Blacklisting is firmly back in the spotlight once again after the sterling efforts of the Blacklist Support Group ensured the BBC Victoria Derbyshire investigatory show covered the scandal as one of its morning news items on Monday.
This time it centred on the rogue undercover police unit roles In conjunction with the illegal and now defunct 'Consulting Association' organisation. It came off the back of the fantastic solidarity the group had shown with the eye catching 'Lush Spycops' advertising campaign and the attacks they received from the right wing press over the last month. One word which has resonated repeatedly most recently is justice.
It’s a word that has been and will be synonymous with this campaign until it’s achieved. Money or attempting to buy our silence would never equate to that. High profile court proceedings against those multinational construction companies who were in partnership with the Consulting Association have so far yielded £75 million compensation with the last of those cases due to be closed out early next year. Speaking of when, February 2019 will mark the 10 year anniversary of the Blacklist Support Group. It was formed with an amalgamation of trade unionists, environmentalists, political activists and even a prominent politician in the form of the shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.
John chaired the first meeting of the fledgling rank and file group in one of the smaller parliament rooms. Jeremy Corbyn as a little known MP for Islington North along with John often came on our early morning demonstrations as did the great late Tony Benn. These are things we’ll never forget. Back then you’d struggle to find anyone who knew anything about the crimes these conglomerates had committed. To that end my joint secretary Dave Smith also involved from the outset deserves a special mention after pulling everything together with all of those different persons from all around the UK and much further beyond when the story broke.
The book 'Blacklisted' for which he and the brilliant freelance journalist Phil Chamberlain co-wrote is a masterpiece. A fully referenced and historical account of the war between trade unionists and big business in the form of the ugly face of capitalism over a century going back to the end of the First World War when the organisation called itself rather aptly, 'National propaganda'. If one word can describe this most noble of causes, it’d have to be magnificent.
It’s been an honour to help the Group achieve so much so far and I’d like to say that on behalf of the many, many others who have stood shoulder to shoulder in our struggles since 2009. It’s been a striking example on how you can take on the system and gain results through sheer tenacity whilst never veering away from your socialist principles. It’s a lesson in how the trade union movement can intertwine and build fantastic solidarity through collective strength not just in numbers but in the quality of those numbers too. There were always many strands to the scandal after Ian Kerr, the Consulting Association’s chief officer’s place got busted in the sleepy West Midlands village of Droitwich by the Information Commissioner’s Office nearly a decade back. All have been taken head on by the BSG’ers.
The court proceedings may have gained the headlines but politically they’ve cajoled councils on Procurement policy’s, pushed governments and other politicians on public inquiries, been at the forefront of the Spycops inquiry including pushing CLP motions to our elected police commissioners, MP’s and councillors on the issue, supported contemporary Blacklisting campaigns, stood 4 square with our unions both here and abroad and most notably in Australia including Unite’s leverage efforts within the Construction Industry here nationwide whilst pushing to “out” those rogue officers who were also implicated in the Consulting Association scandal aswell. We’ve aligned closely with other justice campaigns including 'Orgreave',' the Shrewsbury Pickets' and the 'Hillsborough Justice Campaign' in their efforts for closure too. Carillions collapse back in January pointed to a system that was broken.
Up in Liverpool the Blacklist Support Group had long warned the local authority about the record and the toxicity of the Wolverhampton company. A number of protests were mounted on two of the flagship contracts up here as we sought to tell the wider public about its history and its questionable credibility. A new stand at Anfield was finally built but the Royal Liverpool Hospital still lies dormant over 6 months on with recriminations still smouldering with no sign of a completion date.
Through a CLP motion, the BSG now has a seat at the table regarding the totally flawed procurement process and along with union representation, the construction charters have been signed up to in pretty much most of the Merseyside councils. We will be watching very closely to see that it’s implemented correctly.
It’s been a journey and some and this chapter of David versus Goliath is by no means closed. We’ve managed to put the abhorrent use of Blacklisting on the mainstream media map. Our ultimate aim is to get the perpetrators of these crimes firmly in the public eye and on the stand including private prosecutions. It’s quite simply always been a tale between good and evil and that narrative will not change. To that end there can be no justice without accountability.
If i can indulge you one last time, I owe that personally to the late great trade unionist Michael Abbott amongst the many others who’ve fought with us and now sadly departed. Mick was a wonderful and most principled man and one of the finest human beings I’ve ever met. He had the oldest recorded file going back to 1964. Big Sam Gibson also left us just a few weeks back. A gentle giant and brilliant trade unionist who left lasting impressions on all of us at the Blacklist Support Group. It’s the very least we can do for theirs and those other fine comrades memories. There can be no other way brothers and sisters.
Vive la BSG.
Roy Bentham for Political Provocateur
Edited by Simon O'Donnell for Political Provocateur
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