represented a real alternative and now runs a campaign fuelled with bile and a one dimensional politics of gender (such that, were she improbably to win - as the candidate supported by zero members of the Executive - ‎she would be a dead duck General Secretary).

And I am so weary of my dear friend and comrade‎, Roger Bannister, for whom I have voted to be General Secretary of both NALGO and UNISON in the past. I won't even speculate about what type of zombie duck Roger would be were he our General Secretary, since he knows as I do that this will not happen. As the supposed political justification for the splendid isolation of the Socialist Party (of England and Wales, formerly the Militant Tendency) disintegrates before our eyes, it is plain for all to see that his candidacy is a triumph of ego over good sense (and it isn't even his ego!)

In my weariness it is invigorating to know two things.

First, on Saturday, the people of Lambeth fighting to save our libraries will be joined by a contingent from Tory Barnet, led by Barnet UNISON Branch Secretary John Burgess. I hope that Labour Councillors in Lambeth will reflect on whether they wish to take sides with Barnet Council (who close libraries and/or take away their staff) or with those who fight Tories.

Secondly, I am encouraged beyond belief at the opportunity to vote for a candidate in the UNISON General Secretary election who is entirely without any sense of entitlement - John Burgess (the very same!) John does not stand because he thinks the job his as of right (whether by virtue of career, experience, gender or politics). He simply offers us the chance to vote for one of our own, a local government worker who knows what hard campaigning is - and isn't afraid of it.

So I'm weary - but not so weary as to give up when I have hope that we can resist both the most stupid cuts supported by Councillors still living in 2014 and the awful (non)inevitability of Groundhog Day in the UNISON General Secretary election.

Jeremy Corbyn won against the odds.

I'm backing John Burgess.

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.