Friday, 17 January 2014

Hypocritical and Unreal

The words of former NUM member Jimmy Kelly - "It's so hypocritical it's unreal" - are more powerful than anything I can write about the behaviour of Arthur Scargill, the union's most famous and infamous leader.

How interesting it is that such an intelligent and articulate man as Arthur Scargill could fail to mention that the luxury property he was attempting to buy was, in fact, owned by the NUM - and how incredible is it that the NUM executive did not know that their members' money was paying for the flat between 1991 and 2008.

Just like the disgraceful £500,000 'golden goodbye' payment to Derek Simpson, the former Unite general secretary, no one seems to be responsible for throwing the member's money around like a drunken sailor.

I wonder what the various Labour MPs and MSPs with NUM union connections will have to say?  

Scargill used Thatcherite policy in bid to buy London flat

The NUM flat was situated in Shakespeare Tower in London's sought-after Barbican Estate development.

Former miners' union leader Arthur Scargill tried to use laws introduced by Margaret Thatcher to buy a council flat in London, the BBC has found.

In 1993 he applied to buy the flat on the prestigious Barbican estate under the right-to-buy scheme championed by Thatcher, his political enemy.

News that he tried to exploit a flagship Conservative policy has angered current miners' union leaders.

One former Yorkshire miner said: "It's so hypocritical it's unreal."

The rent on the flat was paid to the Corporation of London by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), of which Mr Scargill was the then president.

After Margaret Thatcher became prime minister in May 1979, the legislation to implement the right to buy was passed in the Housing Act 1980.

The sale price of a council house was based on its market value but also included a 33% to 50% discount to reflect the rents paid by tenants and encourage take-up. The policy became one of the major planks of Thatcherism.

Evidence of Mr Scargill's attempt to buy the Barbican property under the scheme is contained in legal documents obtained by the BBC's Inside Out programme.

The papers relate to a court case last year in which Mr Scargill lost the right to stay in his London flat for life at the expense of the NUM.
Arthur Scargill (centre) was the figurehead of the National Union of Miners (NUM)

The 76-year-old told the BBC that had he succeeded in buying the flat he would subsequently have transferred its ownership to the union.

He said this would have saved the union a substantial amount of money and provided it with an asset.

However, his application was refused because the flat in the Barbican Estate's Shakespeare Tower was not Mr Scargill's primary residence.

He did not mention in his application that the flat was paid for by the NUM and it was established in the Barbican court case that, from 1991 until 2008, the NUM's national executive committee did not know it was paying for the flat.

NUM general secretary Chris Kitchen said: "The fact that Scargill tried to use Thatcher's right-to-buy scheme is bad enough, but there is no evidence it would have been signed over to the NUM for the benefit of the members.

"We just have his word which 10 years ago would have been enough for me, but not now.

"Unfortunately the perception I had of Arthur the great trade unionist, socialist, just is nothing like the reality as to the man that I know now and that I've been at loggerheads with for most of my term of office."

Former Scargill loyalist Jimmy Kelly, a miner at the Edlington Main pit near Doncaster in the 1980s, said he was astonished to learn of the attempt to buy the Barbican flat.

"It's so hypocritical it's unreal," he said. "It was Thatcher's legislation, actually giving council tenants the right to buy their own houses.

"I think if it had been made public before then there'd have been a huge outcry. I think people would be astounded by knowing that.

"During the strike there was nothing better than him [Scargill], we'd have followed him to the end of the world and, in effect, we probably did."

Golden Goodbyes (November 28th 2011)

The latest edition of Private Eye reports on the ongoing row within Unite - Labour's biggest trade union donor of course - over the 'golden goodbye' paid to its former general secretary - Derek Simpson.

Funny how the subject is never brought up elsewhere in the news - or in the House of Commons - where Labour MPs queue up to denounce greedy bankers.

Unite's 'defence' of this extraordinary payment - is both ridiculous and insulting to ordinary union members.

More than a year after the row erupted - no one seems willing to explain who authorised over £500,000 of the members' money to be paid to one individual - and why.

"TUC News

Thousands of members of Unite, Britain's biggest union, are annoyed at its lawyers' decision to drop attempts to recover £361,347 paid to former joint-general secretary Derek Simpson as part of a controversial 'severance payment'.

Simpson left the union last year, pocketing a total farewell package off £519,659 (Eyes 1295 & 1296). With m'learned friends claiming the case was too 'finely balanced' to justify further action, irate members are none the wiser about how Simpson was able to pocket such a huge 'severance' payment when he had voluntarily resigned.

The union is sticking to the line that the payment was properly authorised in March 2008 by a meeting of the Amicus section of the general and purposes finance committee, chaired by one Steve Davidson. A promised affidavit by Davidson to that effect has yet to be produced.

Should it fail to appear, along with the record showing which union officer authorised the payment and when it left the union's bank account, disgruntled members are preparing to take their case to court and lodge a complaint with the trade union certification officer.

If such a complaint is upheld, the union's trustees - one of whom is Len McCluskey - could face removal from office - and Simpson could yet be forced to pay the money back."

Union Fat Cats (July 20th 2011)

Unite members will be shocked to learn that their hard-earned union contributions were used - to fund a £500,000 'golden goodbye' payment to former general secretary - Derek Simpson.

Simpson - a controversial character - received the severance package when he stepped down as Unite boss last year.

In one of the most lame statements of recent times the new boss of Unite - Len McCluskey - said that the payment was 'inappropriate' - and that it was made by a regime with 'lower standards of transparency and probity'.

Well that takes the biscuit for complacency.

Because presumably Derek Simpson was not able just to write a cheque to himself for over £500,000 - surely some committee of the union (unions are obsessed with committees) must have known about and approved the payment.

In which case what exactly was it for - how was it calculated - and who gave the green light to proceed?

Now if this were News International or News of the World - Labour MPs in particular would be jumping about and down - displaying their outrage and contempt - demanding straight answers to straight questions.

So you would think that one or two - especially those with links to Unite - would be standing up for the interests of ordinary union members.

Not so far.