Wednesday, 22 January 2014

No Fireworks

I came cross this old post from the blog site archive which made me stop and reflect about how thoroughly unimpressed I am at Ed Miliband's leadership of the Labour Party.

Now regular readers know that Ed owes his position to the union bosses who backed his leadership campaign and although he promised to transform Labour's relations with the unions last summer, in the wake of the Falkirk vote-rigging scandal, all the straight talking has fizzled out.

As the GMB, Unison and Unite have signalled that they won't play ball - and that it's business as usual as far as they're concerned.  

Labour is holding a special conference in March 2014 to debate these issues, but don't expect any fireworks - maybe a damp squib at best.  

Haves and Have-Nots (31 January 2012)

Labour leader - Ed Miliband - was in Scotland yesterday for a short while speaking up for the anti-independence campaign.

Ed's core message was that the fight for social justice would be side-tracked and held back by independence which was a diversion from the real issues of the day.

If you like, that working people in Glasgow and Manchester have everything in common with each other - they share the same basic goals, so why not try and achieve them together. 

Ed told his audience that the way to avoid a repeat of the bank bonus story was to have a "decisive shift in rules and behaviour" - and a proper debate about "responsible capitalism" and executive pay for those at the top. 

Before going on to add:

"I say let us confront the real divide in our society. Not between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom, but between the haves and the have-nots."

Now I find this all very fascinating.

Because I haven't heard the Labour leader - or anyone in the Labour party - say a cross word about the £500,000 'golden goodbye' payment made to the former boss of Unite - Derek Simpson.

How anyone can bang on about people at the top lining their pockets - while ignoring an enormous scandal right inside the UK's biggest trade union - is beyond me.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Unite is Labour's largest donor - having given the Labour party £5 million of their members' money - since the 2010 general election.

Or maybe it's because Unite - along with the GMB and Unison - ensured that Ed Miliband became Labour leader - through the votes of a tiny percentage of trade union  activists.

But whatever the reason it doesn't sound very convincing to me - because attacking the boss of the Royal Bank of Scotland over his £963,000 bonus payment - requires no courage or leadership.

Yet calling a spade a spade does when it comes to Unite and Derek Simpson - though the Labour leader has still to tell the country - what he thinks of the scandal.

Here a couple of previous posts from the blog site - which explain the background to Unite, Derek Simpson - and the former union leader's 'golden goodbye'.

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.