Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Past His Sell By Date?

Len McCluskey 
Worzel Gummidge
The Politics Home web site scored a bit of a coup the other day when it predicted that Unite boss Len McCluskey would launch an unusual 'power grab' within his own union.

Kevin Schofield wrote on 30 November 2016 that McCluskey was considering bringing forward the timetable for the next general secretary's election to 2017 - because by 2018 McCluskey would be nearly 68 putting him under great pressure to hang up his boots.

On 6 December 2016 Schofield went one better with an exclusive article claiming that McCluskey planned to trigger this new timetable by voluntarily resigning and then standing for re-election himself.

Sounds completely crazy to me and I can only say that I hope Len McCluskey enjoys the same kind of success with his stunt as Zac Goldsmith, the former Conservative MP who resigned his Richmond parliamentary seat and promptly lost itto the Lib Dems.

Len McCluskey in bid to strengthen his grip on Unite
By Kevin Schofield - Politics Home (30 November 2016)

Len McCluskey has launched a secret bid to tighten his grip on Unite by extending his time as general secretary of the powerful trade union, PoliticsHome has learned.

Len McCluskey's term as general secretary of Unite is due to run until 2018
Credit: PA Images

The left-winger wants to bring forward the election for the top job until next year, in a move which could see him remain in place until the general election.

Mr McCluskey's current five-year term of office runs until 2018, by which time he will be nearly 68 and would be under massive pressure from within the union to retire.

It is understood he has told allies that if he is re-elected in 2017, he will only serve for three years before standing down at the age of 70.

His attempts to run for a third term as general secretary have potentially huge implications for the Labour party as he is a staunch supporter of Jeremy Corbyn.

Unite is also the party's biggest financial donor, giving Mr McCluskey huge influence over its policies and direction.

One senior Labour source said that Mr McCluskey losing to a moderate candidate would be a "game changer".

"Deposing Len as general secretary would give us a chance of winning the next election," said the insider.

"At a stroke it would remove Unite's support for Jeremy, leaving him vulnerable if there was another coup. The stakes are huge."

PoliticsHome understands that Mr McCluskey wants the general secretary election to take place next March to co-incide with elections to Unite's ruling executive council. He will argue that that will save the union more than £1 million.

The union's rules state that elections can only take place before the end of the general secretary's five-year term if he or she retires, resigns or dies.

But it is understood that McCluskey could overturn that rule if 75 per cent of the union's executive committee votes to do so.

He is due to hold meetings with senior figures within the union over the next few days in an attempt to secure backing for his proposal, which he would then present to the executive council next week.

Mr McCluskey refused to deny the plan before a meeting with Labour MPs in the Commons last night.

Asked whether there would be a general secretary election next year, Mr McCluskey said: "I don't think so."

He was also asked if the proposal would be discussed by Unite's executive council next week and replied: "Not to my knowledge."

Figures released last week by the Electoral Commission revealed that Unite donated £430,000 to Labour between July and September, on top of the millions which the union has ploughed into the party's coffers during Mr McClukey's time in charge.

Worzel Gummidge (03/11/13)

I heard the Unite leader - Len McCluskey - on Newsnight Scotland the other night and he comes across to me more and more like Worzel Gummidge, the famous children's TV character, for his rambling style and inability to make much sense.

Gordon Brewer, the interviewer, asked Len what he would have done if it had turned out that someone employed by Unite - was moonlighting during their day job and doing work for the Conservative Party while Unite was paying their wages.

My brain hurt trying to understand Len's rambling answer which came across as an unbelievable, incoherent and pathetic excuse - summarised best by the fact that the Unite convener at Grangemouth (Stephen Deans) resigned from a job he loved on the eve of a disciplinary hearing - rather than face accusations that he had abused his time off arrangements.

According to Len, neither Unite or Stephen Deans had anything whatsoever to apologise for even though it seems clear that the union convener was spending much of his time working on Labour Party business - instead of representing the workforce at the giant Grangemouth plant - and anyone who suggested otherwise (including Labour elder statesman Jack Straw, for example) was pursuing an 'agenda'.  

Great TV I have to admit, but painful viewing for supporters of responsible trade unionism - where people behave with decency and integrity and are not, first and foremost, obsessed with tribal party politics.

Jimmy Reid springs to mind although it goes without saying that Len could never have laced Jimmy's boots.

Finger-Jabbers (13 February 2013)

I enjoyed this entry in the Atticus column which appeared in last week's Sunday Times - because a good insult at your opponent's expense is a great weapon in political debate.

Especially if there is a real kernel of truth in what is being - as well as a barbed sense of humour. 

And on this occasion I think Alan Johnson is spot on in his assessment of the Unite leader - Len McCluskey - as I've said so myself on the blog site.  

"Alan hits out at the union finger-jabbers"

"Guess who coined this magnificently colourful and venomous description of the typical British trade union leader: 

"Fat, white, finger-jabbing blokes on rostrums, shouting and screaming."

It's worthy of Lord Tebbit or Boris Johnson. So you might be surprised to learn it is the view of the former Labour cabinet minister Alan Johnson, who once led the Communication Workers Union.

Johnson reserves particular scorn for Len McCluskey, the leader of Unite, who last year called for Blairites to be purged from the party. Speaking to Progress, a Labour magazine, the former post-man complains: "Some of our colleagues, Len might be among them, think that victory is a bourgeois concept. That the only goal for true socialists is glorious f****** defeat at every election."

This is not entirely fair comment. The unions go out of their way to win the occasional important election. Had the trade unions not intervened, the Blairite David Miliband would now be leader of the Labour party." 

Worzel Gummidge (6 January 2012)
Worzel Gummidge
Len McCluskey
I heard Unite's general secretary - Len McCluskey- on the TV last night talking about the pensions dispute.

I have to say Len comes across as just about the least impressive union leader I've ever heard - and I've met a few in my time.

Len bears an uncanny resemblance - in my opinion - to a famous character from children's TV - Worzel Gummidge - but the unfortunate thing is that he makes about as much sense as good ole Worzel too.

After his ritual condemnation of the government - Len seemed to suggest that the forthcoming Olympic Games in London - will be a target for the unions in their fight to defend final salary pension schemes - which of course only benefit the better off.

But I can't believe that's true - because trade unions sensible ones at least) never call strikes over the summer - because that's when most of their members are on holiday - either that or they're looking forward to or just got back from holiday.

The last thing they need or want is the prospect of even more hassle - and losing another day's pay - which union officials don't lose of course because they're working while their members are on strike.

So we'll wait and see what happens.

Unite is small beer - a small trade union in terms of the pensions dispute - maybe it's just a bit of sabre-rattling to help promote Len's image as the new general secretary.

Yet when I see him on the box I'm still reminded of my childhood - and my old friend Worzel Gummidge - except with shorter hair and without the hat.
Mandates R Us (1 November 2011)

Later this week we will hear the result of various trade union strike ballots - over public sector pension reform.

So before we all work ourselves up into a 'lather' - along the lines of: 'Mirror, mirror on the wall who has the biggest mandate of them all?' - I thought I'd publish this previous post on the 2010 election of Unite's general secretary.

Len McCluskey won the race with 101,000 votes - or 6.7% of Unite's 1.5 million members.

Make of that what you will.

Unite Election (22 November 2010)

Len McCluskey has been elected as the new leader of Unite - the UK's biggest trade union.

McCluskey received 101,000 votes - or 6.7% of Unite's 1.5 million members.

The other candidates were:

Jerry Hicks who came second with 52,000 votes (3.5%)

Les Bayliss who came third with 46,000 votes (3.0%)

Gail Cartmail, the only woman, with 39,000 votes (2.6%)

238,000 members took part in the ballot - which represents 15.8% of the 1.5 million members claimed by Unite.

Len McCluskey has been a member of the Labour Party for the past 39 years.

Not Just Any 'Old Farm'

It is de rigeur these days for politicians to pass themselves off as anti-establishment outsiders: Donald Trump, Nigel Farage and Jeremy Corbyn in their different ways are all fine examples of this trend.

The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that the house in Shropshire where Jeremy Corbyn grew up, Yew Tree Manor, is up for sale at an price of £650,000 - a snip for anyone selling up and moving out of London, I would say.

The Labour leader has described his family home as an "old farm" whereas the 17th century property is, in fact, a rather stunning five-bedroomed country mansion with four reception rooms and an acre of gardens.

Now it would be unfair to find fault with Jeremy because of his upbringing or surroundings, but describing his childhood home as a "old farm" is a just another example of good old-fashioned political spin, if you ask me.


Tilting at Windmills

Image result for tilting at windmills
Scotland's former First Minister was on his moral high horse in Westminster last week demanding, yet again, Tony Blair's head on a plate over the Iraq War.

As the SNP's foreign affairs spokesperson Salmond had table a motion which claimed that the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War had:

“provided substantial evidence of misleading information being presented by the then prime minister and others on the development of the then government’s policy towards the invasion of Iraq”.

Whereas Chilcot himself is on record as saying:

“I absolve him [Blair] from a personal and demonstrable decision to deceive parliament or the public – to state falsehoods, knowing them to be false.”

The Guardian reports that Mr Salmond's motion was heavily defeated and rightly so, if you ask me, not least because of its demand for yet another Iraq Inquiry.


MPs reject move to investigate Tony Blair over Iraq by 369 votes
Labour MPs turn out in force to defeat Alex Salmond’s motion, accusing him of attempt to ‘pillory and scapegoat one individual’


Tony Blair should be held to account for what was ‘very much a personal campaign’, Alex Salmond said. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

By Jessica Elgot and Heather Stewart - The Guardian

Labour MPs turned out in force on Wednesday to help defeat a parliamentary motion calling for Tony Blair to be held to account for allegedly misleading parliament over the Iraq war by 439 votes to 70, after a sometimes angry debate.

MPs vote down motion accusing Blair of misleading them over Iraq by majority of 369 - Politics live

The motion, tabled by the Scottish National party’s foreign affairs spokesman, Alex Salmond, was backed by MPs from six other parties, and called for parliamentary committees to investigate and take appropriate action against the former prime minister.

“What Iraq demonstrates is that currently at least there are no effective checks and balances in our system,” Salmond said. “The prime minister had the ability to create the circumstances in which this house followed him into an illegal conflict.”

The Labour MP Joan Ryan said: “On my reading of Chilcot, it says there was no falsification or improper use of intelligence, there was no misleading of cabinet and no secret commitment to war. Sadly, I think the only deception is in this motion and its opportunistic nature does not serve this issue or this parliament well.”

The Conservative MP Ken Clarke said the debate should not centre on one individual. “If we turn these post-Chilcot debates just into attempts to pursue and hound Tony Blair, the whole thing just turns into a party political argument with Labour members of parliament trying to defend the position of their government,” he said.

“Personalising it, if we are not careful, rather loses the point: are we satisfied everything possible is being done to ensure it cannot happen again?”

Unpardonable Folly (07/07/16)

I watched Sir John Chilcot deliver his long-awaited report into the war in Iraq and while his criticisms were broadly as expected, two important and overarching points stood out.

First, that Sir John and his team enjoyed seven long years to mull the whole business over and they also had the benefit of 20/20 hindsight before drawing their conclusions. 

Second, and more importantly, the Chilcot Inquiry did its work inside of a political vacuum rather than the highly adversarial arena in which UK politics is played out these days, under the glare of a cynical and often overtly hostile news media.

Tony Blair can answer for himself and has done, of course.

But some of his fiercest critics were not just against the Iraq War, they opposed military action just about everywhere: the Gulf War in 1991, Nato air strikes against Serbia in 1999, the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 (in the wake of 9/11), the support for anti-Gaddafi rebels in Libya, and the current action against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Alex Salmond who is currently calling for Tony Blair's 'head on a plate' was guilty of a monumental misjudgement, in my view, when he described NATO air strikes against Serbia as an 'unpardonable folly' back in 1999, even though this particular military action was designed to prevent the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Kosovo.

So if you were to examine Mr Salmond's remarks with the same cool detachment of the Chilcot Inquiry would you consider his comments to be:

a) a sincerely held, yet ultimately mistaken belief
b) windy, opportunist political rhetoric 
c) unforgivably stupid and inane 

The lesson of Iraq is that military intervention is messy, complicated business, one that is fraught with risks and has no guarantee of success.

But there is also great risk attached to sitting on the sidelines watching murderous fascists  go about their work, as they did in Kosovo in 1999.

As the late author Christopher Hitchens said, though much more eloquently than me: unpardonable folly, my arse.


Nato bombing 'unpardonable folly' 

BBC News - 22 March 1999

Demonstrations: Serbs and Albanians focus protests in London

Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond has become the first leading UK politician to speak out over the air strikes against Serbia, calling them counter-productive.

In a televised address to the Scottish people, Mr Salmond said that the military campaign was failing to do anything but strengthen Serb resolve and threaten the lives of ethnic Albanians.

And as Nato launched another night of raids against targets in Yugoslavia, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, also called for talks to replace bombing "as soon as possible".

'Dubious legality'

Mr Salmond said: "It is an act of dubious legality, but above all one of unpardonable folly."

The bombing "may make matters even worse for the very people it is meant to be helping".

The nationalist leader said Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic bore "prime responsibility" for human rights violations carried out on ethnic Albanians living in Kosovo.

"However, if we are to sanction intervention in Serbia then the policy must be capable of achieving two things," he said.

"It must be capable of weakening Milosevic and helping Kosovo. A bombing campaign will do neither, indeed the chances are it will make both worse."

The SNP wants an end to the bombing

But reacting to the breaking of ranks among domestic politicians, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook accused Mr Salmond of being "unfit to lead".

"He (Alex Salmond) fails to see the clear distinction between the resolve of a democracy defending itself against dictatorship and a dictatorship engaged in ethnic cleansing," he said.

But Plaid Cymru leader Dafydd Wigley also questioned the Nato bombing in his address to the Welsh nation, asking whether the action was actually exacerbating a human catastrophe.

Carey calls for talks

Dr Carey later called for talks to replace confrontation "as soon as possible".

He told BBC's One's Nine O'Clock News that Nato had been right to act but negotiations must restart to save civilian lives.

"The evils of ethnic cleansing and the dispersed populations are factors that no civilised person can be happy about," he said.

"We are seeing on our screens appalling pictures of suffering.

"Negotiation must replace confrontation as soon as possible. Nato was correct to take the action, howbeit regretfully - we must all regret that very deeply.

"But it is vitally important that we get people around that negotiating table as quickly as possible in order that civilian lives may be saved."

Riot police flood Whitehall

Meanwhile, London experienced more protests, leading to riot police moving in to keep opposing demonstrators apart.

Hundreds of officers closed off Whitehall as a demonstration of more than 1,000 Albanians in Trafalgar Square neared Downing Street where Serbs were protesting against the air strikes.

The square was filled with pro-Kosovo demonstrators carrying banners declaring: "No appeasement, no compromise, no surrender".

Serbs held placards denouncing Mr Cook as a murderer - but despite fears of a clash the noisy demonstrations ended peacefully.

At one point Union flag-waving Kosovans allowed two Serb women through, escorted by riot police, to attend their rival demonstration. 

Calling Glasgow

Image result for twitter images

Just a quick note for readers in Glasgow to say that if people follow me on Twitter, they will receive posts to the blog site automatically.

Retweeting and sharing these posts will also help build up a network of local A4ES claimants in Glasgow who can help get a strong campaign message across to Glasgow City Council in 2017.

If you ask me, the Council's foot-dragging behaviour has gone on long enough and if the current leadership is unable or unwilling to face up to its responsibilities over equal pay, then it's time they made way for people who are prepared to end this saga.  


Glasgow and Equal Pay (05/12/16)

I sent the following email to all MSPs and MPs with seats in the Glasgow City Council  area earlier today including Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's First Minister.

As I've said on the blog site before Glasgow is now the only major council is Scotland not to have reached a satisfactory agreement over its post-job evaluation pay arrangements.

Neighbouring North Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire Councils did so recently and thousands of A4ES clients played a big part in persuading these two councils to come to their senses.

So let's hope that Glasgow's MSPs and MPs get behind their local constituents in the fight for equal pay in 2017.      


Glasgow and Equal Pay

I enclose three recent posts from my blog site regarding the fight for equal pay in Glasgow City Council.

If there is no sign of a negotiated settlement by the New Year, I suspect that many of the 5,500 A4ES clients in Glasgow will be seeking to make equal pay a major issue in the run-up to the local council elections in May 2017.

Kind regards

Mark Irvine


Calling Glasgow (02/12/16)

The blog site has seen a lot of traffic following yesterday's about Glasgow, but what I  need to do in the weeks ahead is build a network of active supporters who are willing to spread the word on Facebook and Twitter.

Because the more people who Like, Share, Retweet and Follow my posts via Twitter and Facebook the stronger the message will be to Glasgow City Council.

If the current leadership of the Council are not part of the solution, then they are part of the problem if you ask me.

Glasgow is the only council in Scotland which has refused to reached agreement over their post-JE pay arrangements - in Glasgow's case this is known as the WPBR (Workforce Pay and Benefits Review). 

So if Glasgow's leaders are not prepared to face up to their obligations on equal pay, they should stand aside and make way for politicians who are prepared to do so.   


Calling Glasgow (01/12/16)Image result for calling + images

Glasgow City Council looks set to become the next big battleground in the long fight for equal pay as we approach the end of 2016.

As readers know, ever since the Employment Appeal Tribunal found in the claimants' favour (back in March) efforts have been made behind the scenes to establish whether GCC is prepared to resolve all the outstanding claims via a negotiated settlement.

In my view, this now looks increasingly unlikely and I suspect that the claimants are all just being 'strung along' in the hope of getting past next year's local council elections (due in May 2017) without too much argy bargy.

So I'm making an early New Year resolution to start the engines of a new A4ES campaign in January 2017, if there are still no signs of serious negotiations getting underway next month.  

The task I'll be setting myself is to make equal pay and Glasgow City Council's foot-dragging behaviour a major issue in the run-up to the May 2017 local elections.

Now I can't do this on my own, but A4ES has over 5,500 in Glasgow and I'll be aiming to stir people into action and create a network of local campaigners who are willing to turn the heat up on the Council in the early months of the New Year. 

Because if the present leadership of Glasgow City Council is not part of the solution, then it's part of the problem if you ask me.

I'll be writing much more on the blog site in the days ahead, but at the moment readers in Glasgow can help by Liking, Sharing and Retweeting this message on Facebook and Twitter.

Always remember that 'many hands make light work'.


Glasgow City Council Update

I said on the blog site recently that the fight for equal pay in Glasgow had gone quiet because the focus of events had shifted to the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

The Court of Session (Scotland's highest civil court)) will hear an appeal from Glasgow City Council against the decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal (reported previously on the blog site) which was favourable to the claimants. 

A4ES has also made a 'cross appeal' to protect the interests of its 5,000 clients in Glasgow which has the potential to bring down the so-called 'Workforce Pay and Benefits Review' - Glasgow City Council's local job evaluation (JE) scheme.

The Court of Session has now listed the Glasgow Appeal for April/May 2017 which is great timing if you ask me, because this means that the case will be heard in the run-up to next year's local council elections.

Now I have said previously on the blog site that a negotiated settlement in Glasgow is in everyone's, but so far at least the City Council seems intent on a 'fight to the death' through the courts.

If you ask me this is a foolish strategy, because the original decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal (in favour of the claimants) is sound and will be difficult to overturn at the Court of Session.

So if there is no progress to report by the end of 2016, I think it's fair to say that the City Council can expect fireworks in the New Year.

Because I will make it my business to ensure that equal pay becomes a major issue in the period leading up to the May 2017 council elections.


North Lanarkshire Update

I promised to keep Home Support Workers in North Lanarkshire up-to-date with the settlement offer process. 

The current position is that as at close of play yesterday (Tuesday) 861 settlement offers out of 994 (87%) were carefully checked, countersigned and passed over to North Lanarkshire Council for payment.  

38 new settlement documents were send out to night-shift HSWs on Monday and these will be turned around as quickly as possible. 

As always there are a number of people on holiday and some who have changed address without notifying the A4ES office, but these are small numbers in total. 

A handful of individuals have not responded to their letters and if there are any 'missing' A4ES clients at the end of the settlement process, I will post their names on the blog site in the hope that readers in North Lanarkshire can help us to track them down.


North Lanarkshire Update (04/12/16)

I receive lots of emails on a daily basis asking if I know when North Lanarkshire Council will pay Home Support Workers the back pay that they are due from the job evaluation (JE) review.

The straight answer is "No, I don't" - otherwise I would say something on the blog site, of course.

All I know is that A4ES/HBJ Gateley are passing on the completed paperwork as quickly as they can, having checked and countersigned the documents.

Not all of this is straightforward because some clients have completed the paperwork incorrectly (which means it has to be sent back out) while others are on holiday or, in a few cases, even moved abroad.

In any event things are going 'at full speed' as they say and I'll let everyone know via the blog site once all of the documentation has been passed over to North Lanarkshire Council for payment.