Falkirk-Grangemouth Shock-Horror Bombshell Plot Revealed !!

November 4, 2013 at 6:22 pm (Daily Mail, Guest post, labour party, mccarthyism, media, scotland, Unite the union, workers)

Guest post by Dale Street

photo.jpg

Above: fearsome, isn’t it?

It’s been a busy week for media hacks who hate trade unionists. And what better opportunity for hacks to vent their spleen than the fallout from the Ineos dispute in Grangemouth?

The Sunday Times (27th October) led the way with lengthy articles about the contents of e-mails sent or received by former Unite Ineos convenor Stevie Deans.

A dossier of these e-mails had been “passed to police last week”. But subsequent press coverage suggested that the e-mails had also been passed on to half of Fleet Street. And the source of the “dossier” was Ineos itself – hardly a disinterested party in the matter.

The opening sentence in the Sunday Times front-page article had all the right buzzwords: “Ed Miliband is facing a crisis this weekend as a cache of bombshell e-mails expose a concerted union plot involving blah, blah, blah.”

Only the word “sinister” was missing. But this was the Sunday Times, not the Sun.

A few paragraphs into article, however, the “crisis” eased off to become mere “pressure” (“… Miliband is facing pressure …”). And by the end of the article the crisis-cum-pressure turned out to be no more than a rent-a-quote from a Tory MP in Crawley called Smith.

Pages ten and eleven carried a lengthy article about the e-mails, headlined with the lurid quote: “A Blueprint of How to Hijack a Constituency”

On closer inspection, however, the quote turned out to emanate from a “company insider” whose qualifications for making such a judgement remained as unknown as the insider’s name.

To be fair to “company insider”, what he/she actually said was: “It looks like a blueprint …” But even that still begs the question of what, if any, expertise the “company insider” had to be able to conclude that the e-mails “looked like” a blueprint for a CLP takeover.

The article made great play of the figure of “a thousand e-mails” (or, alternatively, “a thousand e-mails and attachments”). But this turned out to include e-mails (and attachments) received as well as sent, and covers a period of eleven months.

Nor was there any mention of the whether the e-mails had been dealt with during or outside working hours.

In terms of the e-mails’ contents and volume, there was certainly little or nothing in the article to give weight to the claim by “company insider” that “Deans spent most of last summer organising his union’s infiltration of the Labour Party.”

This weekend’s Sunday Times (3rd November) continued its attacks on Unite, this time in the shape of three articles and an editorial focusing on the Labour Party report into allegations of vote-rigging by Unite in Falkirk.

“Revealed: Milband’s Dossier on Union Plot” read the headline over the front-page article, while a spread on pages 14/15 appeared under the headline “The Secret ‘Vote-Rigging’ Report Labour Suppressed”.

The headlines suggest that the newspaper had obtained a copy of the report. So too do the opening paragraphs of the articles:

“Secret contents of the report are revealed today. They lay bare the shocking conclusions of the enquiry into alleged electoral corruption in the brutal battle by Unite to sieze control of the safe Labour seat of Falkirk.”

In fact, the paper had a Unite document (discovered in Stevie Deans’ “cache of bombshell e-mails”) which appears to be an early draft of the union’s response to the Labour Party report.

The Sunday Times articles re-quoted the various Labour Party allegations quoted in the Unite document. But it did not quote a single one of Unite’s response to those allegations.

This was despite the fact that the article acknowledged that the Unite document was “deeply critical of the Labour Party investigation, which, it says, draws conclusions on the basis of little or no hard evidence.”

(Rather like the Sunday Times article itself.)

In fact, the article even conceded in the small print that “Unite rebuts all the claims in its document”, and that the Unite document contained “a line-by-line rebuttal of the (Labour Party) allegations”.

Such poor-quality one-sided ‘journalism’ did at least display a fine sense of timing: Falkirk CLP was meeting the same day, and the Scottish press had been ‘reporting’ that a motion of no-confidence in Stevie Deans as CLP chair would be proposed at the meeting.

(This was based on various anonymous statements by “a key figure in Falkirk CLP”, “another local party member” and “sources at the local party”. Given that these articles had appeared several days before the CLP meeting, this hardly constituted ‘reporting’ in the normal sense of the word.)

“Miliband will now come under intense pressure to re-open the inquiry and publish its report,” continued the Sunday Times article. But what happened to the crisis-cum-pressure which Miliband was supposedly already facing the previous weekend?

In fact, the only sign of this “intense pressure” in the pages of the newspaper was its own editorial – insofar as a Sunday Times editorial counts as “intense pressure”. The paper hadn’t even been able to get a rent-a-quote from a Crawley Tory MP called Smith.

While the Sunday Times focused on a report which it had never even seen, the mid-week issues of the Daily Mail focused on the terrors of a giant inflatable rat.

A “sinister unit” (Unite’s Organising and Leverage Department) sent “mobs of protestors” to the homes of Ineos directors as part of a “campaign of bullying and intimidation” intended to “humiliate executives and their families”.

“It was a mob, a threatening mob,” explained a Dunfermline-based Ineos director who described how “25 Unite members protested on his driveway with flags, banners and an inflatable rat. … Children as young as seven who were playing on the street were coaxed into joining the mob.”

The article was accompanied by a grainy picture of the “threatening mob”. But the picture gives the lie to the substance of the article.

There is no “threatening mob”. There are simply some Unite members standing around. They are not on the driveway. They are on the pavement. They are not threatening anyone. (In fact, not only was chanting banned on the protest, so too was smoking.)

There is certainly a giant inflatable rat in the picture. But it looks as fearsome as Mr. Blobby on a bad day. As for children being “coaxed” into the joining the non-existent “mob”, if a giant inflatable rat suddenly appears at the bottom of your road, natural curiosity is going to attract the average seven-year-old to take a closer look.

In a follow-up article the Daily Mail reported that the previously unheard-of Jonathan Roberts had resigned from Unite “in disgust after the Daily Mail’s revelation about the union’s bullying tactics.”

Bang on cue, Roberts, who stood for Labour in the safe Tory seat on Thirsk and Malton in the last general election, attacked Unite for “picketing the family homes of company bosses and intimidating their children” and for generally failing to represent its members.

Of course, there had never been any evidence – not even in the lurid pages of the Sunday Times or the Daily Mail – that Unite members were “intimidating children”.

But what did facts count for when the sole concern of such newspapers was to whip up an anti-Unite hysteria on the back of the threat by a billionaire tax-exile to shut down Grangemouth unless his workforce, their union, and the Scottish and British governments gave him everything he wanted?

Not that there might be anything in Jim Ratcliffe’s behaviour, of course, which might merit closer investigation by the fearless journalists of the Sunday Times and the Daily Mail.

3 Comments

  1. Falkirk-Grangemouth Shock-Horror Bombshell Plot Revealed !! | OzHouse said,

    […] Nov 04 2013 by admin […]

  2. Jim Denham said,

    A Comrade writes:

    The statement below is on the ‘Counterfire’ website. (Don’t know how they ended up getting hold of it first, as they do not exist in Scotland, although what’s left of the ISG – which is not a lot, apart from a website – have vague links with them).

    The statement would suggest that there is something fundamentally flawed with the SWP (and Jerry Hicks) analysis, to be found at:

    http://socialistworker.co.uk/art/36751/After+Grangemouth+oil+plant+bosses+blackmail+workers+-+unions+can+do+better+than+this

    Mark Lyon, the Unite convenor at Grangemouth gives a frontline account of what happened and why:

    “I made the call to accept the company terms and it was not at all easy. The decision was made by me but with the full endorsement of our Stewards and our members. The decision came at the end of months of combat and the employment of every device known to our branch.

    “I make no apology to anyone for this decision.

    “I am the convener for the plant and we have been in conflict with the company since July. There are two issues that have become contaminated, one is the treatment of SD and the other is the assault on terms and conditions.

    “We balloted for strike and action short of strike on a two question paper and carried the vote easily.
    We put on action short of strike and this had an impact but did not move the company
    We put in 7 days notice of strike
    The company shut the plants down so we were effectively on strike but they said they had budgeted and would keep them down as long as it took.
    Given the existing impact we withdrew the strike notice but ran a daylight vigil at the time of the notified strike to catch media etc.
    We held a demo on the Sunday of the proposed strike day with hundreds of members and attendance from MPs and STUC etc this went well.
    We feel as though our actions moved the press somewhat and a score draw, as you know, would be a victory in these situations.
    We went to ACAS for days with no movement gained.
    We urged the company to start the plants up and they refused and said they were determined to keep them down .
    On the 23rd October they announced that the Chemicals plants would close, the receivers would be called within days, 800 full time jobs and thousands of contractors and suppliers would go, our members pensions to go to the PPF and everything else that goes with it.
    It was at this point the call was made to try and save the plants.

    “It is our judgement that they were prepared to close the site down and our members preferred to keep their jobs and take a hit on terms with the plan to work our way back. We have 1000 members at the site and we met yesterday to begin this process.

    “Our branch has demonstrated over the years how combative we are but this is not a situation that was winnable in the sense we would have liked.

    “I appreciate this does not constitute the glorious stand, resulting in the loss of the site, that some would have liked to see but the decision was taken from a position of strength not weakness and again…. I make no apology for protecting my members jobs, living to fight another day and acting from a position of lay member and collective decision making.

    “The real issues here are around ownership and stewardship of vital national assets and this is where we need to be examining our position.

    “None of this is easy and we are not used to giving ground as a branch but this is where we are and I am furious with the outcome but content that the right call was made at the time.

    “Len McCluskey came to Grangemouth to give us support and solidarity. He did that but did not make this decision… we did.

    “We have been blown away by the understanding and supportive messages from good comrades and we thank you for that.

    “This is not the end for Branch SC 126 by any stretch but it would have been if we had not made the moves we did.

    “In solidarity

    “Mark Lyon”

    – See more at: http://www.counterfire.org/index.php/news/16785-grangemouth-unite-convenors-statement#sthash.qUoB4nV4.dpuf

  3. Ross Harper said,

    STATEMENT BY UNITE THE UNION on the report today by the Sunday Times (3rd November):

    Today’s Sunday Times carries an extensive attack on Unite the Union, apparently based on emails given to the newspaper by INEOS or its agents.

    The Sunday Times submitted a list of questions to Unite yesterday, in response to which the union sent a statement to reporter David Leppard, well within the deadline he had imposed for receipt of answers.

    Not a word was carried in the Sunday Times today. Attempts to secure an explanation for this from Mr Leppard have been ignored.

    We release below the statement sent to Mr Leppard, in order to place Unite’s response to the allegations on the record and also to draw attention to the debased standards of journalism now practised at the Sunday Times, little more than a mouthpiece for Lynton Crosby’s Tory agenda.

    “This report is a rehash of issues already investigated by Police Scotland and the Labour Party, both of which found that Unite had done nothing wrong, and had broken neither the law nor the Party’s rule book as it stood at the time.

    “Specifically, Unite entirely denies any involvement in or knowledge of the forging of signatures on application forms or of any documents whatsoever; the coercing of individuals to join the Labour Party – however that might be accomplished; the recruitment of individuals to the Party without their knowledge or any other breach of Labour Party rules. Unite called for an independent public enquiry into what happened in Falkirk, and we remain entirely happy to assist such an inquiry – and draw appropriate lessons from it if necessary – should one be established.

    “Some of the questions submitted, however, appear to relate to conduct by third parties, about which Unite cannot comment. Unite would also point out that once individuals join the Labour Party they can involve themselves as much or as little in the Party’s business as they choose, but Unite would certainly encourage any of its members to play as full a part in the Party’s life as they can.

    “On the separate matter of Mr McCluskey’s call to Mr Grant, Unite entirely denies that he used the words cited. Unite has never made any secret of its support for Stevie Deans, nor does it now, but the suggestion that Mr McCluskey was threatening unlawful industrial action is entirely repudiated. It is for INEOS to explain its handling of Mr Deans’ case.”

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