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Unite Left launch meeting: new name, same fiddle. Going bust in different countries they involve staff over there. Unable to work for spin doctor political officers off sick. £13.4m "gift" from a union with an overdfraft Coping with bullying at Unite It's hard without good advice
Cheerleeders & guards, Cuba two leaders spill the beans Inadvertant scanning error how unions run elections. Friends of Tony Woodley please make cheques payable Bucking the system independent candidates
MPs expenses: one party machine funds another How to run a ballot: not so hard.


Maria Miller.

  1. (a)
    How much is it fair to charge for the expense of using a parents' house in London as a base near work?
    How often did the MP sleep there?
    What rules and evidence exist from the time?
    That's a question that a lot of us have come-up against in different versions, on the right side or the wrong side, winning or loosing, inspector or inspected. Like whether I have breached conditions of bail at a bail hostel in a significant way, whether I am actively seeking work while claiming benefit, whether my muddled accounting justifies a VAT or income tax return, or whether I was a double agent russian spy for much of my brilliant career at MI5. We have all been in these situations, on one side or the other, and talking about "attitude" is the worse thing that anyone can do to collect fair evidence for a decision: talking about "attitude" is wrong and emotive. Some of us had school teachers or parents or bosses who talked about "attitude", sometimes while we are vulnerable and would prefer justice; to talk about "attitude" is to say "I am an emotional cripple, not just, and have no idea how this sounds to others".
  2. (a)
    How is it reaonable for MPs journalists and the public to talk about someone who might have been the MP who was an arrogant dishonest shit on one TV documentary about fiddled expenses? - I don't remember if it was this one. So discussing detail is important. This might be the person who has already been exposed as unemployable and unelectable, but somehow has a safe seat and the support of the bosses.
    Reasonable, I think, to report confirmed detail and compare with the other situations that us constuents have been in. Compared to making a tax return or a dispute with a bail hostel or a benefits agency ruling or the teacher who seemed to represent all that was wrong with the world and an obstical to life experience at age 16. Or being the tax official or hostel worker or benefits agency worker or teacher of teenagers. Reasonable to report the details in those terms. What would a constituent do? Shouldn't the rule be the same? Obviously yes.
  3. So: MPs and the people who make a living reporting MPs are digging themselves into a pit for spitting-at, if that makes sense. MPs will lament how the actions of one minister continue the trend of non-MPs becoming know-alls who are cynical about the whole process, but they contribute to the process, as do the journalists who surround them.
    MPs, journalists, and editors need to concentrate on the small print of each case.
    MPs, journalists and editors need to avoid the argy-bargy team sport of whether someone can be accused of "attitude" or "full support" or "disrepute" or "resigning to clear her name and spend more time with her family". These are all codes for nothing-much, and discussion of an alien nothing-muchness team sport brings-out the worst and most cynical in electors like me. A program or an article about what other people would have done - whether it's Paul Flowers or a passer-by in the street - would be much more fun to watch.

Trying to comment on TheNews.Coop I discovered that my email address was already in use; I could not register.
Trying to recover my username and password I discovered that my email address was unknown; not in use.
Anyway, if you are interested enough in the Co-Operative Group to want to find out if John Lewis bigwigs have said anything about them, you find these "" pages where nobody has commented and I discover that I am not allowed to comment.

I googled these pages to see if there was a comment by Andy Street of John Lewis about The Co-Operative Group. None. I notice that nobody else has commented on the few pages that I've read, and that some have robotic "commented .... added ... commented ... said" lines in them to suggest being thrown-together in a PR office.

Personally, I think staff co-ops are a good way fo running big organisations and consumer co-ops can be good for specialist organisations where the customers have a reason to be loyal, like a village pub or a football club.

That's it! If anyone is interested I am a co-op bank customer, a watitrose customer, and have never been on the staff of any co-operative organisation.

The Guardian's previous article on the same subject had quotes about "happy chickens"; "I want chickens to be happy", said Lord Myers, but not to have someone on the board table spending dis-proportionate time on the subject. At the same time, the shops are likely to loose customers and warm-fuzzy-feeleing because of a decision to ignore one of the interests that's represented among enthusiasts on the non-executive board.

By the way there is a great headline on one of the Guardian pages: "Co-Operative Group Pays Official £2,000 a day to examine why it is in debt". Obviously it is in debt for three reasons:

  • It can't sell voting shares (and has defaulted on bonds), so, like John Lewis, it relies more on borrowing than other big firms, often linked to property deals and so hard to un-ravel
  • It makes grandiose take-over bids and then
  • It looses the customers gained and has "now lost all the customers gained by taking-over Summerfield", according to Lord Myners, so that the take-over doesn't pay for itself. That makes the debt, which would look big anyway, look very big.

The headline might say more than the article. If the group used minimum paid executives for five years and took no expensive decisions, how much would it save as a proportion of the debt?

I am such a clever boy. After writing something rude about the co-op a few years ago..., everybody acknowledges that the Co-Op, with its heritage spanning-back ten years or so to a group of vein MPs who used the word "modernise", doesn't make sense and is hard to work in. If your are the boss, you have to manipulate the non-executive directors who think they run the place, by appointing ones who are very polite and always try to say the right thing about governance like Rev. Flowers.

Meanwhile there are no non-executive directors who tell you to concentrate on groceries and what keeps people buying their washing powder at your shop rather than another shop; they are all people who would rather talk about anything else but groceries, funeral care, chemists and farms. A bit like when I worked for a voluntary sector social work agency paid by government to run community alcohol services, with managers and directors who would talk about anything but the A-word, whether about training or selecting the right staff or measuring performance, until people on the board of trustees who might come from a narrow background and not know how the thing worked decided to start sacking the lot of them, including me in a way, all the way down the management line.

There is some subtle point to make about the relationship between trustees / governers / non-executive directors and directors, but I don't yet know what it is, despite being a clever boy who has been rude before other people were rude. Two articles recently show that the Co-Op has lost its Compassion in World Farming badge for happy chickens by giving them less space, while a comentator is reported in the Guardian as saying how badly it is run because people on vital board meetings talk about this. They are right to do so but wrong not to be good at running supermarkets undertakers chemists and farms (although one of them is a farmer apparently). The dragon comentator is right to be interested in mainstream corporate management but wrong to loose customers by loosing a badge about happy chickens. There is some subtle point to make about how big business needs a betters supply of applicants who are good at happy chickens and good at getting repeat customers at supermarkets, but I don't quite know what that subtle point is.

15.03.14 is the url of some people who turn-up in search results for this site. It's a new union of a few dozen people based in Derby who pay £5 a month, according to accounts at the certification office.

Just felt the need to blog in ignorance about the late Bob Crow.
He appeared on Have I Got News For You and mentioned that he had something in common with people from the other end of the political spectrum, because they were both working class and realised that the welfare state is what's important. So the idea of him being at one end of a political spectrum seems an idea imposed by others. As for getting a good deal for his members at nearly all costs, he did it; members wanted it. When I told a taxi driver that I'd been ripped-off by a trades union that refused to represent me (or did but was worse than useless) on a reasonable adjustment to disabilty case, the taxi driver said that the RMT did a good job for their members. When I googled the cheapskate cashback solicitor Edwardes Duthie, I found a page saying that RMT had sacked them and apologised for bad service, signed Bob Crowe.

Just felt no need to blog about the Police Federation and the way it provides a social group for the odd one or two people who get carried away on the pleb thing, rather than being as democratic and transparent as modern technology allows, and doing what members want. Hopefully not getting police constables to be above the law and get £50,000 a year, but at least to be transparent and democratic. I know nothing about the detail so shall stop typing.

25.02.14 - Co-operative group survey on what it should do.
...includes a comments section under the article

Oh I've just seen that Handelsbanken is quoted as an employee-owned bank on this page or I didn't know there was one. Its website mentions shareholders. So I am still in the dark - are they employee shareholders? - or non voting? - or minority?

Scotland and the sterling area. A speech by an ex BBC economist makes out that England is not better-off without Scotland, but that there is a problem about who pays for Northern Ireland and the North East if they get any worse. The chances of North-eastern manufacturing doing badly under a long period of Conservative government are high.
Why can't Scotland share the subsidy to Northern Ireland, at least? The bit I mentioned is near the start.
So many things in the world I do not know about...

"Independent review for BIS, by Graeme Nuttall, on employee ownership. Explains the obstacles to promoting employee owned companies, and sets out a framework for knocking them down. Makes recommendations to government on how to promote employee ownership. "

If I understand right, Brittania will cease to be a brand and has ceased to be a separate organisation.
That leaves an opportunity to set-up some kind of specialised building society with the purpose of flogging it off.
I don't know how you sell-out to a not-yet formed group of members, so that may be an insolvable problem; maybe it's possible to sell to bondholders or to voting shareholders with some kind of legal set-up to say that they have to sell-out over time to their staff or customers. Maybe co-op staff and costomers can be polled to find out if any see a gap in the market that they would like to fill.
Brittania is a well-known name; there are dozen or so others names on Brittania's wikipedia page, with opportunities to specialise by area as before or niche market, or to set-up a low-cost online society with no branches, or combinations of the two.

The Observer reports a firm of management consultants advising schools and councils to clear money out of Co-Op business accounts.
I'm still trying to work this out. Co-op group claims to have found enough vulture capitalists to buy 70% of the bank, and thinks it can sell Co-Operative Insurance Services to raise a bit more cash. Meanwhile at the last accounts, Co-Op Bank including Brittania had assets of 47 bungles and the predicted hole was only 1.5 bungles.
The hole is caused by
(a) claims for mis-sold payment protection insurance which Reverend Flowers never asked about
(b) new government requirements to keep more money in the till effecting all banks. Co-op would have passed except-for
(c) skeleton debts found in the cupboard at Brittania. Mis-sold buy-to-let mortgages were known about, but not loans from a commercial department that Brittania bad. Nobody knows what loans these are; they're said to be a handfull of large ones.
The 1.5 bungle hole is to be filled by
(a) selling-out & flogging-off as above
(b) lending no new big formal loans; reducing card limits, waiting for lent-out money to come back-in. I didn't watch the full Project Verde videos on the parliament channel or the members' meeting video at all; I don't know if Brittania is still lending for mortgages.
(c) paying no interest
(d) reducing staff - where offices & branches of Co-Op and Brittania are in the same place or do the same thing. Reducing the ratio of branches to customers.
My hunch is that this is more than enough to fill a 1.5 bungle gap from assets worth 47 bungles from the odd scraps of video I've seen, and retail customers seem happy to hang-on to their accounts too. That leaves small business acounts, often aquired via a special offer to Federation of Small Business members or free banking and a £25 bonus for paying FSB membership starting at £120. FSB now encourages business to go to P2P lenders like Rebuilding Society and Thincats rather than banks, and savers should do the same.
As for larger account holders, there is still £85,000 protected for these organisations which is probably enough to protect a school's account.
If an organisation has more than £85,000 in the bank, why aren't they lending it on Thincats, Rebuildingsociety and the rest anyway, rather than leave it sitting there?

This 10-year-old idea of finding non-executive directors from amongst a few activists and paying them more than a lot of executives sounds wierd. I've lost my co-operative membership card but saw it around recently and hope to become an activist soon in hope of promotion. Meanwhile googles of co-op events reveal a lot of people from another side of politics being rude. Why? One headline, that I did not click on, from Conservative Home suggested that Co-Operative members ought to be balloted on their donation to the Co-operative Party (or Labour Party: the distinction is unclear - it's not much in favour of worker co-operatives). A fair point, but can I vote on my donation from Fidelity Worldwide Investment going to the Conservative Party? I seem to be donating to both. I know that companies like Fidelity are usually bogus shareholder co-ops with the voting rights in practice resting with a few fund managers, the ebbs and flows of the stock market, and a self-perpetuating management. As an invester in tracker funds and a small pension I probably ought to have voting rights in this Fidelity donation to the Conservative Party and my vote is for both financial institutions to give less until the parties share their pollsters, cut their poster adverts, and come clean about where the rest of their money is spent so that it can be cut or spent from some shared public sector institution.

As for big merged consumer co-operatives and big merged shareholder PLCs, I wish I knew how more of them could become staff-owned and raise money with non-voting shares if needed.

Reverend Flowers is not in the same video as Mr Tootle, who does a great job of saying that the bank was being asked for more cash in the till by regulators and more cash to cover bad debts by the Brittania, so it pulled out of a rather audacious bid for surplus Lloyds branches. He does really well. I'd employ him to run a bank. The MPs are odd - like children in some documentary about a difficult school, but worse. They can't sit still, some of them, without playing with their mobiles or going to the loo, luckilly not on screen. The one on the chairman's right makes himself out as a master of rudeness and accuses Mr Tootle of smirking, but when the chair shuts him up and gets a proper reply this MP is playing with his mobile again. Silly man. I hope to work-out which MP he is.
Videos of Co-op executives, including the Reverend Paul Flowers, giving evidence in parliament. Apparently he thought the assets were £30 bn instead of £47bn
If I ran the Co-Op bank, I would introduce this new account option: shared money would be a good name for it.
The option would allow an account holder to show the detail, line by line, to any member of a group on the net. A spouse. A tax collector. A member, shareholder, partner, co-operator: anything like that. Within the account I would add the chance of categorising each line as Barclays does, so that any onlooker could see how much is spent line my line and category by category. Co-Op doesn't have teh money for bespoke software, but there are several writers of applications that read bank account data and maybe one or two of these could be re-badged and incorporated into the existing set-up (also allowing download of account data but that is another thing).

So all the clubs and societies and branches of unions and parties can have a good reason for keeping their Co-Op account: it makes them accountable and saves work for the treasurer.

About the Co-op bank. I was going to link to a video of one of the finance brokers that finds borrowers on
It's a site done by some very lean cats - very slow and full of ads - but seems to be the one.

Anyway, he said he was an ex bank manager who was now allowed to try and understand the business as well as just the numbers, as he'd been forced to do at Nat West. He made a point of visiting each client, deciding whether he could do business with the individual if the firm went bust, and paying a receiver to work out what capital was available if the business did go bust. During the loan he would keep in touch with the borrower about once a year and monitor through credit reference agencies. Hopefully he lends to sensibly because he's visited the site and checked all he can. Then if a borrower does go bust - he quoted a roof rack manufacturer in Birmingham - it does so in an organised way because he's able to work with the debtors and they're thinking about their personal guaruntees. Everyone is as happy as circumstances allow.

Anyway, if I were the Co-op, and had read the news about bank executives asking for multi-million pound payments to run the larger banks, and had no money to lend anyway (whatever the ethical policy) and no money to run 50 of the branches, I would try to think of ways to economise.

I would try to find the best business finance brokers and offer them vacant office space in Co-Op branches, because banks are where customers traditionally seek business loan. Not an obscure P2P lending site or a broker with a stall at a Business Finance trade show. With luck, some of these brokers could take-on Co-Op managers to save redundancy pay.

If I could find a way of linking a Co-Op savings product with the performance of P2P loans, that would be good as well, because savers, like borrowers, traditionally check what their bank can offer. So I would be directing savers and borrowers towards the same sites, using finance brokers that I don't have to pay, and I wouldn't be making any money out of it but it's still better than loosing money.

I suppose I would try to turn the retail banking part of the business into a staff co-op like John Lewis. None such exists. How to get to that point from a 30% controlling stake in an obscure de-listed PLC is above my head: maybe there is a way.

That leaves another problem: what is a bank branch for? If they don't have a purpose, maybe they can be converted into hot-desking places - somewhere like a reference library with a coffee machine where people can rent somewhere to work. What to do about the customers who still come-in wanting to cash a cheque is a problem. If every customer were allowed free time on a mobile contract run by Samba Mobile or Ovivo or such, and offered a smart phone, then maybe the withdrawal of bank counter services could be a virtue rather than a vice but I don't quite see it.

I have posted a version of this on , where the forum mentions other mutual banks and one or two calls to action.


At what point did the Co-op cease to be a co-op? Probably when television became more attractive than going to meetings, as the note about the co-ops subsidy for user groups among its members shows. I have not read about the rights and wrongs of what one user group did, but notice that the cause overlaps with what users of a similar system in the old Transport and General Workers' union funded.

Moving-on to the mainstream, it's easy to sound well-informed when you hope to hear a bit of news, there's some news coverage, and your hoped-for bit is not reported. That is why I can sound expert, because the Co-Op bank re-structuring, the Grangemouth oil refinary management, and the means of raising money for new nuclear power plants are all missed opportunities for staff ownership.

  • shows Grangemouth's owner to be more intersted in union-bashing than refining oil. They might to go and do union-bashing somewhere else and leave refinery the size of a town for the highest bidder. It is making a loss. Current staff might be the only people who can take the refinery over, and be sure of running it at a long-term profit because a staff-owned refinery would be trusted to raise wages again if possible, after emergency pay cuts. A shareholder-owned company has to ask for an unlikely amount of trust when asking for pay cuts: it has to say "trust our figures and analysis; trust us to cut your wages, and trust us not to pay shareholders and senior staff if there is ever money available again". Sadly, nobody has suggested a staff-owned management company and nobody has built-up towards one over time. Not even Unite.
  • George Osborne's background is in de-industrialisation. That is what his hero in politics was good at.
    He is reported as saying that UK perception of China as a sweatshop should be changed, and how helpful it is to have Chinese investment in UK airports. This is worrying. If I remember, airports had to be sold quickly because BAA was ruled to be a monopoly. Airports, like oil refineries, are large things to buy and sell; a sudden demand for capital can lead to international deals and ministers popping-up in odd places. If I remember right, nobody at BAA put-together an offer to make any of their airports into a staff-owned mutual, raising money in the traditional way which is to find people willing to forego current earnings in hope of a slightly better deal later-on. That is how a market stall is funded; that is how people buy most large domestic appliances, I guess, with finance deals coming second. But slightly larger appliances like oil refinaries and airports have to be sold to corporations based a long way away, who are told that they are buying them as a favour. That way, there are fewer bidders and business people about when the next airport is on the market; capital gets hard to find.
    Oh, Unite is a commonly used union among airport staff.
  • Co-Op business bank managers are redundant soon while their plc employer turns-out no-longer to be controlled by a consumer co-op, as described in the cifwatch link above. The bank is majority-owned by US venture capitalists and managed by a new Co-op boss who has ceased all business lending, so, whichever big boss makes the decisions, the business bank managers at Co-op bank branches are unlikely to be in post for long. It's a bit late now, but if their co-op had been a proper co-op run by the staff, would they have merged with Brittania and risked their jobs on dodgy mortgage selling that had been reported on Panorama? I guess not. Their union is Unite.

    I hope some of them put their money into P2P finance sites (which are Wordpress with and Ebay-like plug-in I guess, if you want to set one up) and find new jobs as finance brokers, putting deals together for the same sites like

  • PS I have just remembered that my personal bank account is with Co-Op's Smile Bank service; I joined the Co-Op. Who would have thought it? I haven't heard anything from them about the future of the bank - maybe I opted-out of rather sickley member mail as there is some kind of video message online here.

    So here is my customer review among others
    It works. You can log-on via e-wise and services like that, or directly. One years' statements are kept free online
    Account details can't be downloaded without obscure work-arounds that other people have invented a a favour to cusomers; maybe you can cut-and-paste. Co-op was slow to make and take BACS payments; I think it might just be quickening now. Online reviews state that they are not lending, which is embarassing if you expect a credit limit and don't check often. There is zero interest paid, which saves insult, and the best telephone contact is via the lost-card line which can put you through to others. You can pay money in via rare branches, post office counters using a special envelope, and Brittania branches. Not a bad free bank account if you don't want to use it for much - just like the rest of them but with a more interesting history.

    Brittania counter staff have a slower system for taking a cheque than the ones at Santander, who just run a cheque through a reader, type-in the destination account and amount, then ask "do you want a receipt?". Brittania use a system of quill-pen ledgers and tally-sticks which are balanced every night by candle light. There used to be a mortgage discount for Unison members.

    The phone co-op is a much more recently formed company that shares branding and membership discounts. I have an 0800 number with them that has no standing charge; this is unusual. Staff seem very highly skilled.
    I get annual invites to an annual general meeting in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, or you can dial-op over the phone in some way apparently.

Co-op legal services still offer free "initial advice" by phone to any co-op member, and membership is free. Worth reading the comments under this article before taking them too seriously though: apparently the paid services they like to refer-to aren't cheapest or best.

The current government have more-or-less ruled-out access to justice via employment tribunals by charging a lot to use a court.
If this happened to people who call the police (which are free) or magistrates courts (which cost £80 last time I looked), people would think it unjust. But something about how employment disputes are seen rules-out an outcry. Often the ministers making decisions have never had a normal job, which might be the problem.


"for lawyers ... there will be a one-off registration fee of £25; a 2.5% charge based on the quote provided by the lawyer, with a minimum charge of £5; and fixed fees of £25 and £99 for conveyancing matters and ‘no win, no fee’ cases respectively. There will be no charges for legally aided matters as part of the site’s corporate responsibility."

It's not obvious whether Mr Lawyer's and Mrs Lawyer's referral system can help more than it hinders in employment cases, because the cost of the work, compared to the small win, makes employment law barely economic. Any economy helps. On the other hand, a service like Mr Lawyer puts a client in touch with a willing lawyer for the right speciality for free. This may be a lawyer with low overheads, saving time and effort on both sides. is worth checking alongside, from a client's point of view, because it makes no charge to lawyers. On the other hand it is less easily edited by them; it doesn't allow them to cancel their link in August, nor to say much about their fees within a speciality. It does say whether a firm offers fixed-fee first interviews, and whether they specialise in employment law.

I don't know if this is important or not. The "Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration
has various parliamentary stages ahead of it. One problem is that the only way to catch an un-subtle MP will be removed. In the past, you or I could pose as a new lobbying company and offer money on video to MPs that had been turned-down by the main lobby groups, because they were a bit desparate and un-subtle as viewers see on the video. If there is a register, these MPs will learn to be as subtle as their colleagues. They will check the register. There will be no way of catching them out as a (pretend) inexperienced lobbyist talks to an inexperienced MP on video.

I do know, even before reading the bill, that it will say nothing about transparency for ordinary members who sign-up for something like the AA and get something like Hezbullah, or Hammas, or Hummus, or whatever it is called, or more likely just an empty office block and a stream of junk mail about discount pet insurance rather than help at work.

Talking of which, you can mash chick peas with a little peanut butter to get slighly cheaper hummus than the ready-mixed tubs in supermarkets, but so far my recipe does not taste so good.

Boston Consulting once employed another Mr Purnell, later an MP, who had the job of allocating £5m a year of higher education funding money to higher education Chinese factories that might want to make things for UK businesses and designers. The scheme, called Creative Capital World Cities and then Creative Connexions worked alongside funding from the Euroepan Regional Development Fund for regional development Chinese factories that might want to make things for UK businesses and designers - typically fashion designers at London Fashion Week. You can read more about the first scheme here.
You can read about Mr James Purnell's £295,000 a year next job here

16% of MPs have a consultancy background according to Medano Partnashiop.
Just googled some of the people in the Trades Union Reform Campaign. I don't know what to make of their CVs, except that they are similar strange and worrying. I thought that successful management consultants were people retired from senior jobs and paid for that reason, but I was wrong. Take this one who worked for Accenture and later Hedra/Mouchel

"After leaving Oxford, I worked as a Researcher for Philip Hammond MP before joining an international firm of Management Consultants, where I specialised in projects designed to improve the Criminal Justice System. I helped to deliver a large number of projects, working closely with government departments such as the Home Office, Cabinet Office and the Department of Health, as well as the NHS. I also did a lot of work with Police Forces, helping them to become more efficient and effective,"

Just googled a reference to Jane Pilgrim, UNISON organiser paid £40,000 by St Georges Healthcare NHS Trust.
I had some experience of this before, from the patient side. St Georges Healthcare managed Roehampton clinic that covered-up a mistake in the early 2000s, leading to slight brain damage. Nobody on the staff team said anything as the situation got worse, like "you could get a second opinion". If they had done, and got the sack, it's unlikely that Unison would have backed them; the union did not even bother to respond to management proposals on staff conditions or whistleblowing. Complaints, years later, lead to lies. Suggestions made in the same meeting, about making the clinic safer and a union fit for the purpose of protecting whistleblowers were listened to politely, but not even minuted. Maybe I do have more to do with this TURC bunch than I realised.

Just googled a reference to something called the "Trades Union Reform Campaign", mentioned in the Telegraph online.

Their web site now has blank white pages, but a look at the cache on shows that there were speeches quoted on the site from annoying politicians, spin doctors and wannebe politicians, and that there was a wishlist about how the law and how government departments should deal with unions. It was a wordpress site, neater than this one. For all that work, it as a disapointing list. The people who wrote that defunct web site do not seem to have read this one. Not all of them seem to have had normal jobs. They liked to write about whether union offices are sometimes let to them at below market rent, or collection of dues by payroll departments is sometimes offered too cheaply. Apparently there are some public sector employers where "time off for union duties" extends to an entire full-time salary for an official, but that official isn't working for the organisation as a qualified human resources worker. Lack of accountablity in union structures allows the person not to work for members as a qualified human resources worker either. The person could be like the union folk mentioned in Unison v Jervis.

An employer-paid union job is a rare one, that could be used to promote some experiments. If the person is properly elected and does a fair share of the organisations' work, then maybe it's a good idea. Or if the organisation doesn't allow a little time-off for union duties by ordinary reps - jobs like witnessing a disciplinary meeting for example. On the other hand it could be a terrible idea. Some hospitals employ patient reps and the same questions apply.

There's nothing on the TURC's front page about the union members' need for a good organisation, or the chance of saving money on human resources staff if good elected officials are in place. Nor the possibilities of unions saving the stress and cost of bad things in the workplace - whistles not blown; unfair dismissal patterns repeated over-and-over again. Suggestions not made. Training not provided. No-wonder nobody read the site and it is now a set of blank pages. For the record, this is what they had to say about themselves....

This organisation is run on a voluntary basis by people who work in both the public and private sectors, outside of their normal work hours. Just as trade unions should be. Who are we? Chairman: Aidan Burley MP Member of Parliament for Cannock Chase. After leaving Oxford University, Aidan worked as a researcher before joining an international firm of Management Consultants, where he specialised in projects designed to improve the Criminal Justice System. He also helped to deliver projects working closely with government departments such as the Home Office, Cabinet Office and the Department of Health, as well as the NHS. Chief Executive Mark Clarke’s business background has spanned the industry and consultancy working for Procter & Gamble, Mars, The Boston Consulting Group and now works in strategy consultancy in the City of London. He is also a Director of the Young Briton’s Foundation and President of the League of Friends of St George’s Hospital. While standing in for Parliament in Tooting for the Conservative Party he stumbled across the infamous Jane Pilgrim who abused her well paid taxpayer funded trade union position. Press Officer Andre Walker has a wealth of experience working in Press for the Greater London Assembly, Westminster Council, Hammersmith and Fulham Council, Windsor and Maidenhead Council and various Members of Parliament. Social Media Adviser Harry Cole is a journalist and blogger. He is currently the News Editor of Guido Fawkes and the UK Political Editor of The Commentator. He has actively campaigned against publicly funded trade union officials through his work. He is a regular broadcast commenter on politics and social media. Director of Operations: India Brummitt [pictured - no explanation beyond the made-up job title].

The bunch don't state where their funding comes from, despite a question on their web site from a reader. They could afford to register a limited company and get a logo designed. Maybe their jobs as "consultant" have been real paid jobs, got without other experience.

14.08.13 list of unions that pay the labour party.

I haven't read this stuff but it looks like a rare shaft of sunlight in a gloomy room.
If trades union members, who do not opt-out, fund a political party, then they should vote or be consulted as individuals by that party; their union should not be allowed to vote for them. This is such an obvious solution that it seemed impossible, after generations of labour leaders missed the point. It is a mystery why they missed the point, but as most of them are dead we will never know. The idea of union leaders having a bloc vote within an electorial college was a particularly bad and stupid solution to a simple problem.

What might change for union members?

  • Glasnost. If union members are allowed to go to labour party meetings and say "my union is crap and the legal system doesn't work in putting it right", right in the centre of self-deception vested interests and denial, then other people can't avoid the subject.
  • Maybe unions can be compelled to have contracts with their members in the same way that legal insurers do.
  • Maybe unions will be compelled towards internal democracy on local budgets, numbers of officials per member or workplace issues.
  • Maybe democratic votes will compel trades unions to provide plausible accounts, unlike my union's accounts which said they spent a tiny bit of money on legal help to members, while they also admitted using no-win no-fee lawyers who paid them commission.
  • Maybe democratic votes will encourage unions to provide other useful services and useful suggestions. is a union that already provides employment training. Transport and General used to be keen on John-Lewis like worker co-ops. Nowadays, they just send junk mail about buying pet insurance on commission (the pet gets a contract to FSA standards but the member doesn't).

    Member votes aren't an excitement in other mutuals like Equitable Life of building societies, but it's not always a failure, and building societies' elections share the same faults as current union ones, with one vote on a national committee membership that individual members know nothing about. A better system would be for trades unions to consult individual members are about an individual workplace or an individual budget, as well as the committee at the centre.

What might change for party hobbyists and managers?

  • non labour voters will get more mail with "labour" written on it in red. Ballot papers. Invites to meetings. This is good. Some conservative local parties invite non-conservative voters to come and help choose candidates. It discourages nutters from becoming candidates with the support of small minorities (like faith groups or Thatcherites). It's nothing to worry about, but a good thing that a party defines itself by being a broad party of union members.
  • non labour voters might opt-out more. There is already a tick-box on some Unite ballots asking (with no authority or reason) for members to confirm that they are labour supporters before voting, and the tick-boxes might continue. On the other hand, a party of union members and people who have joined individually sounds a more attractive thing to join, so more people might opt-in.
  • people who don't know or care about the welfare state or the world of work will go to labour meetings. No change there then. But as these will be trades union members, I think the average will shift towards people who are down to earth.
  • organised groups of non-labour voters might be more common within the labour partorganised groups of non-labour voters might be more common within the labour party, such as a Conservative-voting Labour Party Members' group, or some of the embarassing small parties. Again: no big change. At the moment, party grandees have to make-up some kind of internal message in order to have a conference motto like "one nation" or "onward and upward", so a bit of genuine division is OK. The only danger is that they will carry-on spending money on events and PR which can't be afforded, and that's an area where a party within a party might be useful: a faction asking them to stop having big conferences.
  • journalists will have to change their conventional wisdom. I guess that students on journalism courses are given a list of cliches to learn by heart. One is that left-of-centre people oppose Trident, but that the centre prevails. That cliche came-up in reporting of the liberal party recently - it is a cliche that has survived the end of the cold war and so has no relation to defence, as far as I can tell.

    The relevant cliche here is that Labour depends on un-popular trades union funding; that unions somehow twist the arms of Labour politicians and force them to do some bad thing or other, like talk in a fake regional accent or eat chips. I don't know where to look-up the book of cliches, so I can't give your detail an maybe none exists - it is just something un-said.
  • union scandals might be reported. People might ask: "if these union folk ripped-off their members on a massive scale for decades, why are they now in the House of Lords or a committee or a council?". Sir Fred Goodwin didn't go to prison, so I doubt that ex union leaders will. Unless someone finds-out where the money goes.


Why is Unite The Union reported in the press as a trades union?
I don't see a union.
I see an paid organisation that

  • has no proxy voting for the vast majority of committees and elections - so it's no more democratic than a PLC or a building society
  • hires too few officials to read members' cases or attend their disciplinary meetings
  • cons aggreaved members by sending them, without warning, to no-win no-fee lawyers who have to pay referral fees to Unite
  • has no system for promoting employee-owned companies as its TGWU part was set-up to do, nor other detailed ideas for improving work at the unionised workplaces I've worked at
  • chooses not to use contracts with members that would pass a Financial Services Authority inspection
  • charges £12 a month
  • gets its members by referral from employers.

Chuka Umunna MP was on the radio today defending trades unions as bodies that represented people of all parties. They don't. The one I belonged too ripped-off its volunteer reps, by leaving them caught between desparate members and paid services that were worse then useless. It ripped-off its members by allowing branches to spend political money regardless of any opt-out. It consulted none of its members for suggestions or votes, and so could not possibly be said to represent those suggestions or votes. It was a disgusting scam that exists because the politicians and journalists who cover trades unions have never had to use their scam trades union services. The failure of unions like Unite to represent anything but their own slogans and office politics allows employers to remain bad places to work, and parties to remain unaware of this part of peoples' lives.

Oh, the story this time is about the Falkirk constituency and arbitarilly turning union membership data into ghostly labour members with forged votes. Just look at pictures of union bosses. Their side of the story is different but I haven't read it; their computer couldn't even print-out a list of members in a particular branch without a months' wait when I was a member. Their bosses would not answer a letter of complaint. They were not capable of telling the truth. If you look at pictures of them, would you believe a word they said, if you didn't know who they were? Or if you'd heard that they ran financial services companies that would fail any financial services authority test? The scam is not that they behave as expected; the scam is that they are still referred to as trades unions at all.

...looks an interesting debate three years ago about why employment tribunals don't work. The pattern of a big organisation flinging funders' money at lawyrs to cover-up, and a tribunal un-equipped for balanced judgement seems a common one.

The Clothing Works is a new company set-up to run a vast Aquascutum cut-make-and-trim works in Northamptonshire. I don't know their minimum order, price range or lead times but they are looking for customers for "a wider range of garments, including soft tailoring, trousers, dresses and skirts".

MPs in other commonwealth countries sometimes sing their national anthems, which is embarassing.
Broadcasters today have been covering a lack of news, which is embarassing. People in Boston stay indoors. Thank you for that. What news on the ground? Well, people in Boston are staying indoors. One has been in his closit. None gives recipes or gardening tips, or anything but stories about staying indoors. Nobody from more interesting or newsworthy countries is interviewed. I have been indoors all day and been to the loo. There is little to say but the news values of USA + World Stage + Violence dictate the time to fill, and reports of Bostonians staying indoors and going to the loo have to fill this space. Explanation from ex-nutters about why they were once in sympathy with the idea of blowing-up a marathon ceremony might be interesting, but no.

Back to MPs of commonwealth countries, I am afraid there is a subject I am patient to hear about that was covered in New Zealand. You might be interested just for the rhetoric: if you to see the best speech in the world about nothing much happening, click here: it starts after the singing:

As many national insurance benefits are cut in scope and rate, Dead Prime-Ministers' Funeral Grant has shot-up to £10,000,000 in one case even though no claim has been made: the ex prime minister did not want a state funeral. She is in no position to benefit. Most state funerals are paid by councils when a body is found with no relatives available to charge. Environmental health laws require some action. Sometimes the body is in a public place, or council housing, or a hospital demands some action. None of these factors applies: this funeral is pomp designed for people who think it is their duty to do the right thing by attending, and a very few who think it gets them on telly and brings the nation together at the same time. An even smaller number might want to go. In Mrs Thatcher's younger days she might have said (not asked - it was a rhetorical flourish):

"Yes: but where is the money coming from?"

The Thatcher family have paid themselves for a quiet cremation which costs £540, but state funerals can be £340 in the 9-9.30 morning slot before the organist arrives. Jose Matada might get either, in the same crematorium if cremated here. An official from Richmond Council would attend. The council is paying itself for this service so I doubt they mind whether the organist is included in the fee. I doubt the ashes are often mixed-up, but if I worked in a crematorium and there were some ashes to swap-around I would choose these two. The Thatcher family have also paid their own costs for getting a death certificate, moving the body the first 50 miles for emotional reasons, and £700 towards ordinary undertakers' costs like a coffin and hearse. Funeral costs are vague and varied but if the Thatchers are on certain benefits, their national insurance could have covered this. They paid privately, which is also good. In the woods by the river you sometimes see a few cut flowers were someone has distributed some ashes. There is a good pub nearby with wheelchair access where funeral parties often meet after singing a song or listening to a speech at the cremy. It would be nice if had a £340 late slot for mourners to save the organist and spend some of the money perhaps on beer. That is all there is to be said about a private funeral from outside. Even from inside, it is hard to know what to say, and that is why people have little ceremonies like scattering flowers with the ashes or drinking alcohol in a pub later.

Meanwhile, commentators tell us that the person changed a lot while in office. A cringing obituary documentary by thatcherites for thatcherites reminded me what they are like; emotionally challenged people who back a show and a leader, partly by showing hostility to other points of view they don't understand. Harry Enfield characters like the "loads of money" plasterer were described as a left wing attack on the class mobility which Mrs T speaheaded or pioneered or sounbited or some such. Evidence was that she presided over an end to market distinctions between buyer and seller in the city of London, bringing-in all the US banking culture which has brought so much wealth with it. I haven't googled "city of London big bang" on Wikipedia, but I think it was something like that. Another of her contributions was privatisation of shares without usable voting rights. British Steel employees could now own British Steel shares, but with a voting system more twisted than the worst trade union, there wasn't much that anyone could do with these shares except make use of the discount by selling them-on.

Mrs Thatcher's character was full of the contradictions of a person who tries too hard to do all the cabinet jobs, gets too tired, and becomes a even more of a hectoring, narrow, cartoon character. She might have been similar to Atlee that way, who was also surrounded by a brain-damaged entourage of party loyalists and believers in sound-bytes, excusing his demolition of town centres for Pollson archetecture, changing the ownership of British Steel again in the name of the workers who again had no say over how it was run, and introducing a national insurance system that someone else dreamed-up for which he got the credit. For example, the thatcher acolyte who made a TV obituary about her believed that thatcher was pro-business. She introduced a monetary policy which flattened business, at taxpayers' expense, by paying a little too much for government debt, bringing-in overseas investors until the exchange-rate compensated, and so allowing cheaper imports from autocratic states. So we paid to put our factories out of work, and paid again for the extra benefits bill. Google "monetary policy transmission mechanism" and look at the bottom row of arrows on a flow diagram if in doubt. So the acts were opposite to the soundbites, in Atlee's case and Thatcher's, but it is the sounbites that are remembered.

Thatcher echoes Macmillan in a separate way. Labour politicians have sometimes been slow to kill subsidies to some lame duck industry (I guess that duck legs can't be mended, as with horse legs and Morris Marina rust patches). Macmillan encouraged the maximum possible dishonesty in order to close too many branch lines rather than too few. He was a shit that way; there's no getting around it. Likewise Thatcher avoided noticing the simple accounting for pensions in coal mine accounts, that made them seem unprofitable when they were profitable, or the effect of her fiddling the exchange rate. Her ministers were much more astute in their choice of lorry convoys to transport imported coal rather than cheaper sea freight. Driving the lorrices through cole-mining areas and sending-in a psyched-up tactical reserve force of police was bound to lead to resentment, breaches of human rights, division and good TV pictures. It did. She won popolarity for being bad and dishonest. She was a shit that way and there is no getting around it, however much she did and said things to like such as "where is the money coming from?".

Some things haven't changed. For all the distrust of silly old farts in politics, Mrs Thatcher employed one as deputy prime minister and he answered a question in the House of Commons about a fire at Windsor Castle. On no particular authority he said that the taxpayer would pay to rebuild it, diverting millions from the benefits system. Likewise, someone in this government has paid ten million pounds from taxpayers' money, on no particular authority, to encourage a lot of leaders from around the world to take time off work and tire themselves out in awkward interactions and boring ritual. They will need more time off work to recover. They will become more like cartoon characters themselves as they get more tired. And they show no shame in doing it on television, lined-up for the cameras on prominent pews like families in the Daily Mail who have a zillion children in order to live off the child benefit.

Broadcast lies haven't changed much. I am too young to remember cringeingly un-critical reporting of town centres being pulled down and industries nationalised for no particular reason. I remember the time when Gay Pride marches in London or Democracy Now marches in Edinburgh could attract thousands, but the BBC would report a small un-connected event in a remote town, or a particularly long cricket match instead. Recently they forgot to show much of Protest the Pople dispite him having near-daily and doting coverage on programs which were officially called news. They report that Mrs Thatcher reformed or "took on" the trades unions, but here act to make them democratic only applied to the top-titled elections and was written for a pre-digital age, asking for elections by marking of ballot papers. Attempts to open-up union finances were half-hearted and have been overturned in case law. Just recently time they chose not to breadcast Ding Dong The Witch is Dead, and happened not to show people at Ludgate Circus with banners saying "waste of money" or "where is the money coming from?", or who turned their backs on the procession. Later we'll see the most dramatic protest, rather tahn the most typical, as with coverage of the miners' strike. Mrs Thatcher did not get rid of old farts and was not pro-business, but would possibly have agreed with the demonstrators against her state funeral.


09.04.13 - no state-funded funeral for Mrs Thatcher.

Forces of evil. What are they?

  1. Borderline personality disorder
    as in the Philpot case are important. I should but don't know if there's any use in distinguishing betwen psychopath and borderline personality disorder, or whether it is possible to separate, or whether there is anything to do to help people who might take up so much of their own and taxpayer's energy in crime and courts and prisons to do something more fun.
  2. Undiagnosed slight brain damage.
    Philpot was so cross during interviews that he punched the air. Anyone would in frustration when their head doesn't work properly, and gets tired & flustered in ways that nobody else can guess and is hard to interpret and explain to them. So fights, bad medical treatment, accidents or whatever can cause slight brain damage and the victim is a menice and tail of woe for the rest of their lives. Addiction agencies for example are no good at helping their clients measure any brain damage and make sense of any need to act differently (compulsively, an outsider would say but there is no choice) when information comes slower from the top-of-the-head for reacting or back-of-the-mind for planning a to-do list.
  3. Nerdyness in religious form
    as in the Taliban case are important. Apparently some people are religeous; they are genetically prone to asking silly questions like "will by body be compost when I'm dead?" . Obviously so. But some people are like that; they worry. And a preacher who says "all you have to do is believe XYZ and you need no longer worry" can have un-deserved and un-welcome effects. Particularly if the religious bod is gay. One or two religeous loyalty cults are anti-gay but welcome gay peope into their midsts like the two boys who loved each others' company and failed at dealing with anybody else's company except when learning to fly a hijacked plane into the world trade centre on 9/11. There's another bunch who have userped President Obama's usual role as the person most reported for doing least on the BBC news. They're the bunch who are against condoms and abortions because they want more people to be poor and unhappy and catholic and so increase their market share.
  4. Pointless urge to compete
    happened in two forms for the Greater London Authority recently.
    The need for variety and randomness in how things can be done is worth recognising, and it is good that there are different organisations providing olympian activities or financial services such as easy get-into-debt deals or mis-sold payment protection insurance and mis-sold fuel contracts signed-up door-to-door. My worry is that people compete for the wrong reasons and impose bad competition on their subordinates with systems of commission in the private sector or general comformity to hold down a job in the public sector so that nobody, even now, says on telly that taxes are for essential services and not for a silly sports event that reduced trade and tourism in London for a month or two.
  5. Big. The urge to be part of something big.
    I think this is another force of evil which counters human beings' instict to pull-out of something like a media organisation or a political party or a government department when, really, the thing is beyond help and needs exposing so that it gets a quicker end. Other factors mix-in. I know that I was shy for decades and doubted my ability to get another career path outside the mediocre one that I had started. This was rational. But we see every few months how people paid far more money than they can ever spend in their lifetimes clinging to careers doing something like forcing RBS HBOS staff to increase market share far too quickly and so probably make the company go bust and rip-off customers. Why? Probably the same urge that makes people want to join the territorial army: the urge to show-off in a big organisation.

Another grand statement from a TV history of the world's final episode. We are monkeys who like shopping and showing-off. A pity that such innocent instincts somehow become forces of evil.

I would have blogged today but the people under the train at Highbury and Islington weren't pushing hard enough, causing delays. As a member of the political class I imagine that this is how it works.
News of Whipcar's unexpected closure today leaves motorists short of income and short of cheap local car hire options.
Car hire companies tend to have higher costs with charges to match - often concealed by a requirement to return the car in office hours, so that the most advertised and cheapest-looking daily deals are hardly any use to anyone. You have to hire the car for two days.
Locally-run and less well-known firms tend to be better at allowing you to put the keys back through the letterbox after hours.

Whipcar drivers and car-owners might be looking for a whipcar alternative. Tempcover short term motor insurance does the job if used through Topcashback to reduce the price of temporary car insurance by £8.

Whipcar's commercial position is not disasterous, leaving their own explanation puzzling. "...Barriers to widespread adoption of peer-to-peer car rental in the UK. As a small team with limited resources, we have taken a good long look at these scaling challenges". Maybe a shareholder had believed a business plan with "year one, one pound; year two, one million pounds, year three.... etc" and lost patience with reality rather than cutting costs and, perhaps, working from home as whipcar members do when they hire-out their cars. Or maybe an insurer pulled the plug. Sooner or later, news will emerge, but for people who want a whipcar alternative here and now, suggest Topcashback's deal on Tempcover to former whipcar members who own cars. You may know some of them from previous hires, or track them down on the archived version of whipcar: . - put a note under the windscreen wiper to say that you might hire the car and provide your own insurance through Topcashback and if you think you can find the right car.

As a guide to the UK for visitors, I offer this information.

Decades ago, 8-year-olds and 7-year-olds were sent to very expensive boarding schools by selfless parents in order to be toughened-up for jobs like surgeon or judge or government officer in India. The ideas was that you needed to be tough, physically and emotionally, to survive the responsiblity and travel. In the forces, you would know what squaddies and able seamen were going-through if you had done it yourself before beginning your management career at 21 or 24.

Grave stones around the world mark these strange aloof and unemotive people who often died of maleria in India in their teens and twenties. Their achievements were to be less corrupt and better at engineering than others. Their emotional retardedness was the problem, from the Amritsar Massicre to thousands of other petty incidents and failures to improve. Noel Coward said of the colonial service thet half of them couldn't run the Hackney Empire, let alone the British Empire. He judged them on their emotional intelligence, politeness, and origality I suppose. The same goes for older judges and generals and hospital consultants now.

Recent decades have shown a change in the system. Instead of denying yourself any luxury in order to deny your children any luxury in a spartan school learning greek and latin, you pretend to be religious and get an exclusive education for your children at other taxpayers' expense just for being a hypocrite. Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats has just followed Tony Blair of the Labour Party in securing a place at the London Oratory school. Meanwhile a comprehensive up the road has among the worst results in the UK because people like Tony Blair and Nick Clegg withdraw their children and put them somewhere exclusive. We know the time bomb that was set-off by the previous system. It's harder to talk like a a grand historian about the current system.

Crap, obviously, and in need of sorting-out. Maybe some nineteenth century Indian army types would have seen the problem and fixed it.

When an autocratic state has, say, 115 votors, european politicians say nothing at all when getting cheap imports and hopes of export sales or inward investment. Then, when things get sticky, european politicians urge respect for human rights and broadening of the electorate as the foreign office now sometimes does about Syria. And a conference with air trips to a destination, sandwiches, cautious speeches to write, policies to draft and press releases for the BBC would be good as well. All these things create employment for civil servants and commentators. Thankfully the Syrian opposition groups have saved UK taxpayers the expense by refusing to take part, even for free sandwiches, hotel accommodiation, and a chance to be on the the telly.

When a faith group has 115 votors the process is much the same but more excruciatingly public and nervous. The UK government has not urged restraint, but the prime minister and main broadcaster have said and broadcast embarrasing things in hope of popularity among cartoon catholics, like the ones they meet in parliament.

I'm better informed than most senior politicians because I have spent a minute or so trying to google the things my partner reads out to me. The majority of US catholics are in favour of same sex marriage but the 115 votors include plenty of dodgy ones.
I've just asked for the list again to transcribe but have lost track. 28 are Italians apparenlty. A cardinal in Mexico claims that there are no sexual abuse cases but has defended a very large number. A cardinal in New York has spent more than anyone could expect on settling abuse claims because it is cheaper, he says. A cardinal in Mexico claimed that protostants (maybe including atheists and other religions - we don't know) are shameless; women who do not cover themselves up increase the rape statistics. Meanwhile there is a nice cardinal in South Africa [Argentina] who uses buses go get about and urges people not to go to Rome to stand outside the Vatican window but to give any such spare money to charity instead.

People have to go on the air and talk about bye-elections: are there lessons to be learned from a process that allows voters to say arse to the usual process, but not why? Obviously not. It would have been easier if the governing party were not wierdly against the alternative vote system and had not put-up posters paid-for from Belize to say it is not understandable. Not even with two inflatable horses to demonstrate that the current system is a two horse race: apparently the governing party financed a pink and a blue horse to show just how bad the voting system they voted for really is, and one of the inflatable horses sprung a leak. Another reason for low tory votes may be the neighbouring tory MP who was interviewed on the radio. According to her there are groups, and feelings, and a need for groups to "tune-in" to each-others' feelings. The groups need not be well-defined. So "leadership" in a party should "tune-in to the feelings" of a disparate group who do not share any mailing list but are vaguely the conservative protest votors of a constituency. I imagine that dousing-rods are called-for. Or emotional antennae. If the feeling of anger is identified, action must be taken without reference to whether it is wrong or right. MPs have suggested that wind farms, for example, are a distraction from causes of anger. It's not stated whether cheap energy and construction jobs are a counter-distraction, which somehow bring the feelings of the ill-defined group of people who can't be contacted back to a voting choice. No-wonder people didn't vote for a party with such a nutter as a neighboring MP. I forget her name.

Queer and Catholic is a video site and such which I have not spent time on, because I am queer an atheist or softer words along those lines. (Gay and from a CofE culture or some such). Apparently, homophobic gays are a significant shaper of what rubbish this faith group talks. I hope the papal emmisory that I met in a backroom in Rome a few years ago is not part of this.

Mock newspaper advert: Pontiff. € Excellen + benefits. Rome based with some international travel. Our leading international client in the faith sector are urgently seeking a highly credulous and experienced spiritual leader to lead the organisation backward into the Dark Agesm Would suit dogmatic individual with a flair for ignoring impirical evidence. Any experience of covering-up sexual abuse scandals would be highly desirable. Homophobic and mysogynistic applicants welcome. Bullet-proof ice cream van, silly hat and red slippers supplied. May be required to work some weekends and bank holiday. Fallible candidates need not apply. The Holy See is *NOT* an Equal Opportunities Employer.02.03.13
Qadabra is showing ads on this site for fat credulous people who want to know a wierd old tip for a tiny belly. If this applies to you you might be interested on the ad on the left for a pontiff as well. It's different to other voluntary sector job ads in not stating the funders at the end.










I'm no great pundit, but more people look at this site after I have written a post about something, and that helps keep it online, so here goes.

David Burrowes MP at a three party dog shows a committee on the same sex couples bill being philibustered, as parliameterians call time-wasting with verbosity, for about two days by the MP for Enfield Mr David Borrowes who looks like someone just walked-out of my old school with a V-neck jersey, neat hair, white shirt & tie over smelly trousers (not him: we used to have quite smelly trousers at my school). A bit less fit. Maybe he went to a special sort of school which is a pity because I am sure a lot of people in Enfield think he just campaigns for dog competitions and more trains or more spending in Enfield and don 't realise that this is what he is up to. Unless they like selective schools paid out of taxes for pretending to belong to a faith group, in which case I guess they want to keep quiet about it and not have someone pretending to believe in the scam a they have to do, and drawing attention. One of his colleagues put similar arguments in defence of biggot teachers but took the precaution to sit just off-camera in the cramped committee-room so that we can only see his hands on TV, just as we can see real sensible MPs twiddling their thumbs, typing and staring into space while special pleading for biggotry continues.

Likewise I am sure that if he went to a proper school or got to think about things again, he wouldn't be wasting taxpayers' money and patience for days in a row and would be more interested in care for the elderly or something related to his constituency in a less dodgy way.

The members are very patient with his time wasting, because taxpayers pay for it not them, because some of them can be seen doing their constituency work on laptops as he speaks, or passing-around a bag of sweets at one point. Many did not return after lunch. Good luck to them: I am sure they will not rise to the bait and say something that can be quoted against them by people with deeply-held religious biggotry and other no-hope MPs who seek publicity. Or to avoid blackmail. Or whatever motivates MPs to talk a load of rubbish for hours at a time in defence of what might be in the head of someone offended by sharing a word "marriage" with different class of people, or what might happen to marriage registrars who apply for a job and as soon as they have got it say "I'm not doing same sex and will take you to court if you make me work my fair share of marriages", or the faith school - surely an indefensible drain on taxpayers - that asks for taxpayers' money to teach crap.

Meanwhile the faith group with 11% affiliation in surveys and that causes most fuss still gets most free publicity on the BBC, for example when its leader in Italy looks out of the window and gets headline news, and is still allowed to gets subsidy, for example when people seek a selective school for their child and suddenly start believing and donating in order to secure a place at a catholic one. The fact that there are more and more faith schools was raised by one of the MPs opposed to gay marriage, without any apology or remorese, in front of a very patient committee.

I am rude but never typed onto this page that the catholic church is a loyalty cult at the top. I thought it but did not think anyone would be intersted in my opinion. Maybe about the Moonies or the Scientologists, but a bigger donomination is more something that should be left to sort itself out, surely? Now Mr Ratzinger had said what I did not think polite to say, pledging cultish loyalty to his successor. What is his successor is wrong? This bunch at the top of their heirachy have never been good at moral decisions: as Mr Ratzinger and perhaps his boyfriend and papal bankers said: they pledge loyalty.

As this strange faith group with 11% of polite survey tick-boxes and huge public subsidy begins to unravel, it's sensible to wish it the best. Maybe a former pople will come-out as gay. Maybe priest staff pensions will not depend on sucking-up to the nonce-o in future, or conditional pensions will become illegal. Or the electorate will expand more widely than eight. Or the Italian government will end Mousoulini's independence for Vatican City and encourage ordinary police to go about ordinary business of preventing crime there. Maybe senior clerics will marry. Maybe they will recognise the role of condoms in reducing poverty. Not many people in the UK are much interested, but it is good to see signs of positive change.

BBC reporting is different. If the pope comes-out as gay, I guess there is a BBC plan as to how it will be reported. If the cardinals in the USA are arrested on their way to vote, I guess there is a BBC plan as to how it will be reported. And if Mr O'Brian, biggot of the year, is reported as molesting young priests then another story about windbags without much life experience who had trouble fending-off a lecherous liberal advisor will be given far more time than it deserves in the hope that it seems in some way to compare with the what catholic bishops do, in the minds of the audience.

Going off the subject a bit there was a liberal MP here who was quite convinced that I was a "local person" and that "most people are interested in local issues" to the point where she had no idea what was going on in the commons and lobbied for me on some subject that she was also voting against without really knowing or caring. She was voted-out after pretending that a local hospital A&E department was closing in order to campaign for it to stay open, according to an over-heard conversation opposite a tabloid journalist on the London Underground. She has never apologised or explained why she should become a lord after being such a scumbag, other than being a loyal votor for her party and having no ideas and so no inconvenient ideas. So, in a way, the liberal party is a thing to compare on the air waves with an 11% faith group, but only in a real way about how the scum rise to the top rather than become more happy by being more honest.

24.02.13 - from The Observer;

Those involved believe the cardinal abused his position. "You have to understand," explains the ex-priest, "the relationship between a bishop and a priest. At your ordination, you take a vow to be obedient to him. He's more than your boss, more than the CEO of your company. He has immense power over you. He can move you, freeze you out, bring you into the fold … he controls every aspect of your life. You can't just kick him in the balls."

This seems a bad way to run a market stall, let-alone the management of a faith group with disproportionate media coverage on the BBC, and a tendency to preach procreation to third world families in order to increase its market share at all human costs.

The BBC simply reported "innapropriate acts" in followed by other "innapropriate acts" by a member of the liberal democrats, without reference to Cardinal O'Brien's Bigot of the Year award for opposing gay rights, nor the strangeness of an 11% denomination recieving disproportionate coverage and from a top-down respectful point of view. The day before, the BBC reported to its UK licence payers that the Vatican criticised the US press for reporting of acts by another of its eight votors who may be allowed by police to travel from the states.

A vicar who poured boiling water over a homeless man before stabbing him after he took shelter outside his church, has been jailed. Reverend Friday Archy, 51, screamed at his victim: 'I told you to go. If you stay here you will die,' before plunging the knife into his neck, armpit & chest. The holy man claimed the injuries to Ben Donetus were karma for being a sinning homeless person. The 25-year-old, who suffered severe burns and four stab wounds, spent two days in hospital with a collapsed lung.

Rev Archy was jailed for seven years after being found guilty of inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent following a trial at Inner London Crown Court. The green-robed Nigerian, of the Christ-Choosing Church of God in Peckham, southeast London, clashed with the victim after failing to move rough sleepers away.

The victim said from his hospital bed on the day of the attack: ;
'I have been sleeping rough for the last two years.' About two months ago a friend told me of the Penarth Centre and that it was a safe place to sleep. I have now been sleeping at the centre for the last two months. 'I sleep there every night, on the landing outside the door leading to the Christ Choosing church of God. I believe this is on the first floor of the centre. There are two other rough sleepers who also sleep there every night. 'I see the reverend at least three nights per week. He used to talk to me and tell me to go away and sleep elsewhere. 'Recently he has stopped talking to us. Last night I arrived as usual at about 11pm.' Mr Donetus discovered one of his friends had joined him on the landing because his usual spot was flooded. 'I rolled out my bedding and went do sleep,'
said the homeless man. 'The next thing I remember was waking up, feeling wet. I felt my back and it was wet. I could feel it was also hot. 'I turned over and saw the reverend standing over me with an electric kettle in his left hand. 'He was shouting: "Get out, get out". I tried to get up, but the reverend pushed me to the ground. As I fell I saw he had a silver knife in his right hand. 'I turned away to protect myself, then felt myself being stabbed. I could see the reverend was standing over me, stabbing at me. 'He was shouting: "I told you to go, if you stay here you will die". 'I was really frightened he was going to kill me. I yelled for help.'The reverend then stopped stabbing me. He just ran back in to the church, closing the door behind him.'

The injured man was taken to nearby Kings College Hospital for treatment for stab wounds, a collapsed lung, a fractured rib, and two 40cm burns on his torso following the incident on May 2 last year.

Archy had two previous convictions for making threats to kill in 1991, the court heard.

Read more:
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook - quoted on various other sites. Events were late 2011.

The church web site states "Our church is part of the Diocese of Southwark and we have connections with the following organisations: Evangelical Alliance www.eauk/org New Wine Reform " I have emailed the fundraising email address of the diocese of Southwark to ask them if they will end any connection with this church, which seemed to promote faith healing in a recent sermon. I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been recieved.

If any atheists like me who happen to be from a tolerent CofE culture are reading this and wondering what to do for a fondly remembered organisation, I suggest two things.

  • Faith groups should hold atheist days, for people who want to meet neighbours to sing a song and drink tea or maybe more.
    It seems unfair that a traditional faith, like the CofE, is not allowed to hold tea parties and singing sessions in order to build community, just because some bunch want everyone to sign-up to a load of rubbish.
  • Legislators should remove funding for faith-selective schools, which are basically selective schools paid out of taxes on the excuse of repesenting a faith and give the faith group a power to call-in donations, acceptability, and congregations in exchange for choosing parents. Corruption, in other words.
  • There is something about the false release from troubled thoughts that is given by membership of a nerdy theology group - from Harry Krishna to The Evangelical Alliance to Al Kieda if that's how they spell it. They all release their worries and critical faculties into nerdyness, gain a circule of aquaintances, but upset the rest of us sometimes as a result. Without any apology or recognition of the balls they talk.

  • 11.12.12 : quoted from Ethical Consumer
    Tax-paying alternatives to Amazon
    Once you've decided not to shop with Amazon you'll need to know which companies do pay tax. Otherwise you could simply end up supporting another tax dodging company.We found five well known High Street shops that appear to be paying a fairer amount of tax.

    • Debenhams - Paid 22% tax on its profits for 2012.
      Debenhams online offers everything from fashion to furniture.
    • John Lewis - Paid 35% tax on its profits for 2012.
      John Lewis online offers virtually everything that's available on Amazon with the exception of books.
    • Lush – Paid 42% tax on its profits for 2011.
      Lush online offers an extensive range of handmade cosmetics.
    • Marks and Spencer – Paid 27% tax on its profits for 2012.
      Marks and Spencer online offers everything from frocks to food.
    • Next – Paid 26% tax on its profits for 2012.
      Next online offers everything from evening wear to electricals.

    Of course we always recommend that you support your local shops - many of them on - before you hit the big High Street chains. Phone first to order titles.

    In a reversal of Amazon’s famously unpopular suggestion to browse books first in a High Street bookshop and then buy them cheaper online, it's quite fun to browse for books first on Amazon and then buy them from a tax-paying local bookstore. A good option is a workers co-operative and radical bookshop. is another good alternative initiative combining online shopping with supporting local book stores. Search on Amazon Marketplace and then buy the book you want directly from the seller by searching for it elsewhere online. Other good options for second hand books are and Oxfam Books.

    A note on our research
    While this research isn't an exhaustive exploration of each company's tax affairs, it does go some way to show which retailers are making a greater contribution to the public purse. This is specifically in terms of the percentage of actual tax paid on their profits, provided that profits recorded were a reasonable proportion of turnover.

    Osborne the chancellor's speech talked about "welfare" and the US economics text books that people tend to study from call them "transfer payments" rather than the using the british jargon of "national insurance". The concept of National Insurance in the Lloyd George sense and the Beverage Report sense, I guessed, was that a lot of the paymens make sense over a taxpayer's lifecycle from cradle to grave. It is not a difficult concept. It is not an unusual concept. For a while there was even a National Insurance Fund. It is a concept that politicians pretend to find difficult, or are too lazy to think about. They will say "It's difficult to justify universal benefits to rich people when you are talking to a much poorer person on the doorstep", but it isn't. Everyone understands insurance. Nobody would restrict car insurance pay-outs to a wealthy person, and most people would want a national car insurance scheme if the state could run it cheaper.

    For the first time I have heard George Osborne call pensions "welfare". Sadly, the opposition parties are no better. If they admitted that they were guardians of a national insurance fund or the chance to run one, people would ask: "aren't you like Equitable Life directors, bankers and all the rest of them who spent money on casino risks, sponsoring the Olympics or the Royal Opera House instead of doing your job and staying out of prison?" Oh I forgot: they don't go to prison for spending £9 billion on the Olympics or however many million a year on the Royal Opera. Nor do enough people say they should go to prison. That's another bad thing about the vague"welfare" and "transfer payments" idea: it allows too much power for political types, who are never likely to be short of a pension or unemployment benefits, to decide at whim where the money goes. If you ask for tax to go down they say it's needed for the welfare state; if it stays the same, even in the middle of a recession, they have no shame at funding the Department for Culture Media and Sport and the Royal Opera House that sums it up.

    04.12.12 - please sign this petition against genocide President Yoweri Museveni:

    In solidarity with people from across Uganda, we ask that you keep your promise to uphold Uganda's Constitution, and the human rights embodied within it, and veto the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

    I don't understand this phone hacking scandal but I do understand

    • The hacked including John Prescott MP found that they could not get help from the police and this is not in the news.
    • Debate is about a trade association and various metaphors and details about how it is set-up, as though there is no equality before the law that applies to journalists and everybody else, or if there is, it works prefectly, which it didn't.

    I do understand that those who are let-down by trades unions face the same problem. There should be equality before the law that applies to bad trades unions, bad legal insurers, and everybody else. Union members who have been let-down are not likely to have a crack legal team. The failure of the financial services authority or trading standards to help is as odd as the failure of police to help the hacked. There might be some need for special organisations and one exists, called the Certification Office, but the main problem is why mainstream judges and journalists and lawyers tolerate a crap system.

    Oh - just to pretend I understand the phone hacking scandal and have been following it, here is a link to something I have not read:

    A-level history and a CofE up-bringing taught me a bit about the organisation, although I'm not religious or fully christian.

    The C of E was set-up to end a period in which an incoming king could be protestant or catholic, and in the catholic case decide to burn-alive any protestants who happened to be associated with the previous regime. In other countries then and now, religious minorities were forced to flee or convert. So the new protestant church was designed to consider the bible in english, its own traditions, and rational thought. The leadership was bound-up with parliament and the head of state, so that non-religious people like myself could protected against religious intolerance as well as religious people. We all suffer from the deference given to religious organisations and their tendency to get given rights to run schools or social services by their supporters in government, just as people all over the world suffer from religious crackpots even if they are not religious or members of the dominant faith group themselves. Richmond Council plans to use taxpayers' money to fund two exclusive secondary schools managed by the same faith group - which isn't C of E - and will probably get away with it.

    This little web site was set-up in anger at a bunch or geeks and odballs from a 400-member political party controlling the budget of a 1,000-strong union branch of Unite's T&G membership in South London, with connivance of paid central office staff who kept the election processes unworkable and the accounts un-accountable. You'll see the kind of outcome on the union failure page.

    The same thing has happened with an obscure organisation called the "House of Leity", which historically would have been set-up to feed a bit of morality and common sense into the rarified debates of paid priests. It has done the opposite. It should go. A Mori poll is a much more effective way of finding out what non-christians or people who are not employed by the C of E think. Such polls have already said that exemption from discrimination law is wrong. So the exemption should go, and nobody should be ashamed that they are not christian or not theologans in asking for the law to change. As for the House of Leity, it's clearly some kind of asylum for theology geeks and crackpots and has no purpose.

    As the Ugandan parliament's hate-&-faith majority gets ready to pass a genocide bill against gay people, the EU still has no tariffs against Ugandan trade. Will MEPs talk about it if you write to yours? Try it on But there is one who just might reduce the subsidy to provide social services which the Ugandan government cannot be arsed to provide. The MEPs who just might reduce subsidy are on a different committee to the ones who set tariffs and the two groups don't meet in the corridor apparently.
    I wrote after seeing this link about Uganda's genocide plans on Richond on Thames LGT forum facebook page:
    "Thank you for your e-mail.
    I would like to re-iterate to you my support for LGBT rights across the European Union and beyond. Please see link below which clearly outlines my view on this matter:

    On a separate but related issue, I have previously written to the European Commission asking it to take into account persecution against LGBT minorities when distributing development assistance:
    I have also tabled a resolution through the Women's Rights committee on the situation of LGBT people in Africa with particular reference to intensified persecution of lesbians.

    For your information, please find some links to reports on my work on LGBT rights in the EU:
    I am also currently the only British Conservative MEP to have signed a pledge to promote an inclusive definition of family in EU legislation:
    Please do not hesitate to contact me again in the future, and be assured that I will continue to maintain political pressure on this issue at the European Commission. Yours sincerely, Marina Yannakoudakis MEP, Conservative, London region "

    12.11.12 - it's not just the public sector builders that fund the tory party. Like labour, they're funded by *ankers who rip people off and provide bad financial services. Now I know where Newsnight gets its facts from I can pretend to be knowledgeable after skim-reading the front page from the link above.
    "Lack of curiousity" - this is the way dishonest people run organisations, so that their hints and fudges have to be fixed secretly by their middle management. It is clear that Barclays pressure staff to rip-off customers on commission. It is clear that the BBC pressures Newsnight not to report the Saville story by "lack of curiosity" about how it would effect their memorial programs over the bank holiday. Countless employers tell tribunals that they lacked curiosity about how their middle managers are bullying and lying in order to do what their non-curious directors pretend not to know. How do they get the jobs? What do they say in job interviews? Do they say "I will take an overall view and delegate the dirty work"?
    Oh bugger. The interview below was with Mr Mark Stevens, human rights lawyer and friend of Mr McShane, not Mr Ben Stephens, spokesman for Unite Against Fascism which was a cause Mr McShane was involved in.
    Fraud against the taxpayer is defensible according to a spokesman for Unite Against Fascism, a Mr Ben Stevenson, talking to Radio 4's World At One who justifed Mr Dennis McShane MP's fraud as being

    • not a criminal offence [it was a fraud], and
    • reported by the fraud investigators by a bad person.

    While Mr McShane's statement stated that he was still trying to come to terms with his own motives for fraud, the Unite Against Fascism spokesman sounded to me as though he denied that fraud was wrong. The tape will be available online for seven days from 3rd-10th of November so please don't accept my impressions and have a listen: maybe he's arguing mitigation, and it was just me and the interviewer who thought it "an extraordinary argument".

    Mr Stevenson doesn't address the issue head-on of defrauding for a faith group or defrauding for a political group, or defrauding for nobody-knows-what because it's un-accountable, or channelling contracts to one exotic group or another like Richmond Council channelling contracts to their favourite faith group. The exotic imported one that passes moral decisions to the management and is against condoms because they threaten its market share.

    The frauds involved a series of payments to private or unconvincing organisations along the lines of the trades union branch that prompted this site several years ago. I went to complain at lack of a legal service to find that (a) two people had made the same complaint recently (b) the committee were busy paying hundreds of pounds to a list of unconvincing organisations (c) a majority on the committee were not holding employers and central trades union offices to account. In contrast they quoted their employers as as volunteering or working for various organisations such as the Communist Party of Britain, or South East Regional TUC. The treasurer of branch 1/1148 (and of the Communist Party of Britain) told me "we are not the fifth emergency service; the purpose of a trades union is not legal insurance but solidarity". Oh and Mr Ben Stevenson was press officer to the branch and secretary to the exotic political party where Mr Graham was treasurer. It all overlaps in a rather confusing way.

    Who would have thought that the same problem applies in the Royal Borough of Richmond upon Thames as in a little known trades union group that meets in Lambeth.


    Barclay's head of global diversity, Mark McLane, now explains that it "detracts from what should be a wholly positively focused event", so his bosses have told him that he has to be in favor of good things but not against bad things like the gentlemen below taking over the secondary schools of Richmond on Thames for example. Contradictions and bad things are for the little people to worry about. A recent undercover program about bullying at work showed that it's the same if you work for Barclays. The junior staff are forced to earn minimum commissions or they get the sack, and they get the commissions by pretending that customers asked for a pay-every-month bank account, or that they are giving sensible advice when recommending some mediocre financial product or a bit of confusion marketing.

    The artical ends with a kind of double negative and a "do you agree?" poll with a two-to-one majority agreeing. If I've read it right, they're agreeing that evil is should be discouraged as well as good encouraged, while those who disagree are just bamboozled by convoluted question.

    BBC Bergous are reporting from their home state of Washington this month, talking about the weather in New York and explanations of how it came from other countries, with maps.
    There's nothing wrong with sacred cows. They represent the animal in all of us and are part of a tradition which tolerates differing views; they are not part of a monotheistic nerdeyness like worship of celebrity or or some all-encompassing save-you-having-to-think loyalty cult which is in line to take over two secondary schools in Richmond on Thames. Along with the schools counselling contract to an organisation that withdrew from the adoption trade because it was not willing to comply with discrimmination law and dementia care out-sourcing to another nerdey bunch. Catholic peer Chris Patten is put in charge of Pope's visit

    By Daily Mail Reporter
    UPDATED: 00:53, 9 June 2010
    David Cameron has put a Roman Catholic Conservative grandee in charge of the Pope’s visit to Britain.

    The appointment of Lord Patten of Barnes, former party chairman and Hong Kong governor, is an attempt to ease the controversy surrounding Pope Benedict’s autumn tour [...] the tour was thrown into jeopardy after the leak of a mocking Foreign Office memo suggesting the Pope could use the trip to open an abortion clinic and bless a gay marriage.



    There's nothing wrong with sacred cows. They represent the animal in all of us and are part of a tradition which tolerates differing views; they are not part of a monotheistic nerdeyness like worship of celebrity or or some all-encompassing save-you-having-to-think loyalty cult which is in line to take over two secondary schools in Richmond on Thames. Along with the schools counselling contract to an organisation that withdrew from the adoption trade because it was not willing to comply with discrimmination law and dementia care out-sourcing to another nerdey bunch. That fiasco led to charges from the Vatican that ‘dark forces’ were at work within Whitehall & saw grovelling apologies from two ministers. Mr Cameron’s choice of Lord Patten as his ‘personal representative’ to take responsibility for the visit is a rebuke to the Foreign Office & an attempt to mollify the Catholic hierarchy. A spokesman for the Catholic Church in England & Wales said: ‘We welcome the appointment. This will enable plans to move into a decisive phase.’

    Lord Patten was credited with engineering John Major’s 1992 election win. After losing his seat he became the last Governor of Hong Kong. [Disclaimer: no suggestion is made by juxtaposition of photos that Pope Benedict was in Jimmy Saville's caravan nor a bad DJ who talked over the playlist records on Radio 1 in the 1970s, nor that Jimmy Saville played a leading hierachical and public relations role in a faith group that preaches contempt for its own congregations and causes extra-ordinary harm in its bigotted position on issues like condoms]

    The pay for blogging is not high. Current earnings from adfly, which frames some of the links on the right, are one hundredth of the minimum payment over one or two months, predicting payment in 8-17 years' time which isn't very clever. Maybe something will come-up. Meanwhile, the accounts of Rodell Properties Ltd (formerly the Communist Party) are just as not-clever as the rest of us or more so. It looks as though They pay £2,600 for Macintyre Hudson to do the books on "unaudited accounts" each year - which is called book keeping - and accept arrears of £76,000 from their offspring tenant, an organisation that might do better working from home rather than running-up debt to another comittee. "Photocopier rental" costs even more than accountancy and is heading towards "sundry" and "professional fees". Charitable donations of £13,000 are down on last years' £60,000 and given without receipt any receipt that's easy for strangers to find online but are within a thousand pounds of the company's loss for the year - over £13,000 if you believe all these costs. As with most companies, Rodell Properties does not make receipts easier for strangers to find online but as a group that wants to unlock democracy, it's odd that they don't want companies to become more accountable and sometimes more democratic. This does tend to suggest that think tankers don't think quite so hard when it comes to fixing a photocopier than they do about playing with the figures and renting a new one. I suggest using Wizz which is recommended as the best solvent for unclogging old inkjet printers, which are to had for free on
    In the political world, it's OK to talk about people as "yobs", and lock them up for an insult so they know their place.
    Nobody is too worried that the chief whip gets his constitution wrong and asks a policeman to know his place; to claim to be part of a group that runs the place. "Pleb" is a bad word, though. "Yob" good; "Pleb" bad. Apparently. Say Plobs.
    There is a healthy competion among a half dozen or so communist parties in the UK - much more so than trades unions, where the need seems greater. My old union branch or some of its members are now interested in the New Communist Party of Britain, with its paper and web site The New Worker. It seeks to promote a way that people can be nicer to each other by handling most of the economy through committees instead of markets, reducing the problems of capital becoming monopoly capital and competition becoming a corosive competition that effects the norms and character of competitors or their monopolist bosses.

    The blog does not carry any advertisements, so how to fund the domain name?

    As the old Communist Party of Britain was wound up to become Rodell Properties Ltd with a building in Cynthia Street, London and an interest in sane pro-democracy think tanks, other Communist parties have had more trouble. In the words of one Communist Party treasurer in his return to the electoral commission "The Communist Party of Britain does not 'fundraise' like capitalist parties" but I think they do. Inherited wealth helped the Communist Party of Great Britain, along with entry-ism: a good trick for people who believe in lots and lots of committees. Sit on enough of them for long enough and then you get to control the cash of a union branch or such, then donate funds each year to the Morning Star and a network of organisations without public accounts - campaign groups usually - which do not publish receipts.

    Calls to donate are another idea often tried. The New Communists state that they have raised over £10,000 towards renovating a some space for printing and meeting, now that they cannot use the digital machine leased by another communist party.

    Lastly, many old communists were surprised that secret donations had been made by the Soviet and Czech embassies, made to help keep up appearances after those governments had been discredited. Can the trick be repeated? The Morning Star praised China's treatment of Tibet. What other wealthy discredited governments are there to try. Well, the New Worker suggests that the Syrian army are the goodies in the current civil war. Maybe they will get a donation in return, or maybe this is more of a cult-like test of loyalty in a group of some particular kind of people.

    I suggest the religious route to fund-raising in future. "Watching Over You" banners on the right hand side might suggest an idea. And the same crowd of people used to hold their meetings at Cafod, the in-house and anti-condom charity of a hierachical faith group, so the idea will have crossed their minds.

    If you meet one of these people, can you suggest adverts down the side of their blogs as a simpler solution?

    Most of this site is about scam trades unions which use no-win-no fee lawyers and a minimal staff to cover disuptes and if that doesn't work for contentious employment disputes: tough. The employer generally inherits the union agreement and nods, so why bother what employees think?

    But the interest began at the end of a career with a tax-funded social work agency in London called Foundation66 which still appears to employ those who cleared-out the payroll of troublemakers, people in post a long time who were paid a little more, and those in need of reasonable adjustments to disability such as sane informed supervision. By any means necessary. Because driving your staff to extremes and letting down clients seems cheaper than paying them off. That's just one person's view but widely shared and widely experienced in similar agencies. On the other side, trustees might state that the thick and the lazy and the in-the-wrong-job are being cleared out as well; that the formal means are badly written and not up to the job. As put by Gerry Robinson in on an open university program about the NHS "you cannot sack any body except in a rather machiavellan way?" (no reply or disagreement recorded).

    Foundation66 also tweet the opposite side of the argument between good and evil:
    Cost of poor mental health at work: via @SocietyGuardian > alcohol and drug use can be a factor in mental health
    20 Dec

    Oh here's another tweet. If anyone is worth £55k they should be able to find this on google and state their position on the same place if they are hired. I think. If you read this in a few months' time and cannot google any such statement, you might want to ask why the postholder is being paid £55k of your taxes and possibly directing your service or your job. Or why a well-paid job like this requires a chief executive and director of this and that alongside, and whether such folk with their truties are limiting what the director of operations does. There have been quite a few postholders recently so the person would have to make their mark soon after being hired. The system contrasts with UK manufacturing where smaller firms usually have a director and that's that: the other job titles are redundant. After all, what would a director direct but operations?

    We're hiring! Director of Operations, circa £55k starting salary #jobs #substance misuse, see website for details


    A Tory MP with a name a bit like Alan B'Stard has voiced opinions about trades unions.
    He would like them to represent their members better.
    That's fine. I'd expect someone with more background in representing a constuency with a lot of unionised employers and perhaps a background as a shop steward to add comments and suggestions, so that a credible debate takes place.

    A report of a regional committee reveals how unfit for pourpose the union is, and how any political party needs to make unions transparent and accountable along with company pensions and PLC-owned employers.

    Under the old bogus T&G system, regional unions paid the centre.
    Under the new bogus Unite system, "The Region would receive £270,000 as the opening balance and any monies not spent would more than likely be recouped by Central Office.", so there's pressure to get through £270,000 on any pet project at the end of the financial year but still no accounting or accountability to make sure it's spent on the members: still a bogus system. Some subjects are kept out of site and out of mind, like a subject that shouldn't be discussed in front of the servants. It appears that a third of a million names on the membership database are not linked to recent payments for membership, which raises questions as to who put the names there, whether these people ever existed, and how long it took to type them but the questions go unasked. Other questions might be asked about the politics of UK manufacturing closing, staff having no share of responsibility in decisions about British Airways, or why the union is backing a strike by staff at British Airways but not at Swissport a few years ago. Do they only back staff who can help the union get on television, or was there a deal behind the scenes about Swissport?

    Apparently the political part of the meeting was just about marginal seats at Westminster and "the anti trades union laws", so it isn't clear why the union employs specialist political officers. It isn't stated whether the 37-member Communist Party of Britain or the Taxi Drivers' political party are still getting concealed hand-outs but the emphasis seems very much on the Labour Party without any explanation of why, how much money they are getting or for what reason.

    There still seems to be a legal department that does more than farm-out the simplest safest injury claims to no-win no-fee lawyers on commission, but it's not clear what this department does except defend the union against its own staff and members. Three staff are on long term sick leave and "the matter regarding the NW tutors was being dealt with by the Union solicitors and could not be discussed." Something is rumbling about legal services - "Georgina Hirsch" ex Amicus "Director of Legal Services would be leaving the employ of the union on 29 January and her position would not be replaced. The assurance was given that the department would not suffer a detriment. However, Paul Talbot would oversee the running of the department. Tony Woodhouse explained that the panel of union solicitors was being examined." Whether it's being examined for lawyers who pay too many backhanders and win too few cases, or the other way around, is not mentioned. ~ ~

    Whatever the union, it is the only major one that Unite cabin crew have got in the face of a far worse employer that's even more prone to the them-and-us / us-verses-them dirty tricks and macho management far more than the junior staff or the union. Few of us would support a system that said we have to shop at Woolworths or we have to fly with Ryanair, but reporting of employment disputes is a little vague. Journalists and passengers don't know quite what to say. Of course employees have a right not to work for an employer, and all of them to decide at once to withdraw their labour, just as passengers have a right to use another airline.

    Other pages of this site quote the union criticsised and berated by staff of Swissport - tha desk staff of Swissair who's employer was bought off the reciever by a private equity group detirmined to cut costs at the expense of staff. However little Unite wants its members to share the decision-making, it's better to have a union that stands up for BA members than a union which just takes £10 a month of Swissport members and lets them go when they realise it's a waste of cash.

    Taking a pargraph almost at random from the second statement

    "Because this is a dispute directed at breaking trade unionism, BA has invested heavily in strike-breaking measures which would otherwise make little business sense. An example is the cost of “wet lease” aeroplane hire – that is, planes which come fully crewed."

    "A well-connected source has told Unite that on one contract alone, the hire of twenty planes for the three-days strike last weekend came to £7 million. All together, we believe BA used around 40 “wet - lease” planes, which would mean on this head alone, BA probably spent British Airways’ cabin crew are about to start the second period of strike action in the course of the current dispute. This will run for four days from March 27-30. Around £14 million over the three days. During the second strike, this bill may rise even further. The CEO of Ryanair, Michael O’Leary, has told the Daily Telegraph (March 23) that he leased three planes to BA over the first strike, but will lease “four or five” for the second strike. The bill for this will also obviously rise."

    Passengers who wish that their services did not grind to a halt while trying to sleep in an airport terminal, or wondering what the point of all this strife is, should think about an employer which is willing to spend redicoulous emounts of money subsidising its rival just to quash a union rather than co-operating with staff as the most dependent stakeholders and the ones with most to offer given good will.

    New Name, same fiddle: the Unite Left launch meeting

    The only purpose of keeping this page is to note that big unions are not democratic in any generally understood way as you might expect from the way they are reported on telly as "representing" their members. The Unite union is not democratic in any normally-understood way, but has changed the system by which people are excluded from the trustees. In the past the governing group was quite literally a private members' club, meeting in private and deciding

    • who should be excluded from backing next time,
    • who shoud be voted-against among those present, and
    • who should be excluded from among those keen to stand next time.

    Backing takes the form of "nomination" by branch structures that hardly pretend to be democratic, such as the communist branch 1/1148 or the taxi driver's branch. Such a system prevents many mavericks from standing and if they do, the political machine can make sure there are candidates standing against them next time (some seats are un-contested) and that their votes are out-voted at the biennual trustee meetings, whatever they are called. The General Something-or-other that meets for an awayday in a hotel with minutes usually carefully sensored and no video cameras allowed. If you are a posh journalist reading this thinking "how do real-life union members really view their unions?" it is with contempt and patience in the hope that one day things get better. Unless the member has never tried to use union services, in which case their opinion probably comes from the BBC.

    So what do the status quo candidates want, except the status quo?
    A chance to get through the show and off the stage with some dignity?

    Maybe it made more sense to those present because they are reported in adjectives rather than the subjects verbs and objects of most working life. "new left", "old right", "up middle", "good afternoon madam, can I interest you in a bucket?" - like Ken Dodd, these are people who note the applause in their diaries. One thing that works is to appear to have a contest by roping-in some half-forgotten factions to stand as a favour and get a seat or two, by mouthing the old traditional lies, like the one in the Wilfred Owen poem in order to get a nervous round of applause in the general's HQ, well behind the trenches and the front lines. By using the jargon and adjectives of politics rather than stating practical things to do with £10 a month per member, a millions-strong mailing list, some half empty office buildings and a vague old purpose.

    • When union leaders talk of nationalisation of Waterford or Vestas or LDV vans they are in a position to buy at least one themselves, and later sell slowly to staff-owned organisations if some business can be salvaged or for scrap and land if not.
    • They are in a position to make union accounts more plausible -
    • including the accounts of local activist groups who decide who can be nominated to stand for election. Union leaders are in a position to expose any
    • deliberate sweetheart deals with employers and to
    • pay proper lawyers what it takes to be as good as employer's lawyers in employment tribunals rather than pay proper lawyers to defend them against their own disgruntled ex-members. They are in a position to
    • insist on democracy, almost for free, mainly on web sites and by email in all their branches. They are in a position to say
    • where the money has really been going all these years. Meanwhile, bribes to MPs who are embarassed to recieve them but work in a system of un-capped expenses could surely be mentioned in a speech. MPs would surely celebrate to see
    • election expenses were capped all-round at low levels, and never mentioned again. Other parties have asked for it. But unions and the party establishment insist on a system paying bribes to distant ansympathetic MPs for unknown reasons from the contributions of members who are not always in regular work and don't get three secretaries, shared office space and large allowances, let alone the salary of an NHS consultant. Somebody with the time and the skill could work out these: the best price a reciever might quote for LDV vans, and the total of all union expenses paid to MPs, say every two years because the best financial rate of return anyone can get is usually to get your money back in two years. If the current rate of return on MP bribes is zero to give and taker, anything greater would be a bonus. Can Unite
    • buy LDV vans for two year's MP election expenses? (suggestion: don't say "government-backed just before an election"; find out what the phoenix four did)

    Like the tradional lie in the Wilfred Owen poem, that it is right and proper to die for your country, some of the activists have a traditional lie that employment has to get worse before it gets better: more monopolised, more unpleasant, more us-and-them in order that the system implodes to a worker's paradise in a few generations. Nobody believes it any more, just as the military staff at General Hague's HQ didn't really like latin poetry and think things were going well, but they were glad to be there and to stick to status quo rather than be in the trenches. The old traditional words still get a nervous round of applause at General Hague's HQ.

    Unite Left Launch Meeting

    Going bust in different countries: they involve staff over there


    This June 2009 British Airways has asked its staff to work a week for free.
    Passengers are paying in pounds and euro while fuel is paid in dollars.
    Air travel and upmarket air travel are cyclical trades; they're more sensitive than most to boom and bust; the executive flies economy class and the trourist skips a holiday.
    Staff response at this pivotal moment has been ....

    Oh: sorry. None. There is a system of recognising bogus unions. Swissport for example is one of the headline examples of union failure: someone bought it off Swissair, reduced the staff terms and conditions as much as the law allowed and the T&G union's response was just to merge the Swissair branch in order to keep troublemakers quiet. Whether they took any money from Swissport's new owners is unknown. Unite T&G section, as it's now called, employs an ex labour party spin doctor as a senior political officer who is unable to share an office with anyone else - they refuse. So the response of employees to an employer's offer to do things differently from now on has been silent.


    GM Detroit goes bust: government bails out some of the company to be owned by creditors with some ownership by staff, represented by unions.

    GM Germany aka Opal goes bust: government bails out some of the company to be owned by creditors with some ownership by staff, represented by works councils.

    GM UK aka Vauxhall is one fifth the size of Opal because of bogus exchange rates designed to make politicians look good these last 20 years. Politicians lament the likely closure of Elsmere Port van factory. Staff response. As above. Government response: bail out the banks and ignore Elsmere Port. When Rover Group went bust a few years ago, politicians ended the talks with a last-resort buyer prematurely to prevent bad news surfacing during an election. One Labour politician told people near a hundred year old plant that there were jobs being created at Tesco, misunderstanding the long-term nature of manufacturing clusters of expertise and tools.

    Rivals to Elsmere Port's van factory are LDV vans, closed and c/o Price Waterhouse Coopers recievers in Birmingham. They just make vans so their business is even more cyclical than the rest of the motor industry as they're making things that companys can cut-back on replacing when times are hard - in fact they're still open for business in the sense that un sold vans are available, the tools licences and buildings are all in one place, just waiting to an end to the recession. In saner times this kind of problem would be dealt with by arrangement with staff, shareholders or bank but when a bank goes bust and pulls-out of agreements, it seems that governement subsidises the bank and lets the real econonomy that makes vans disperse and loose any chance of opening again. The union's response? As above. Except that they back a party with a car scrapping policy which doesn't seem to apply to vans - more to imported cheap cars which keep politicians in power by making it looks as though goods are available long-term, when they're not.

    One of the strange things about bogus democracy in unions is the effect it has on those who take part. It makes them cynical about any kind of democracy, including the control of work by people who do it that most people would want and has been proved efficient. The cynecism shows most strongly when unions are called to say something in order to get free television coverage after some closure or scandle, such as cases where an employer is also a pension provider to its staff, but is controlled by a team of managers. One such firm went into receivership, dispite help from the pension fund. Luckily the management team found enough money from somewhere for a buy-out from receivers, sadly without any money available to pensioners. In effect, staff and ex-staff at all levels should have come to own the company because it had defaulted on them. But the paternalistic wording of the contracts, and of company stuctures, meant that a certain group of senior staff got the lot and the rest got a job if lucky.

    The union position on this? None. Simply to deplore the closure of a pension. This cycnecism is the worst effect of the antics below, and the reason for quoting them.

    This from The Times February 16, 2009 Derek Simpson / Unite - apology

    Our report “United they fight to the bitter end: how marriage of unions went sour” (January 17) about the internal feuding in Unite wrongly stated that Kevin Coyne, one of the challengers to Derek Simpson for the post of General Secretary of Amicus, had received twice as many nominations as Mr Simpson. In fact, the opposite is true. Mr Simpson has received almost twice as many nominations as Mr Coyne. We apologise to all concerned for the error and are happy to put the record straight.

    Unable to work for Spin Doctor
    - political officers off sick for three months

    This from The Observer February 15, 2009 by Toby Helm, Whitehall editor

    Britain's biggest union was in turmoil last night after it emerged that three key officials in its political department have been off work for much of the past few months on full pay. They claim that they were bullied by Gordon Brown's combative former spin doctor, Charlie Whelan.

    Another top official, who clashed with Whelan after he was appointed as Unite's political director in autumn 2007, has done no work for more than a year, while receiving his full salary and perks package of about £70,000.

    The revelations of chaos and wasted money at the super-union put the spotlight firmly on joint general secretary Derek Simpson, who backed Whelan's appointment and who is standing for re-election in what promises to be a bitter contest beginning tomorrow.

    The allegations of bullying against Whelan have fuelled a backlash against Simpson. Many claim the union, which has given several million pounds to Labour since Brown entered Downing Street, is not only riven by vicious internal disputes, but is also being run like an outpost of Number 10, rather than an independent organisation fighting for workers' rights.

    Last night Simpson's main challenger, Kevin Coyne, accused the union under Simpson of failing to fight for its members' interests.

    In a statement to the Observer, Coyne said: "On a host of issues, from the privatisation and fragmentation of public services, the failure to overturn laws that prevent unions from representing their own members, through to the potential sale of Royal Mail, we have failed to press our case.

    "I'm a lifelong member of the Labour party, but I recognise that our independence from Labour is vital. The job of the general secretary is to protect the money in our members' pockets, not to be in the pocket of the prime minister. Our members are entitled to ask what value they get out of our support for Labour." A Unite spokesman confirmed that three staff members - including former Labour MP John Cryer - had chosen to be off full duties, citing "stress" and other reasons, after lodging grievance procedures last autumn against Whelan, and that a fourth had not been doing anything for the union for 14 months.

    He dismissed as "absolute nonsense" claims that Whelan - a renowned figure in Whitehall, known for fierce loyalty to Brown and equally robust treatment of his press critics - had bullied staff and pushed people to adopt a more pro-government line. He also pointed out that the tortuous process of bringing together two unions - Amicus and the TGWU - into one organisation had inevitably led to unpopular changes.

    "In any merger situation or change, there are always going to be people who are uncomfortable, or who lose out in terms of their own position." He added: "Any suggestion that we have not been fighting the government is ludicrous. We have called for a bigger bail-out for the car industry, we have attacked them over the row on foreign workers. We have gone for them on every issue."

    One of those who instituted grievance proceedings against Whelan, Sarah Merrill, the union's political officer who had been responsible for liaising with MPs, was in effect ousted from the role.

    Relations deteriorated to such an extent that Merrill, Cryer and another female political officer jointly began grievance procedures last autumn. A written statement submitted by Merrill said the political department had "a real culture of fear and a climate of bullying that he [Whelan] allows to take place in his department". Merrill has been off work with "stress" since October.

    Cryer has also been away for most of the time, though he returned to work recently, and the third official has also been off for lengthy periods and has now been found a new role in the union. Separately Mike Griffiths, a senior political officer sidelined by Whelan, has been at home on "gardening leave" for 14 months.

    Whelan's arrival at the Treasury in 1997 as the new chancellor's chief spin doctor was followed by the rapid departure of Jill Rutter, the head of press.

    Last night Whelan declined to make any comments.

    Labour MPs believe that Simpson will face a tough fight from Coyne. Last week, more than 25 MPs attended a meeting at the House of Commons addressed by Coyne, who received a warm reception. "Simpson is going to be run close," said one. "It really is time for change at the top."

    £13.4m "gift" from a union with an overdraft

    This from The Times February 14, 2009 by Christine Buckley and Francis Elliott

    This article is the subject of a legal complaint from Derek Simpson and Unite

    One of the leaders of Britain’s biggest union has been accused of breaking election rules, an allegation that could have serious implications in the battle to gain control of the organisation.

    Derek Simpson, a strong ally of Gordon Brown, is standing for re-election as leader of the Amicus half of Unite, with voting due to begin on Monday. The Times learnt that his main rival, Kevin Coyne, made a complaint after Mr Simpson sent a letter to a million Unite members this week saying that it was “vital that I, together with senior colleagues, am able to provide the continuity so necessary in these difficult times”.

    Under Amicus rules, candidates cannot use union resources in their campaigns.

    Mr Coyne said that the letter, which outlines Unite’s efforts to help its members during the recession, would have cost the union more than £250,000 in postage alone.

    The union said that an independent commissioner had seen a draft of the letter before it was sent and rejected Mr Coyne’s complaint. It added that it was not appropriate to comment on the commissioner’s decision. Mr Coyne is now taking his complaint to the Certification Officer, the unions’ watchdog.

    Electoral Reform Services, which runs union elections, says that the election will cost Unite about £500,000.

    The election process is checked by a returning officer and a scrutineer chosen by the union, but all union elections are ultimately governed by the Certification Officer, who has the power to order a fresh election if any rules have been broken.

    Mr Simpson, who is standing for only a year’s term, triggered the election after a legal challenge was made to his attempt to stay beyond his retirement age.

    The controversy comes amid fears that the union, which negotiated a £6 million overdraft last year, is running out of money. A senior Labour figure familiar with the union was worried that it may be in difficulty. Unite said that it had not used any of the overdraft.

    Unite has given £13.4 million to Labour since Mr Brown became Prime Minister, and was instrumental in saving the party from bankruptcy last year.

    It has given guarantees that it will continue to fund the party but ministers fear that it will run out of cash, partly as a result of a bitter fight between its joint general secretaries, Tony Woodley and Mr Simpson.

    Ian Gibson, Labour MP for Norwich North, said:

    “There needs to be a breath of fresh air. Someone needs to take a hold and provide inspiration to members, many of whom are going to suffer more and more in coming months.”

    Coincidentally, Mr Simpson recently met union activists in a tour of the country. The union offered to reimburse travel expenses for those attending. A union spokesman said that the tour had been arranged before the ballot was called and was not intended to further Mr Simpson’s election campaign. A complaint was made but dismissed by the independent commissioner.

    This from The Times, January 17th 2009 by Francis Elliott, Christine Buckley and Sam Coates

    This article is the subject of a legal complaint from Derek Simpson and Unite

    Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley, the joint general secretaries of Unite, were the butt of last year’s best political joke. “Look how far they’ve come,” Dave Prentis observed, sarcastically, of his fellow union bosses at the TUC’s annual conference in Brighton. “Only last year I said to Derek, ‘What would you do if you saw Tony staggering down the road?’ Derek replied, ‘Reload’. ”

    Today Mr Simpson is the target of the latest volley in the most bloody union fight for decades. The fight has serious implications for Gordon Brown and the Labour Party.

    It is not what Unite’s two million members were promised when Amicus and the Transport and General Workers’ Union merged on May 1, 2007. As a new dawn broke over that May Day, Mr Simpson declared that this was the beginning of a process that could lead to a global super-union.

    “Right now we have this madhouse where we are all played off against each other. Until the unions can be structured internationally like the companies, we will always lose,” he told The Times.

    Nearly two years on, the question of who – precisely – is running the asylum has never been more acute. No company that was the result of a merger would let both chief executives remain at the helm until they retired, but neither Mr Simpson nor Mr Woodley would agree to the merger unless allowed to stay on.

    The agreement was that Mr Simpson would retire on his 66th birthday, December 23, 2010, and Mr Woodley a year later. The election of a single general secretary was supposed to take place next year, Mr Simpson’s last in office.

    The period of co-rule started badly – and promptly got worse. Mr Simpson stayed away from Unite’s launch, offended that Mr Woodley had made a media appearance without telling him. There are few better symbols of the disharmony than the way that T&G and Amicus have been unable to move in together. While Amicus is in Covent Garden, the T&G is over a mile away at Transport House in Holborn. As observers never tire of pointing out, the two halves remain “in spitting distance” of one another.

    Damaging stories about both men appeared to be the result of tit-for-tat briefings. It emerged, for example, that Mr Simpson had twice taken a helicopter to attend the Glastonbury Festival. Not long afterwards the arrangement of Mr Woodley’s grace-and-favour flat in London came under scrutiny. Mr Simpson’s purchase of a £50,000 painting by Antony Gormley for the Amicus headquarters found its way into print recently.

    The manoeuvrings were sometimes farcical: at Labour’s conference both men were given cubicles – of equal size – behind the Unite stand because they literally could not bear to be in the same room.

    When Mr Simpson likened some of Mr Woodley’s staff to “SS guards” and “cheerleaders in ra-ra skirts” it became clear that their relationship was heading for a breakdown.

    The formal merger, due to take place last November, was put off. Mr Simpson was put on notice that he would face a legal challenge if he tried to stay in office beyond his 65th birthday.

    To prevent Mr Woodley from seizing control after Mr Simpson’s forced departure next year, he has now put himself up for reelection as Amicus general secretary, a battle he is far from certain to win. Nowhere is the battle for control being watched more closely than at No 10. Not only is Amicus Labour’s most generous union donor, but Mr Simpson stuck with Mr Brown through the Prime Minister’s darkest hours last summer.

    While Mr Woodley boycotted a crucial meeting of union leaders with Mr Brown, Mr Simpson stayed loyal. When David Miliband was about to open up a leadership challenge on the eve of Labour’s annual conference, it was Mr Simpson who launched a devastating attack on the young pretender, labelling him smug and arrogant – with a stream of epithets deemed too abusive to print by the newspaper that carried the interiew.

    It came as little surprise to those in the know, therefore, when Mr Simpson hired Charlie Whelan, Mr Brown’s former spin-doctor, to become the union’s political director. “Anyone who believes you can write off Gordon Brown can think again,” Mr Whelan told a meeting during Labour’s conference.

    “We’ve got an £8 million political fund. People need to know that a union can mobilise its members to support a candidate that the union likes.”

    To the growing dismay of Labour MPs directly funded by Unite, most of the union’s energies are being spent on infighting. The level of mistrust in the union is graphically displayed in a recent e-mail sent by Mr Whelan to his staff. “You will need to let me know in advance when you are visiting the House of Commons and the purpose of your visit,” Mr Whelan wrote on January 6.

    One of the e-mail’s recipients, Sarah Merrill, had already lodged a written complaint claiming that the political department under Mr Whelan had “a culture of fear and a climate of bullying”. Ms Merrill’s complaint went on to say that the atmosphere was “totally at odds with the policies of the union, and indeed is totally against the principles established under any dignity-at-work procedures.”

    With little evidence of any dignity, many of the 111 Labour MPs sponsored by Unite are embarrassed at the damage being caused by the infighting when the party is desperate to reassure voters that it is focused on the effects of the recession.

    Next month’s Amicus election is a two-way fight between Mr Simpson and Kevin Coyne, a northwest regional secretary.

    Simpson on greed

    ‘We need action to protect jobs not just the huge shares and pensions that the executives secure for themselves’

    Derek Simpson, 2008

    ‘The pay gap between workers and employers is astonishing, with average earnings rising by 4.5 per cent a year but 20 per cent per year for directors’ pay. City executive pay and bonuses would make Midas blush’

    Derek Simpson, 2007

    Woodley on greed

    “London’s cleaners are fed up with fat-cat profits for the bosses while cleaners struggle to make ends meet”

    Tony Woodley, 2007

    “We live in a world where there is too often a race to the bottom in terms and conditions for workers, where the bad employer is able to undercut the good. A world of pensions robbery for those at the bottom and unbridled fat-cat greed at the top”

    Tony Woodley, 2003

    Getting employment advice can be difficult at some employers

    This from The Times, November 8th 2008, edited from artical by Christene Buckley and Valentine Low


    A reason the political arms race should end: spin doctorsCharlie Whelan, a senior member of staff and Gordon Brown’s former spin-doctor, is at the centre of bullying allegations that he could lead to the union’s staff going on strike.

    Mr Whelan is no stranger to discord. As Mr Brown’s mouthpiece at the Treasury, he was notorious for his foul-mouthed briefings to political journalists [...] Mr Whelan is now the political director of Unite, where he is accused of

    • bullying,
    • breach of staff members’ contracts and
    • discrimination

    John Cryer former MP for Hornchurch and T&G political officer- by three Unite employees, one of whom is John Cryer, the former Labour MP.
    The three, who are all political officers, are being represented by GMB, a rival union, which is considering balloting for industrial action among its members at Unite.

    One of the political officers, Sarah Merrill, says in a written complaint that the political department has

    “a real culture of fear, and a climate of bullying that he [Mr Whelan] allows to take place in his department, which is totally at odds with the policies of the union, and indeed is totally against the principles established under any dignity-at-work procedures.”

    It is not known whether Mr Whelan, as part of his induction at Unite, was made familiar with the concept of “dignity-at-work procedures”.

    Mr Simpson, who is currently in Cuba [...] is fighting an election for the Amicus side of the union after a legal challenge against his plans to stay on beyond retirement. He is facing four opponents, all of whom argue that the merger process is going badly [...]

    Complaint against Charlie Whelan, Unite’s political director, by Sarah Merrill on October 14

    “Over the last year, I have been excluded, undermined, bypassed, accused behind my back of committing issues that have led certain people to question my capabilities, conduct, and performance and . . . have been accused of plotting against the union, among other issues. Charlie has led a bullying campaign against me . . There is a real culture of fear, and a climate of bullying that he allows to take place in his department, which is totally at odds with the policies of the union, and indeed is totally against the principles established under any dignity-at-work procedures.”

    Further claim against Mr Whelan

    “he has said hurtful comments about members of departments to others, and at a Christmas function abused a female member of staff. At the same function, he treated other female members of staff inappropriately.” notes on this Times artical:

    • Never add a weak & easily parodied complaint about a Christmas function after a strong but vague point about what people were doing all day, every day.

      Complainants choose Chirstmas functions as well-witnessed examples, but these examples are so often quoted in tribunal cases that they overlap with cases where two people dislike each other, something possibly awkward or rude has happenned, and there's no provable reason for the legal system to judge anything. Laywers will begin skim-reading much faster from the word "christmas".
    • Judges and tribunal chairs are much more comfortable doing what they are good at, looking dignified while bored stiff and then making academic judgements backed by essays on what they have heard. They have risen to the top of a tough profession doing all this. They are less good at risking criticism in judging the power relationships that add meaning to the events, or complainant's good and busy track record that made an assertive response harder at the time before things came to a tribunal (or a newspaper but it's only polite to assume that the complainants knew about tribunals and couts and made their complaints; to remind the of it, as Unison did to their member, seems rude).

      For example when judges themselves in Zimbabwe or any other autocratic state have been over-worked, given very meaningful threats by very threatening people over a long period, and are trying to make the best judgements on principal rather than just doing a habitual cash-in-hand job (the law would expect them to show efforts to find other judging jobs and sue only for loss of earnings while searching) and are driven to a nervous breakdown, the individual details sound petty without context. It is a bit like describing a rape case to a Victorian judge. The judge might agree privately that if it happened to someone somehow vulnerable as suggested, or to Anthoney Gubbay in Zimbabwe, it would be a terrible thing but that a judge's job is an academic one and without the evidence and case law s/he is in trouble.

      The judges' problem is more stark when overseen by ministers who are members of a party that used to employ Mr Wheelan and Mr Cryer and recieves donations from the employer for no reason that anyone outside the clique of individuals has ever worked-out. It is not 10% or 1% as bad as examples like Zanu-PF's influence in Zimbabwe over Anthoney Gubbay's role as chief justice, but there may be party pressure nevetheless just as there is a concentration of ex party press spokesmen or MPs in this particular trades union which had nothing to do with the employer's rule book until the clique tried to change it unsuccessfully a while ago. A judge wants to know: "what are you for? Why does Transport House not have anyone around who can advise on an employment dispute and suggest you leave out the Chistmas Party incident?" and that isn't clear from the Times report.

      A GMB political officer tried to argue the same kind of case to the employment appeals tribunal a year or two ago; the employer's case was that with falling membership this kind of pith-helmet job title was no longer required and the vagaries of the situation made the case harder to judge.
    • If there are no good union officials in Transport House, get a friend to pretend they are a tribunal chair and explain to them what this is about. Find someone who isn't part of a political clique who is in on the secrets, and doesn't understand why "political officers" are employed at all in a union that so obviously cannot represent its own staff. Were the indignent staff busy doing useful things with a good track record, or where they sitting in the canteen plotting legal wrangles? What was their job? provides a list of legal helplines for factual advice about how to handle a tribunal case if a trades union has let you down.

    Cheerleeders & guards; team meetings in Cuba

    Christene Buckley, Industrial Editor, The Times 10.10.08

    T&G section of Unite has sought legal advice about pulling out of its troubled merger with the Amicus union, amid tensions between its joint leaders. [...] The T&G side is also very unhappy with Amicus’s finances after it went £3.6 million into the red in the past six months. Amicus says it is paying for some operations that serve both unions, such as communications.

    The confirmation of the severity of the problems at Unite comes as Mr Simpson prepares to stand for re-election to bolster his own position. He will submit himself to an election among members of his Amicus side of the union after a legal challenge to his plans to stay on beyond retirement age.

    As revealed in The Times last month, Mr Simpson is seeking a fresh mandate in the face of the legal challenge, which is being considered by the unions’ watchdog, the Certification Officer. [...] Mr Simpson will face a serious internal challenge for his job from Laurence Faircloth, a regional official. A third candidate will be Jerry Hicks, a former Rolls-Royce official who is mounting the legal challenge to Mr Simpson’s tenure. The election will be held early next year.

    Mr Simpson had intended to quit as joint general secretary of Unite in late 2010, when he is 66.

    Mr Woodley plans to step down early the following year and hand over to a single successor for the merged union, who is due to be elected next year.

    Mr Simpson has been an ardent supporter of Gordon Brown, giving a job to Charlie Whelan, his former spin doctor, and if he were toppled it would be a blow to the Prime Minister.

    An emergency meeting of Unite’s ruling executive yesterday voted to approve his plan to hold the election. Significantly, it also suspended for six months the new rule book for the merged union. [T&G rule book now here] This means the two sides remain individual organisations. The full merger was supposed to have been sealed, with the new rule book, on November 1.

    Although formal plans to merge were laid out in May last year, the two sides are still at odds over a financial structure. Finance is a key issue for the T&G, where officials are also unhappy with the spending of Mr Simpson. He has been criticised for living in a house paid for by the union and for other costs such as twice taking a helicopter to the Glastonbury Festival.

    Mr Faircloth, 56, Unite’s regional secretary for the southwest, said he was standing against Mr Simpson because he did not believe enough was being done to push through the merger. The election will enable the new joint general secretary to serve only for a year, finishing in 2010. Unite officials declined to comment.

    Certification Office News Alerts: inadvertant scanning error

    Not many people would want to stand for a volunteer-job on the executive council of a union, attend a small number of seminar discussions or committee meetings, and do their best to improve a trade union. Of those that do, trouble-makers such as the independent candidates to TGWU's council below, tend to be removed.

    Individual's sources of information about Amicus are

    They give more idea of how a rambling institution justifies itself to directors in a jostle of detail than any official statement, and most organisations could do with more independent opinion, and encourage fair elections.

    There's something puzzling about union ballot papers, which have to exist for national and regional elections even if the local branch secretary says "the region would probably not allow it" of a home-based vote for the branch committee. Like Eurovision candidates, the names on the ballot paper are a surprise to many members, even if claiming to be nominated by the branch or eurozone that the member belongs to. Anyone with the time and inclination can get email alerts from the government offices in Northern Ireland and Great Britain that certify unions as independent and put their accounts online. At least once a month there is an emailed advance notice of a Certification Office internal tribunal hearing at which a union member claims s/he has been unreasonably prevented from standing. Later an email follows saying that it doesn't matter as the member "has now been expelled from the union", so that's OK then, or that the tribunal has been held and there was some confusion about nomination by various undemocratic branches.

    The latest decision reads "in order to become a candidate Mrs Simms required five branch nominations", so that's reasonable. Not. It's a system like Westminster before 1832, when the gatekeepers of power are a host of rotten boroughs. Why would such a system not exclude trouble makers? What else is it for?

    So many people complain about trades unions that often two of them have similar names. There is Lisa Simms and Cynthia Simms. It's tricky from skim-reading of googled sites to know which simms is which.

    There was another Simms complaint to the same tribunal a year or two before, which was fobbed off in a different way. According to the minutes of Amicus NEC 2005 (para 33/06 "other reports) before such things we made private - it was reported by the union's legal officer that after the 2003 election the union had had to admit to a change to the same candidate's election address caused by an "inadvertant scanning error", but the Certification Officer had "accepted that the change was not deliberate", "noted the general secretaries declared intentions re the conduct of future elections and had made no enforcement order".

    vote results made public

    Unite TGWU union managers were "delighted" at the high turnout of just over 25% for merger, held after they paid for a ghost-written magazine full of pictures of people smiling and praise for the unoin's merged prospects to be sent to all members and then sent ballot papers with a freepost address. Management got near-17% turnout for the rule book vote. Recently the union's management have taken to putting election results on their web site, rather than the "activists extranet". The results are re-typed from those of Electoral Reform Services and don't mention seats where only one candidate stood, nor figures for spoilt balllot papers: only staff of Electoral Reform Services know whether the words were about Electoral Reform Services and it's signing of Unite Transport and General Workers' union elections. There is a surprisingly steady 10% turnout. There's no mention of membership of internal political parties, but most of the successful candidates are members of the Broad Left internal political party. Whistleblowers are excluded.
    [PDF download link 12/08]

    The union has also started publishing some sort of financial account on its web site, to save members having to discover the one at the Certification Office. The account claims that an amount of money is spent on legal services, while another, non-public account quoted in minutes of an Amicus National Executive Council pre-merger states that T&G "charges referral fees to solicitors" and Amicus too has benefited from "reduced professional fees". - old rules for T&G section: an unusually interesting document. Rather than PDF, is is transcribed to a format that can be cut-and-pasted into a Wiki for comment among branch members, from which paragraphs can be cut and emailed, put-on to small web sites, and so-on. The new rules below have been put into plain text as well. - proposed rules which will probably be voted-in on a small good-will vote, like a vote of shareholders in a company. With recent turnout for executive council elections under 10%, the glossy magazine was necessary just to make the union look democratic by getting some kind of turnout.

    Here are some reasons for a protest "no", like the Irish vote on the EU constitution.

    Is the new organisation about help at work, or a fundraising organisation pretending to be about help at work?
    The new rule book describes a fundraising organisation for the central office of the labour party which is mentioned by name and various cartels which are also mentioned by name.

    Political contributions are limited by law but there is no bar in the rule book on ways of getting around the law, such as investing money at 0% interest in a bank that goes to the legal limit in making soft loans to the Labour Party, making soft loans direct writing to members asking them to vote labour, making soft loans to labour (something they were caught doing recently), failing to defend members against the state funded organisations that can be bad employers, attempting unfair dismissals of staff who step-out of labour-line, or turning a blind eye to money transfer via various organisations like branches, trades councils and charities that do not keep accounts and can in turn pay money to anyone they like.

    Surveys of why people join unions show two things. "help at work" or similar phrases are top of the list (not fundraising), and membership is falling. Membership is falling because unions have become fundraising organisations. If you're offered a chance to join an expensive organsation that gives secretive amounts of money to the labour party, why not give more efficiently and post the cheque direct?

    Funding politicians or PR in the new Unite rule book?
    The old rule book allows members to donate collectively to sympathetic politicians. In 1922 when the first draft was written, MPs weren't paid. Those who could afford to be MPs seemed less likely to be interested in a national health service, for example, than union members wanted them to be. There is no bar to the union funding break-away politicians like Ken Livingstone or Martin Bell, regional parties or opposition parties.

    Now MPs are well paid and donation to a central PR machine is more likely to divert their attention onto "two or three eye catching initiatives ... entirely conventional ... associated with my name", as the prime minister explained in his email to ministers in July 2000. The idea of funding a PR machine is precisely the opposite of the original purpose of funding practical MPs who wanted social insurance, a safety-net, and individual rights.

    "From time to time": democracy in the Unite rule book (now the old rule book again as, dispite the ceremonial vote with only one option and no detail put to members, the ruling party has decided the rule books should not be merged for another six months)
    The new rule book tries to do a good thing in encouraging branches to be something to do with one trade or employer, and introducing democratic rules "from time to time". This good thing is done in a way that pours all power into the centre:
    officals will "from time to time" choose a ballot system. There are no checks and balances to say how or why. For example, there is no way of going to arbitration.

    This is odd because the current General Secretary and Deputy General Secretary did a lot of work investigating people who tried to change the voting system "from time to time" in Scotland at another set of union elections. And they haven't shown much interest in newer cheaper ballot systems for local branches up till now. However much they ask governemnt for laws allowing easy ballots for senior jobs, they don't ask themselves for ballots on anything else.

    Without good, cheap systems of democracy that fit-in with how people live, it will continue to be hard to trust branches with a share of the membership money, and most of the money will remain in the ten regional offices or simpily donated-away, while the executive council and conference will continue to be like Eurovision: something you might see on television once in a blue moon but have no great part of making.

    Black hole accounts: accountability in the Unite the Union draft rule book
    The old rule book assumed that members met each other in person and could keep a pretty close eye on the union bank accounts and budgets. The new rule book doesn't open-up the black hole that is Unite accounting now. For example a due dilligence report by Stoy Hayward accountants for Amicus into Transport and General noticed that T&G "charged referral fees": members pay a union for years and then get a no-win no-fee lawyer who has to pay commission to their official. There are so few officials per member that it's possible to believe that they're paid for by these referral fees. The whole organisation is no more than a claims managment agency, but with a volunteer-co-ordinator role added-on to the claims handling that the other firms do.

    Services to members: don't ask the Unite rule book
    If the union is going to become a way of helping people at work then it ought to say so in a sensible adult contract.
    The 1922 rule book mentions "Schedule II: services to members" but there is a mysterious absence where this document should be because there are basically no services to members. Employment Appeal tribunal cases where members have been let down by large unions, won cases against their ex-employers privately, and then tried to sue the union for discriminating against them demonstrate the problem. There is a case like that on this site, against Unison, and another linked from it against University and College Union. Until unions do something for the money they're given, they will continue to sink and pull-down with them any volunteer effort like rep work that's related.

    Someone else has done the work: why criticise the Unite final draft rule book?
    Wikipedia links to a thing called "Amicus Unity Gazette" which is a political party controlling part of the Executive Council. The Unite equivalent is called "Broad Left" and more secretive. Members of the executive council who were not part of these two groups did not even get to see the new rule book until recently - after the last elections with their less than 10% turnout. Members of the council who blow the whistle are mysteriously not re-elected. So whoever and whatever a "Rules Commission" was, it wasn't allowed to rock the boat, and these rules are called "final draft". Whoever did all the work of discussing these rules would probably like a bit of an uprising. There are probably all sorts of things they'd have liked to put-in if the weight of job and party hierachy wasn't resting on them. The polite thing is to vote "no", and bring the issues out into the open, as well as keeping the union afloat in future. Otherwise you might have to start your own union, which is another thing.

    Aspirations are for the Labour party - not for yobs and non-supporters according to the new rule book.
    The 1922 rule book is for aspirational people who want to work for an employee-owned firm like John Lewis, and encourage others to do so. They also want help with student loans. Reading the rule book, you'd expect the union to encourage members to buy from employee-owned firms, union-recognising firms and good employers as this site tries to do and possibly buy shares in firms and encourage staff ownership as Baxi Partnership does. Unite the union is now emphatically opposed to workers even controlling their own pension funds, let alone their employers. The party it backs is the same.

    This site is not funded by any organisation and is written in odd scraps of time.
    Your ideas may be different and based on better knowledge but in any case, vote No.

    super key marginals


    This from Amicus Executive Council minutes, April 2008 - pdf link

    Political Report

    Charlie Whelan reported on the use of Unite donations to support the Labour Party. There was some discussion about which party to support, or whether to use the money for the purpose given instead such as paying for lawyers in unfair dismissal cases. No. That was a joke by the person transcribing this text. The £2 million from Unite would be used in the ‘super key marginals’ to counteract the money being pumped in by Lord Ashcroft for the Conservatives. Unite money would be used for social profiling and to send out personalised mail shots to voters. [note: I got a picture of my crap scam union's regional general secretary on top of a rare letter urging me to vote labour. I have since left my union and was anyway in a liberal / conservative constituency. I have know way of knowing whether jargon phrases like "social profiling" were used to bamboozle a volunteer committee but suspect that nothing useful was done with £2,000,000 of Amicus members' money].

    One NEC member asked how many Unite sponsored MPs had voted against the Agency and temporary Workers Bill, and expressed a fear that it had been kicked into the long grass by the Government.

    Another NEC member talked about the problems in the NHS. There were over a
    million NHS workers, and their families and friends as well. She had had a phone call in the lunch break from health workers set to lose their jobs, and another about the privatisation of the GP out-of-hours service in North London. The written political report to NEC members noted the threats to health visiting, and the written report commented on a cardiac unit threatened with closure. If the Labour Party was serious about those people voting Labour, what was needed was a sharp reversal of policy. There would be similar issues in other sectors. If we gave so much money to the Labour Party, we had to start saying,

    ‘Come on guys, we want something in return’.

    Charlie Whelan said there had been a meeting with a Health Minister on health visiting, and the intention was to arrange a fringe meeting on health at the Labour Party conference.

    The General Secretary said he partially agreed with the people who had raised problems, and that putting £2 million in wasn’t all we were doing. Arguing for the right policies and putting the money in was the best combination. We had a commitment from Gordon Brown that the principle of legislationon agency and temporary workers would be in the Queen’s Speech, and we would take part in a commission aimed at actually delivering the legislation. We couldn’t win it in a private member’s bill, so we had to participate in the commission. If we didn’t, what else had we got? We didn’t want this kicked into the long grass

    This from

    Cheuq marked "friends of Tony Woodley: Two hundred pounds" - copied from the Friends of Tony Woodley web site"To run a successful campaign to win a national T&G election requires serious finance, once nominated. Your financial support would be appreciated. Cheques made payable to 'Friends of Tony Woodley'."

    This from the ballot paper for national executive elections, which doesn't tell you how you were meant to have stood for election, or how to ask questions of the candidates:

    "This page intentionally blank"

    Most internal union elections are not governed by specific laws, nor are rule books enforced as contracts - more as guides to an evolving tradition as the King v TGWU case shows: the rule book insists on all members attending a biannual branch meeting and electing on a show of hands; it says that all members should have an equal say in the how the property of the union is managed. The Certification Office says that one part of the branch committee is keeping up appearances by electing themselves on a show of hands round the table and if they say that other committees of more or less the same people with the same letterhead and bank account are different then that's OK. And people like this draft the next edition of the rule book. Obvously it isn't OK but they say it's OK and it is not for us to criticise the learned. They sound like a theologians -

    "This is nonsense, obviously, but if we read it in a way that suits our funders us we can keep our salaries".

    The Trades Union and Labour relations Act insists that some elections are held by postal ballot and that no member should be unreasonably excluded from standing and having a hundred word statement printed for members. The way the papers are printed, it's made to look as though you have to go-round loads of branches getting nominated before you can stand and this may even be true: you would have to ask a theologian. There has just been an election to the first Unite General Executive Committee and the turnout was under 10%, according to Electoral Reform Services' letters to the General Secretary, published on the private activists intranet and from there on the web site. This large .pdf file shows the results.

    This Guardian article describes the few remaining branch committees that meet and an enclosed world in which factions try to get the votes of those at the tables. The answer - online voting - is easy and ways of doing it are listed at the end of the page. If individual union activists don't get nerdy and invite colleagues to vote, then unions will get dodgier and dodgier, failing ones will merge, and younger people will prefer to buy insurance off PLCs or probably go without. An immediate problem is dirty tricks like overwork, bullying and goal-post moving played on just the people I most disagree with according to the DearUnite site, but the principal that union officials should have the tools for the job , a controlled workload known to their members and to be chosen in a rational way on merit are common to all union officals and people in the voluntary sector who they (except mine) try to help.


    Bucking the system: independent candidates

    This from a blog of Tuesday, 25 March 2008, written by someone who has held-down a real job and been a branch chair and been elected to the National Executive Council's quarterly four-day conferences until just now. She has a special interest in democracy because truck drivers, like cab drivers, are obviously not going to assemble in a car park and elect on a show of hands while loosing trade as the rule book suggests and are more intersted in things like an online blog. Independent candidates lost to the party machine last time, so for the moment it looks as though new unions have a better chance of working than reformed old ones. What follows is a direct quote.

    Can Democracy survive in Unite?

    As the elections for the national Executive Committee in Unite draw to a close, questions are being asked about the role of the Broad Left, the Amicus Unity Gazette and other groupings in the union. These factions are officially banned but tolerated within the TGWU Section, but formerly permitted in the Amicus Section. The new Unite Rule Book is presently known only to a few at the top of the union. Early indications are that it will further reduce democracy in the union. The problems start at the local level but manifest themselves right up to the top. We understand that there is a sub-committee of the GEC taking responsibility but members do not appear to have access to minutes, further the GEC, to whom the sub-committee reports does not have a Published Agenda so delegates arrive from Ireland, the UK, Channel Islands and Gibraltar for a four day meeting without proper documentation which would allow them to consult their members before the GEC, this includes Rule Book drafts. Examples of our Concerns:

    Case Study 1. Rigged Voting.

    Like the Monty Python film "Life of Brian" each of the union factions portray themselves as the "goodies" and all other factions as the "baddies," Delegates elected to a Trade Groups in Region 1 attending their first meetings in February, (which were due themselves to elect delegates to other Regional and National Committees), were recently bombarded with phone calls from the so-called Broad Left just as meetings started and urged to support and oppose a whole series of representatives merely on the say-so of key people, thereby diverting the democracy of the union. Where did the BL get elected delegates mobile phone numbers from? Surely only from within the union, in clear breach of the rules. So this amounts to rigged voting, with members being pressurised and perhaps bullied, with candidates possibly smeared. About as democratic as fraudulent filling in of ballot papers en masse. Monty Python would never dream of a situation where there were about three organisations in the T&G calling themselves "Broad Left", as far as we can discover none is broad and none is left, this must be a first - a two word title with two lies in it?

    Subsequent voting within the trade groups followed a pattern that was remarkably consistent for people some of whom had never met before. (The temporary acting Chairs never invited those seeking office to state their policies). The Broad Left is also suspected of using the official union mailing database and Steve Hart, Region 1 Regional Secretary is presently investigating this. We do not disagree with factions in principle and totally oppose the current T&G Rule on factions which was drafted to enable witch hunts against Communist Party members, however, at the moment we in the T&G get the worst of both worlds, factions and currents are forced underground and have become secret societies lacking accountability and lacking any responsibility to the membership.

    Case Study 2. Broad Left becomes New Right.

    The Woodley supporting Broad Left has long since abandoned any political principles or policies in favour of promoting people because they are "good people", ie "one of us"; who just happen to know one another, (and be trusted to vote according to personal wishes of the group "leaders"), rather than people who share any common political objectives. Social anthropologists would have a field-day if set loose on the TGWU Broad Left.

    The semi-clandestine Broad Left has no open record of members. Like the Freemasons, individual union members are invited to join based on recommendation. Divided into regions to reflect the TGWU regions, each has its own unelected Chair and Co-ordinator and the BL nationally has an unelected Chair, currently Martin Mayer a GEC member.

    BL policies are largely handed down from the GEC BL members to the BL membership which is ruthlessly policed by regional trusties, some of whom regularly milk the union of attendance allowances and "stand-down" money supposedly paid in place of pay lost but often within the gift of Broad Left union Regional Industrial Officers. The Broad Left has become a secret union within the union.

    The Broad Left took over control from the old corrupt Right Wing of our union, (also called the Broad Left), culminating with the election of the then Left candidate Tony Woodley at the last elections for GC. Without any checks and balances, the Woodley supporting Broad Left has mutated to become a controlling network for an increasingly New Labour-style union leadership. 25 of the 40 TGWU executive seats were uncontested, reportedly, the result of a secret deal between the BL and all the other factions. Democracy?

    Case Study 3 - Broad Left starts expulsions.

    Activist Andy Erlam was expelled from the Region 1 Broad Left, without the right to appeal, apparently for questioning the transparency of the BL Slate. Standing against the BL candidate, Erlam beat the slate decisively. Activists Rachael Webb and Ian Lidbetter also stood successfully against Broad Left Regionally, with the former securing 5 times the number of votes as the BL rival. All three are currently standing as independent Left candidates in the GEC elections, suspecting a groundswell of support for principled, accountable and determined socialists on the union's executive.Case Study 4 AUG. The same trend has occurred within the Amicus Unity Gazette, previously a relatively enlightened grouping of the Left and allowed under Amicus rules.

    Increasingly, the AUG, with the exception of the London Region and isolated pockets of members, acts as a support network for Derek Simpson the dominant Joint General Secretary of Unite. Case Study 5. Des Heemskerk. Former Simpson Campaign Manager, Des Heemskerk, a candidate for the Amicus Executive was recently and mysteriously sacked from his job at Honda despite being a model employee. There no evidence that the Amicus organised this sacking but Hemskeerk is now unable to stand for the Executive because rules dictate that candidates must be actually employed in the relevant sector. These rules must be changed. Case Study 6. Swissport. 1,000 bag handlers at Heathrow airport have been let down very badly by the union by being mis-led into agreeing to a transfer of undertakings in 2001. Hundreds lost their employment as a result and more have had pensions affected. The union response? Closing down their Branch and refusing to talk about the problems at every level of Unite. Protecting Tony Woodley, the Broad Left in Region 1 refused to listen to Swissport leader Eugene Findlay and has refused outright to support the Swissport Workers, presumably because it might embarrass the Woodley leadership of our union?

    A recent Swissport request for details of meetings in Region 1 was met with an insulting reply from the co-ordinator full of foreign language lettering. Is this democracy and the intelligent Left? What is the difference between this sell out of our members and the sell out of the Liverpool dockers?

    BL is now based on confidence trickery, lies and misrepresentations. However, we must not ignore the good intentions of those involved when it started and the good intentions of the majority who remain in it, they just don't happen to be the ones who can afford hour long telephone conversations and have access to lists of delegates telephone numbers.

    Case Study 7. Branch Political Corruption.

    Take the case of a branch where the Branch Secretary pays herself an annual sum of money in excess of £25,000 and is protected by a Broad Left activist. There are apparently several examples of Branch officials taking all the Branch income personally. Case Study 8. - Broad Left pulling the wool over the eyes of union democracy. Recently a disabled woman delegate to her Trade Group last bi-annual period was told in her Branch meeting by the Broad Left Branch Secretary that "she wasn't eligible for reconsideration for election as Delegate to Regional Trade Group (Woman's Reserve Seat) because she had stepped down as Shop Steward". There is no such ruling in our Rule Book.

    Case Study 9. John McDonnell.

    Having previously stated that the Broad Left in TGWU would support John McDonnell as Labour Leadership candidate, the BL members of the GEC refused to back McDonnell in the final nomination vote and voting records from that meeting still remain unpublished despite previous assurances that they would be. It was sickening to hear the self-appointed Broad Left Chair of the Broad Left recently announce to the Labour Representation Committee, (which effectively ran McDonnell's campaign), that it would affiliate to the LRC. Some support! The Broad Left is exactly the sort of trade union organisation that MI5 would help organise - control and contain the Left, in case it finds the confidence to act in genuine solidarity.

    Case Study 10. Apprx 6 years ago two members of what is now 1/888 Branch campaigned against cheap labour from Eastern Europe threatening hard won pay, terms and conditions under circumstances where Willi Betz, using Bulgarian drivers at very low wages, encouraged racism and national chauvinism amongst British drivers. The 1/888 members campaigned under the slogan "fight Will Betz, not the drivers". They linked up with Danish Trade Unionists who set up a series of meetings of rank and file drivers paid for by European Union Funding, one of the 1/888 activists was criticised for "being too open and putting everything on her Branch Blog". Both the 1/888 activists were sidelined by a current B/L member and now we hear nothing of the project which showed signs of becoming a genuine rank and file workers pressure group within the existing union structure when it started. If any work is done it must be being done in secret. We state unequivocally there is no such thing as secret negotiations in our movement, no secret diplomacy, no secret negotiations behind the members backs and no "working in the background". Either the members know what is happening or the "ordinary" members will not be there when they are asked to support union calls for action.

    What is to be done?

    We must fight like hell for the democratic worker-led fighting union that the T&G was more like when the Rule Book was written. At one time we fought for the Broad Left. Now the Woodley-ite Broad Left reminds one of Legs Diamond when attacking other factions when he said of Bugsy Malone: "it's bums like him what gives honest hoods like me a bad name".

    We must now demand a Special Re-call BDC to examine ways in which we can re-involve members in running our union. At such a Conference, we would be ask Conference to endorse new requirements that factions are democratic, transparent and act within the constitution of our union, publishing their minutes for all to see?

    Is there any reason why National Executive Council meetings can not be broadcast, via the internet, to all members so that they can see at the time what is being decided in their names? Videocasting is now cheap and high quality. The TU movement must use all available technology to spread union democracy.

    Rachael Webb
    posted Monday, 3 March 2008

    Release date: immediate

    "Rebel" Unite Candidates bid for union national General Executive Council (GEC)*

    Three rebel union candidates may win places on the executive of Unite, the new union which combines the Transport and General Workers' Union and Amicus in protest at the "New Labour-type" leadership of the union.

    The candidates, all life-long union activists, who describe themselves as "independent", are within striking distance of national success following big regional election wins. If elected, they are likely to be sharp critics of the two Joint-General Secretaries Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley's drift away from "lay-member democracy" in the new Unite union. The influential TGWU Truck Drivers' Branch (Branch 1/888) is supporting the 3 Candidates: Rachael Webb, Ian Lidbetter and Andy Erlam.

    While each of the candidates is "fiercely independently-minded", they are all furious about what they see as the closing down of democracy and transparency in the union and last year's crucial executives' decision to back Gordon Brown for Labour Leader rather than the Left firebrand John McDonnell.

    Union leaders are also secretly drawing up a new Rule Book which many fear will end members' democracy. Apparently, the new rules will not include an effective grievance procedure for members with a complaint about the union. The candidates are also challenging the informal "machines" called The Broad Left and the Amicus Unity Gazette" (AUG) which fix the elections, undermining genuine union democracy. The candidates are also backing members of the Swissport Branch*, 1,000 baggage handlers from Heathrow, who have been "badly let down by the union" in a scandal which has rumbled on from 7 years.

    International lorry driver Rachael Webb, the women's candidate for London, the South East and Eastern England said:

    "Most women members, apart from those with union careers, are still sidelined in the union. I want to see good socialist women running about half the union at every level in every region based on merit not on being patronized. I'm a woman working in a man's world - the road transport industry - so my decades of experience will be very useful, if elected. Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson, (once heroes of the Left), have both been huge disappointments in office."

    Andy Erlam , Chair of the large Central London Branch said:

    "The Unite union leaders increasingly make the important decisions, such as supporting Gordon Brown, behind closed doors. Debate is stifled and "slates" of candidates produced by self-styled informal leaders of the Left are like rabbits out of a hat. There is no discussion. The semi-clandestine Broad Left in the TGWU and the AUG in Amicus are as about democratic as the freemasons and about as progressive as Opus Dei. It's now time for political change." Andy is London's candidate for the GEC.

    Ian Lidbetter , another truck driver said:

    "The average union member doesn't know how the union works or how to influence it. That suits the powers that be. Those members aren't stupid, they just haven't been encouraged to really own the union. There is a wealth of experience and power to utilize - that's my mission. Disabled members, including so many injured at work like myself, must be a real priority for the union. No-one else is taking up the challenge."

    The three also said:

    "The TGWU is a great union doing some great work, such as defending migrant workers. Unite will only be a great union if the members rise up and demand to be involved in all major decisions. This is our mission."

    Further information:

    Rachael Webb 07989 851602 rachael dot webb at bbnet dot ie

    Ian Lidbetter: 07838 381998 iglidbetter at y ahoo dot co dot u k

    Andy Erlam 07518 743 007 or 07795 547033 or hm 01273 841827 andyerlam at y ahoo dot co dot uk

    Eugene Finlay (Swissport) 07985 800019 eugene dot finlay at y ahoo do co dot uk


    Note to Editors.

    *The General Executive Council (GEC) is the top national ruling body of the TGWU Section of Unite with 40 seats.
    26 of the 40 seats are not being challenged with just one candidate.
    The Amicus Section has an additional 40 seats. (Controversy surrounds Amicus candidates being disqualified).
    The combined 80 seat Unite executive soon to be elected will probably run the union for the next 3 or more years.
    Webb and Erlam are candidates for Region 1: London, the South East and Eastern England.
    Lidbetter is a national candidate for truck drivers (Road Transport Commercial Trade Group).

    Unite represents over 2½ millions workers. The national postal ballot for the GEC begins now (on Monday 3rd March and runs to 28th March). Ballot papers will be dropping on members' doorsteps at home this coming Monday.

    ----- ENDS -----

    MPs expenses - another party machine gets money from union party machines at the expense of help to members at work

    Union chief accused of using funds to boost New Labour

    By Barrie Clement, Labour Editor, The Independent, Tuesday 11 Novermber 2003

    Labour's biggest union benefactor was in turmoil last night over allegations that its co-leader abused the organisation's funds to promote the interests of Tony Blair and New Labour.

    Derek Simpson, left-wing head of the Amicus-AEEU trade union, is to investigate claims that Roger Lyons, TUC president and general secretary of the MSF division of Amicus, misused union resources to promote the interests of Blairite candidates for union posts.

    The allegations have emerged on the eve of the official opening of the union's new headquarters in central London, which will be attended by senior cabinet ministers.

    Mr Lyons is accused of using the journal of Amicus-MSF, released yesterday, to boost the chances of New Labour in the forthcoming election to the union's national executive committee. At stake is the political direction of Labour's largest union affiliate in the run-up to the next general election.

    Left-wingers point out that in the latest issue of the journal MSF Works, there are references to 11 New Labour candidates - and pictures of some of them - to the exclusion of any others.

    The magazine, for which Mr Lyons is responsible, costs £500,000 to produce and circulates among 350,000 members.

    Ballot papers go out today in the election for the first unified executive of the newly merged Amicus, which will begin its work in January. Three other factions are involved in the fight to control the new union: left- and right-wingers from the engineering section, and left-wingers from MSF.

    In a reference to Mr Lyons' expected elevation to the peerage, one left-winger said Mr Lyons was "earning his ermine" by allegedly advancing the careers of New Labour loyalists at MSF. The Amicus-AEEU leader is retiring in a year's time, although Mr Simpson has already assumed administrative and financial control of the new amalgamated organisation.

    Brian Pemberton, a left-wing candidate in the north-western area of the union, described the contents of the organisation's official journal as an "abuse of union funds" and an "obscenity". He accused Mr Lyons of rewarding existing right-wing executive members who voted to increase his salary by £20,000 to £100,000 ahead of his retirement. Mr Pemberton said that when the grassroots membership heard about the allegation, the membership would "blow them away".

    Mr Simpson said the union took the allegations "very seriously" and would begin an immediate inquiry. If necessary the complaints would be passed to the Certification Officer, the Government's union watchdog.

    Mr Lyons denied there was any attempt to promote the interests of one candidate above another.

    How to run a ballot

    This duplicates "startyourownunion#running-a-vote" but sits here just to show how cheap it is to run an honest election.

    Union Ideas Network has some quite subtle articals about how branch members can do business from home with something called "Deliberative democracy".

    This collection isn't all subtle. It suits a branch secretary or a rep or official who has an election to hold or a recognition-agreement meeting to go to on behalf of a load of people, but is only in touch with the three who turn up at branch meetings.

    Traditionally in the T&G, branches are self-election committees of these people who elect on a show of hands and don't necessarilly have to be anything to do with one employer; they can be more interested in politics and campaigns and turn a blind-eye to a cruelly dispicably illegally bad union services as long as they get a subsidy for the Cuba Solidarity Campaign or whatever their favourite cause is. They certainly won't make the accounts known to each member, as the law says they have to.

    Recognition agreement meetings are often cancelled by management without explanation, or held with one out-of-touch rep representing the work force, who, because they are working, may not have made time to go the the last branch meeting. The chances of a workplace bullying problem or bad management being sorted out are nil.

    Online ballots are one small part of sorting the problems out if they include more people than the show-of-hands-in-a-back-room system.

    Free online vote systems come-&-go over time. Some of the sites that come-up on a Google search are government funded papers that never get to the point and list dozens of dud links. There are also free commercial sites, sometimes ugly with adverts or short-lived. Sites that offer surveys with roughly one vote per computer tend to come-up on the same google searches as these rarer voting sites that offer roughly one vote per code from the vote-holder's list, such as a reference on the electoral roll, a membership number, or a code that has been posted or emailed. Larger organisations might have web sites that allow ballots to be built-in but simpler voting pages are less fiddlable.

    A web link about socks is run by the same group of companies as - an open source collection of deliberative software, whatever that is. One of the packaged products - My Election - has a price guide of £5,000.

    Fraud gets mentioned on the web. The main difficulty with a small election is whether the secretary and chair are simply making-up email addresses from distant branch members, as the union law about a register of addresses is about postal addresses and union IT departments (or the T&G one at least) don't help voluntarily. When I asked a Unite T&G branch secretary about elections he wrote "the regional office would probably not allow it".

    In my branch the membership database didn't always work, was kept in Manchester for the whole union, and didn't have a way that branch secretaries could log-on: they have to ask the few paid staff and wait for a reply. To convert postal addresses all over the UK to a decent email list could take a long time but presumably most branches have some sort of email list. Mailouts of over about 50 letters, asking members to log-on to a web site, to vote, and give their email address to save the union money might be done by hand or online, with Viapost being about the same price as sticking stamps on postcards by hand and probably with easier proof that you've posted most of the things to most of the right people. If doing it by hand in the worst situation you'd need a certificate or posting with one address per line, or someone to witness that you've done the right thing.

      • employer's franking or stamps: free if in recognition agreement. It might be possible to get a committee of a few people to share the stamping and addressing while talking. If there are just a few members who aren't on email this might be the best system but it's fiddle-able.
      • or stamps: 30p+postcard. Slow.
      • 30.5p per letter inc. paper & envelope. Mailmerge. Program download required.
      • 25p+VAT+35p card processing fee
      • 50c per US letter, US based
      • €0.55 per German letter, German based
      • 54p per second class letter, UK based
      • (a small L) 70p per UK letter, by credit card, +their logo
      • no price given - possibly 50p. Website down 6/10
      • online calculator for large mailouts by post code

    The next stage is trying to get at least as many people to vote online after a meeting as turn up to meetings. That can't be hard. The problem of a register of voters is solved if all members want to join something like CollectiveX or a Yahoo Group and there may be similar things like Facebook or Meetup that I know nothing about.

    The UK government names upmarket firms authorised to ballot and scrutenize under the Trades Union and Labour Relations Act, which covers a few votes for the most senior union jobs and insists on paper ballots sent to physical addresses rather than email ballots, so the posh end of the market has no privilages over the free firms above when it comes to email voting. Some of the firms are listed on the BERR page about these ballots. One, Polaris, has partnered with the expensive-looking firm to do online elections for other votes. Another of the named firms,

    Electoral Reform Services, also runs expensive-looking e-votes - this is a sample. deserve a mention here about government spending and political reform.


    I will get back to you if enough people are interested in proper legal insurance for employees. For now, the email handling is handled by Aardvark Mailing List. Like Pledgebank, this list is for people who would like there to be cheap legal insurance but don't set it up because not enough people want it at once to make it viable. If you check out Aardvark, you will see that they remain free bacause they don't give email addresses to list owners; if anyone hijacks your email address it will be them, not, and they look honest. You can add your name to the list to be told when there are a lot of people on it and cheap legal insurance is possible.

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