Showing posts from October, 2013

Defending the Indefensible

Here's an amazing press statement from the Unite web site which makes a huge fuss  about the  allegedly  unfair treatment of Stephen Deans - without ever explaining that the union's real objective was to stop an investigation into Mr Deans' behaviour.      As far as I can see, Unite's case was that because the Labour Party had dropped its investigation into Mr Deans over alleged wrongdoing in the Falkirk 'vote-rigging' scandal - that Ineos should follow suit and do exactly the same. Although I fail to see what one thing had to do with the other - and if this was how the issues were explained to Unite members who agreed to go on strike in support of Mr Deans - then all I can say is that they were badly advised and misinformed.  The company was clearly quite within its rights to investigate claims that Mr Deans was abusing his time-off arrangements at the Grangemouth plant - where he was being paid to represent the interests of the workforce. Wherea

Star Chamber

The strange world of union politics took another bizarre twist the other day with this story in the Times claiming that Labour Party members in Falkirk were awarded star-ratings - based upon their loyalty, or otherwise, to Unite. Now that seems like a strange thing to do at any time - never mind at someone's place of work during normal working time - and as the report says this comes on top of a letter sent in June by the Unite general secretary to all Labour Party members in Falkirk - despite the fact that they were not all members of Unite.  So what's all that about? Because on the face of things it certainly appears that someone has been passing personal information on to Unite which ought to have remained private - and that presumably explains why the matter has been now reported to the Information Commissioner. In the meantime, I'm sure Labour members in Falkirk would be interested to know what 'scores' they were all given for their loyalty ratings to

Energise Ryanair

I enjoyed this opinion piece by John Rentoul in the Independent which reviewed the performance of the Big Six energy companies in front of a House of Commons select committee - to which he seems to have concluded that the cuckoo in the nest (Ovo) came out the real winner. Now I would  t ake this whole business a bit further - I would let someone like Ryanair loose on the UK energy market because although Michael O'Leary's highly successful airline has its detractors - there is no doubt that Ryanair has revolutionised the costs of air travel both in the UK and across Europe. Personally speaking, I would welcome a budget airline like Ryanair operating across the Atlantic to Canada and America, for example - where air fares are far too high - and travellers have little choice but to pay what the big operators demand. I learned the other day that the last Labour Government reduced the number of energy companies from 22 to what we have now - the Big Six - which now looks like

Police Numbers

The BBC reports that an independent survey of police officers in England and Wales confirms that over 9 in 10 (91%) believe that it is time for the organisation that represents them - the Police Federation (police trade union) - to change. The survey of 12,500 serving police officers also found 64% are dissatisfied with the performance of the federation and that its members are "appalled" at the damage the 'Plebgate' affair is doing to the Police. In the understatement of the year, the Police Federation called the initial findings "worrying" - while reserving its position until the full results are published in January 2014. No great hurry then, just move along there - in your own time! All joking aside, I think the Police and Police Federation are to be congratulated for asking what their officers/members really think - in an independent survey - and having the courage to publicise the results. Now I ask you this: Can anyone imagine Len McClusk

Logic and Reason

Richard Dawkins is someone whom I greatly admire for his steadfast determination to tell the truth about religion and religious belief, as he sees and engages with the world - on the basis of science, logic and evidence - and for his refusal to be browbeaten by by fundamentalism of any kind. I have heard Richard Dawkins debate these issues on many occasions and my observation is the same as Isaac Chotiner's - the scientist is soft-spoken, reserved and extremely polite  - not unlike the speaking style of Christopher Hitchens, albeit much less combative. To my mind the 'ferocious' reputation pinned on Richard Dawkins by some - stems from his willingness to challenge their beliefs with reason, persistence and civility - but never rancour or personal hostility.   I particularly enjoyed Richard Dawkins Twitter comments on a 'virgin birth' and the following exchange during the course of his interview with Isaac Chotiner: IC: You have more of a reputation as

Straws in the Wind

Jack Straw on events at Grangemouth and the behaviour of Unite - the trade union. Jack Straw is a former Labour Government Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary. The video requires Adobe flash player but here is an extract of jack Straw's comments on the BBC's Daily Politics  programme: Former Foreign Secretary Mr Straw, the Labour MP for Blackburn, said the union had adopted "catastrophic tactics" in the industrial dispute at Grangemouth. "Whichever way you look at what happened at Grangemouth it's hard to see how on earth the Unite union ended up with those tactics," he continued. "Is there something of concern there? Of course there is. And is it a saga that does not reflect well on the national leadership of Unite - both in respect of their relations with the Labour Party but also in respect of their representation of their members at a huge plant like Grangemouth? Yes."

Bish Bash Bosh

Here's a remarkable opinion piece by Len McCluskey published in the Guardian yesterday which cements his reputation, I would say, as the Del Boy of the trade union movement. In Len's assessment of the great Grangemouth disaster which came within a whisker of losing thousands of workers their jobs, Unite has nothing whatever to apologise for - instead it's a case of 'bish, bash, bosh' because the union was simply sticking up for its members. Now it's not nearly as simple as that I'm afraid, in that Unite is not remotely passive when it comes to representing its members - since the union actively advises on what members should do and which direction or choice to take in any given situation. And having encouraged Unite members to reject the Ineos rescue plan at Grangemouth, the union must have had a strategy for what was to follow - including the possibility that the site owners were not bluffing, that the plant was struggling to survive - and that witho

Questions to Answer

Eric Joyce, the former Labour MP and sitting Member for the seat of Falkirk East has posed a blog about the sudden resignation of Stephen Deans - former Unite convener at the Grangemouth oil refinery and petro-chemical plant. To my mind the five questions posed by Eric Joyce in the third paragraph of his post are all entirely reasonable and sensible - even if some folks might be tempted to say 'he would say that anyway'. Because this is a squalid and unbecoming affair which has, literally, been playing party politics with people's jobs and livelihoods.  Just imagine the 'grotesque chaos' (to borrow an old phrase from Neil Kinnock) that would have resulted - if the plant at Grangemouth had remained closed, with thousands of jobs being lost. The Labour Party and Unite have a lot of questions to answer although as Eric Joyce points out - with so many Labour MPs and MSPs having close links with Unite that will be no easy task.    Stephen Deans resignation

Sentencing Policy

Here's another example of Scotland's criminal justice system in action - a case where a 22-year-old man literally kicked and battered a pensioner to death in his own home - yet gets sentenced to 18 years in jail (a minimum admittedly) when most people would expect such a person to spend the rest of their life in prison. To add insult to injury - who denied all responsibility for his terrible crime and continues to protest his innocence despite convincing DNA and other forensic evidence - was on bail at the time of his murderous attack on Ronnie Simpson. Now I don't support the death penalty, but like most people I think that a life sentence ought to mean life - whereas a violent killer like Keiryn Nisbet faces the real prospect of being released at aged 40 with the rest of his life still in front of him.           Keiryn Nisbet jailed for life for murdering OAP Ronnie Simpson Keiryn Nisbet was jailed for a minimum of 18 years before being eligible for parole A