Professor Cludeau

If you suspected that Unite's paid election commissioner's report into complaints of invalid nominations in the 2014 Executive elections was a complete whitewash, you will only be confirmed in that belief by this week's Trade Union Certification Officer ruling.

Just after the election, Grass Root Left's candidate Lesley Mansell submitted a complaint to the Election Commissioner, Professor Ewing, saying that at least one branch, BASSA, had made 7 invalid nominations at its meeting on 12th January 2014. Funnily enough all their nominations had been for the Len McCluskey supporting candidates of 'United Left'.

Lesley's complaint was that the branch had:

  • Changed the date of the meeting,
  • Not informed members that nominations would be made on the new date,
  • Not put 'nominations' on the agenda and
  • Not asked members to confirm, object to or suggest other nominations than the United Left ones chosen by the small branch committee.
      BASSA branch has about 9,000 members. Prof Ewing rejected the complaints after a brief and shortened investigation:

      Prof Ewing.   Glasses as a hat.
      "I did not investigate further whether 7 days’ notice was given to members, whether nominations appeared on the agenda, or whether there was a request for endorsement or a vote on the nominations.   This is because on the basis of the investigations already conducted (including in particular my conversation with the branch secretary), it was not necessary to do so for the purpose of dealing with this complaint."

      There is no record or even summary of Ewing's chat with the branch secretary and none was made available to Lesley.

      However you don't need to be a professor to see that 'nominations' does not appear on the agenda.  Look left.  You just need to take your glasses off the top of your head.

      The Independent Trade Union Certification Officer (CO) was set up by Harold Wilson’s  Labour government in 1975.  The CO ruled this week that Ewing was wrong and that the nominations were invalid:

       "I find that the BASSA branch meeting of 13 January 2014 was not properly convened, in breach of [union] rule 16.8."

      Unite Gen Sec McCluskey - lost a loyalist

      In a further blow to 'United Left' (the bureaucratic McCluskey supporters club)  the Certification Officer also ruled that the Chair of BASSA branch at the time, 'Los Angeles Liz', had illegally kept her seat on the union's ruling Executive Council for over 7 months.   

      "I make a declaration that Unite the Union (“the Union”) breached rule 6.2 of its rules in allowing Ms Malone to hold office on the Executive Council of the Union from about 1 May 2014 to about 15 December 2014 when she was not eligible to do so as she was not then an “accountable representative of workers” according to [union] rule 6.2."
      Lizanne Malone, who lives in Los Angeles, California, did finally resign from the Executive Council (EC) in December 2014, 6 months after the first complaint had been put in and before the Certification Officer (CO) hearing.  The CO made clear that if she had not jumped, he would have pushed her:  "If she had remained on the EC I would have ordered that she be removed from it."

      In mid 2014 the BASSA branch bureaucracy panicked when they realised Lizanne Malone might have to resign  from the Executive.  Their branch Secretary wrote to all BASSA members in July 2014: 

      Los Angeles Liz
      "Unite are now having to question whether Lizanne can keep her seat on the Executive Council, in regards that she has recently stood down as Chair of our branch. Unite’s Chief of Staff is researching this latest complaint in regards to the rulebook and past practice and the outcome will be given in due course.

      If they are successful in this campaign, Lizanne would have to stand down and BASSA sadly would lose a seat on the Executive Council, as it would likely go to other workers in other industries as Lizanne’s seat is a “regional women’s” seat not an “aviation” seat.

      So, in effect a handful of members of our own branch have lobbied others for us to lose a valuable seat most likely to local government workers or the community-housing sector. In short they wish to see BASSA’s ability to influence at the highest level reduced...

      In electoral terms BASSA are akin to Florida in the US presidential elections, if you can win BASSA’s support you can stand a good chance of winning the General Secretary election and, through that office, control of Unite. It is widely known BASSA is fiercely loyal to Len who was a true friend during the dispute but different leadership in BASSA would see that change.."
      Murray - " I believe this complaint is entirely without merit"
      Unite's chief of Staff Andrew Murray did his best to keep her.  In an email disclosed to the hearing (at left), Murray wrote to General Secretary McCluskey with a plan to claim Malone had been victimised by her employer British Airways.  

      However evidence was given at the hearing pointing out that she actually got on better with her employer than many of her members did. She tried to offer her branch as sponsor for British Airways Head of IFCE, Bill Francis.  IFCE is the department responsible for administering cabin crews:

      To: ██████████████
      Subject: BASSA:
      Date: Mon, 25 Jul 2011 11:28:36 +0100

      Dear Colleagues 

      Just over a week ago during a 2-day meeting with BA, Bill Francis mentioned to me he was taking part in the GNR [Great Northern Run].. I told Bill that BASSA would sponsor him.. The gesture was well-intentioned.. But sometimes working on peace is harder than waging war. It seems my offer has caused offence with sections of the membership and, in hindsight, I can understand that. Perhaps a little more water has yet to flow under the bridge and there has to be more concrete evidence that BA are more proactive in putting the past behind them. I have this morning telephoned Bill to tell him that perhaps the BASSA membership are not quite ready to embrace this gesture just yet..

      Lizanne Malone:
      Chairman BASSA 2000"

      In total 5 complaints were submitted to the Certification Officer, the first two were the key ones and both were upheld.  The remaining three related merely to the union's  handling of the key complaint and were rejected.

      Read the full Certification Officer report here.

      Meanwhile BASSA branch members are still trying to inspect the branch's accounts under union rule 19.10.  They are attempting to uncover, amongst many other things, how over £1/2 million can be spend on 'sundries' in a single year:

      Yes Please

      Scots voting no to independence would be an astonishing act of self-harm

      By in the Guardian

      England is dysfunctional, corrupt and vastly unequal. Who on earth would want to be tied to such a country?
       To vote no is to choose to live under a political system that sustains one of the rich world’s highest levels of inequality and deprivation.
      Imagine the question posed the other way round. An independent nation is asked to decide whether to surrender its sovereignty to a larger union. It would be allowed a measure of autonomy, but key aspects of its governance would be handed to another nation. It would be used as a military base by the dominant power and yoked to an economy over which it had no control.

      It would have to be bloody desperate. Only a nation in which the institutions of governance had collapsed, which had been ruined economically, which was threatened by invasion or civil war or famine might contemplate this drastic step. Most nations faced even with such catastrophes choose to retain their independence – in fact, will fight to preserve it – rather than surrender to a dominant foreign power.

      So what would you say about a country that sacrificed its sovereignty without collapse or compulsion; that had no obvious enemies, a basically sound economy and a broadly functional democracy, yet chose to swap it for remote governance by the hereditary elite of another nation, beholden to a corrupt financial centre?

      What would you say about a country that exchanged an economy based on enterprise and distribution for one based on speculation and rent? That chose obeisance to a government that spies on its own citizens, uses the planet as its dustbin, governs on behalf of a transnational elite that owes loyalty to no nation, cedes public services to corporations, forces terminally ill people to work and can’t be trusted with a box of fireworks, let alone a fleet of nuclear submarines? You would conclude that it had lost its senses.

      So what’s the difference? How is the argument altered by the fact that Scotland is considering whether to gain independence rather than whether to lose it? It’s not. Those who would vote no – now, a new poll suggests, a rapidly diminishing majority – could be suffering from system justification.

      System justification is defined as the “process by which existing social arrangements are legitimised, even at the expense of personal and group interest”. It consists of a desire to defend the status quo, regardless of its impacts. It has been demonstrated in a large body of experimental work, which has produced the following surprising results.

      System justification becomes stronger when social and economic inequality is more extreme. This is because people try to rationalise their disadvantage by seeking legitimate reasons for their position. In some cases disadvantaged people are more likely than the privileged to support the status quo. One study found that US citizens on low incomes were more likely than those on high incomes to believe that economic inequality is legitimate and necessary.

      It explains why women in experimental studies pay themselves less than men, why people in low-status jobs believe their work is worth less than those in high-status jobs, even when they’re performing the same task, and why people accept domination by another group. It might help to explain why so many people in Scotland are inclined to vote no.

      The fears the no campaigners have worked so hard to stoke are – by comparison with what the Scots are being asked to lose – mere shadows. As Adam Ramsay points out in his treatise Forty-Two Reasons to Support Scottish Independence, there are plenty of nations smaller than Scotland that possess their own currencies and thrive. Most of the world’s prosperous nations are small: there are no inherent disadvantages to downsizing.
      Remaining in the UK carries as much risk and uncertainty as leaving. England’s housing bubble could blow at any time. We might leave the European Union. Some of the most determined no campaigners would take us out: witness Ukip’s intention to stage a “pro-union rally” in Glasgow on 12 September. The union in question, of course, is the UK, not Europe. This reminds us of a crashing contradiction in the politics of such groups: if our membership of the EU represents an appalling and intolerable loss of sovereignty, why is the far greater loss Scotland is being asked to accept deemed tolerable and necessary.

      The Scots are told they will have no control over their own currency if they leave the UK. But they have none today. The monetary policy committee is based in London and bows to the banks. The pound’s strength, which damages the manufacturing Scotland seeks to promote, reflects the interests of the City.

      To vote no is to choose to live under a political system that sustains one of the rich world’s highest levels of inequality and deprivation. This is a system in which all major parties are complicit, which offers no obvious exit from a model that privileges neoliberal economics over other aspirations. It treats the natural world, civic life, equality, public health and effective public services as dispensable luxuries, and the freedom of the rich to exploit the poor as non-negotiable.

      Its lack of a codified constitution permits numberless abuses of power. It has failed to reform the House of Lords, royal prerogative, campaign finance and first-past-the-post voting (another triumph for the no brigade). It is dominated by media owned by tax exiles, who, instructing their editors from their distant chateaux, play the patriotism card at every opportunity. The concerns of swing voters in marginal constituencies outweigh those of the majority; the concerns of corporations with no lasting stake in the country outweigh everything. Broken, corrupt, dysfunctional, retentive: you want to be part of this?

      Independence, as more Scots are beginning to see, offers people an opportunity to rewrite the political rules. To create a written constitution, the very process of which is engaging and transformative. To build an economy of benefit to everyone. To promote cohesion, social justice, the defence of the living planet and an end to wars of choice.

      To deny this to yourself, to remain subject to the whims of a distant and uncaring elite, to succumb to the bleak, deferential negativity of the no campaign, to accept other people’s myths in place of your own story: that would be an astonishing act of self-repudiation and self-harm. Consider yourselves independent and work backwards from there; then ask why you would sacrifice that freedom.
      Twitter: @georgemonbiot

      Israel's 25 rules for effective communication

      Gaza City, Shejaiya residential district 2014
      "It's our job to wear white hats in public" have located the cynical secret guide written for and used by Israeli spokespeople.  Have a look through and see if you recognise any techniques.

      Here are the highlights:

      "This manual will provide you with many specific words and phrases to help you communicate effectively in support of Israel. What are some general guidelines that can help you in your future efforts? Here are the 25 points that matter most:...

      1. Open your conversation with strong proven messages such as:

      Israel is committed to a better future for everyone – Israelis and Palestinians alike. Israel wants the pain and suffering to end, and is committed to working with the Palestinians toward a peaceful, diplomatic solution where both sides can have a better future. Let this be a time of hope and opportunity for both the
      Israeli and the Palestinian people.”

      Take some time to talk about Israel’s efforts to prevent civilian casualties. The issue of Palestinian civilian casualties is one of the most damaging in the entire debate.

      So here is the five-step approach to talking about civilian casualties in Gaza:

      "We have all made mistakes"
      STEP 1 – Empathy: “All human life is precious. We understand that
      the loss of one innocent Palestinian life is every bit as tragic as the loss of
      an Israeli life.”
      STEP 2 – Admission: “We admit that Israel isn’t always successful
      at preventing civilian casualties...
      STEP 3 -- Effort: “We remain committed to doing everything in our
      power to preventing civilian casualties.
      STEP 4 – Examples: “Let me tell you how our armed forces are trained, tasked, and operate to ensure that Palestinian civilians remain safe.
      STEP 5 – Turn Tables: “It is a great tragedy that Iran‐backed Hamas
      shoots rockets at our civilians while hiding in their own. This causes tragic deaths on BOTH sides. What would you do if you were in this situation?”

      Use Empathy: Even the toughest questions can be turned around if you are willing to accept the notion that the other side has at least some validity. If you begin your response with “I understand and I  sympathize with those who…” you are already building the credibility you will need for your audience to empathize and agree with you."

      Flechettes from Israeli tank shells
      3. Clearly differentiate between the Palestinian people and Hamas. There is an immediate and clear distinction between the empathy Americans feel for the Palestinians and the scorn they direct at Palestinian leadership... If it sounds like you are attacking the Palestinian people (even though they elected Hamas) rather than their leadership, you will lose public

      World view is especially important to the Left as they see a world where basically all people are good and with education and communication we can all get along. This is stark contrast to most conservatives who believe that there are good people (i.e. Israel) and bad people (i.e. Iran) and that good people need to be protected from the bad people.

      4. What to say on the deaths of innocent women and children: “We may disagree about politics and we may disagree about economics. But there is one fundamental principle that all peoples from all parts of the globe will agree on: civilized people do not target innocent women and children for death.”

      5. Use humility. “I know that in trying to defend its children and citizens from terrorists
      that Israel has accidentally hurt innocent people. I know it, and I’m sorry for it. But
      what can Israel do to defend itself? If America had given up land for peace – and that
      land had been used for launching rockets at America, what would America do? Israel
      was attacked with thousands of rockets from Iran-backed Palestinian terrorists in Gaza."

      When it comes time to talk about rockets, the best word is “deliberate.” Don’t say
      that Hamas is “randomly rocketing Israel.” Do say “Hamas is deliberately firing rockets into Israeli towns, communities, and civilian populations.”

      Are Israelis perfect? No. Do we make mistakes? Yes. But we want a better future, and we are working towards it.

      6. Be careful of your tone. A patronizing, parental tone will turn Americans and Europeans off. We’re at a time in history when Jews in general (and Israelis in particular) are no longer perceived as the persecuted people. In fact, among American and European audiences—sophisticated, educated, opinionated, non-Jewish audiences—
      Israelis are often seen as the occupiers and the aggressors.

      8. Remind people – again and again – that Israel wants peace. The speaker that is perceived as being most for PEACE will win the debate. Every time someone makes the plea for peace, the reaction is positive. If you want to regain the public relations advantage, peace should be at the core of whatever message you wish to convey.

      10. It’s our job to “wear white hats in public”—to remind Americans that Israel is a team for whom
      they can feel good about cheering. 

      11. Don't use the word 'Jew'.  Even the mention of the word “Jew” is many Israel contexts is going to elicit a
      negative reaction—and the defense of Israel as a “Jewish State” or “Zionist State” will be received quite poorly. This may be hard for the Jewish community to accept but this is how most Americans and Europeans feel.

      12. No matter what you are asked, bridge to a productive pro-Israel message. When asked a direct question, you don’t have to answer it directly. Start by acknowledging their question and agreeing that both sides – Israelis and Palestinians – deserve a better future. Remind your audience that Israel wants peace.

      13. Talk about the future, not the past.  Remember—communications is not a test for who can remember the most facts. Listeners want simple messages that will answer their simple, silent question: “What is in it for my country and for me to support Israel?”

      14) Hope. This is the language people want to hear: “The day will come when Israeli children and Palestinian children will grow up together, play together, and eventually work together side-by-side not just because they have to but because they want to.

      19. Avoid putting things in terms of “not.” Tell the people what you are for. Use positive, active terms. Don’t say your goal is not to do this or to avoid that.

      20. Start your message, press release, sound bite, or debate segment with your best, positive message.  People
      make snap decisions about whether they find you to be credible, authentic, empathetic, or sincere. Start with positive themes like peace, mutual respect, empathy for the plight of Palestinians and their children, and the like.

      21 Concede a point. Look for opportunities in every TV debate or interview to concede a point to the interviewer or debate partner. It doesn’t have to be a major point. The point isn’t to undermine some essential plank of Israel’s foreign policy platform. But the simple words “you make a good point” do wonders among an audience.

      25.  Mutuality is a key concept. The world sees Israel and the Palestinians on completely different plains - it’s David vs. Goliath – only this time the Palestinians are seen as David. Using the “mutual” context puts both parties on the same level – and that is important in communicating the Israeli position. Here are the phrases to use:
      -- “Mutual respect” is even better than “tolerance.”
      -- “Living together, side by side, in peace
      -- “Israelis and Palestinians both have a RIGHT to…” The more
      you stress that both sides have equal rights, the better.
      -- “Cooperation, Collaboration, and Compromise.” All three words work to describe the relationship that Europe and America want Israelis and Palestinians to have. We recommend you use all three because the sound repetition drives the point home with three times the effectiveness.


      The document is marked on every page "Property of The Israel Project. Not for distribution or publication. 2009"

      More classics:

      • “Building”: Never talk about “giving” the Palestinians something. It sounds too
      paternalistic. Instead, talk about “building” because it suggests a step-by-step, layer-bylayer
      improvement in conditions. Giving reminds people that you’re in the stronger
      position and that creates more sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians.

      • Children: As often as possible, make the stakes of achieving peace about providing a
      future for both Palestinian and Israeli children in which they can live, learn, and grow up
      without the constant fear of attack.

      • “Deliberately firing rockets into civilian communities”: Combine terrorist motive with
      civilian visuals and you have the perfect illustration of what Israel faced in Gaza and
      Lebanon. Especially with regard to rocket attacks but useful for any kind of terrorist
      attack, deliberate is the right word to use to call out the intent behind the attacks. This is
      far more powerful than describing the attacks as “random.”

      • Examples of Peace Efforts: Constantly cite Israel’s past efforts and sacrifices for peace
      with moderate Arab leaders also willing to work for peace. But don’t dwell on the past.

      Humanize Rockets: Paint a vivid picture of what life is like in Israeli communities that
      are vulnerable to attack. Yes, cite the number of rocket attacks that have occurred. But
      immediately follow that up with what it is like to make the nightly trek to the bomb

      • “If… If… If…Then.”: Put the burden on Hamas to make the first move for peace by
      using If’s (and don’t forget to finish with a hard then to show Israel is a willing peace
      partner). “If Hamas reforms… If Hamas recognize our right to exist… If Hamas
      renounces terrorism… If Hamas supports international peace agreements… then we are
      willing to make peace today.

      • “One step at a time, one day at a time”: It is essential to lower expectations and reduce
      the pressure on Israel to rush into an agreement that is either not in its interests or
      jeopardizes its security. The “one step at a time” language will be accepted as a
      common sense approach to the land-for-peace equation.

      “Peace before political boundaries”: This is the best phrase for talking about why a
      two-state solution isn’t realistic right now. First the rockets and the war need to stop.
      Then both peoples can talk about political boundaries.

      “The RIGHT to”: This is a stronger phrase than “deserves.” Use the phrase frequently,
      including: the rights that both Israelis and Arabs enjoy in Israel, the right to peace that
      Israelis and Palestinians are entitled to, and Israel’s right to defend its civilians against
      rocket attacks.

      • “We have all made mistakes.” People do not expect Israel to be 100 percent successful
      in all their efforts to stop terrorism. Admitting that Israel has and continues to make
      mistakes does not undermine the overall justice of Israel’s goals: peace and security and a
      better quality of life for everyone. It does gain you much needed credibility.

      • “Working toward a solution”: Americans don’t expect the dispute between Israel and
      the Arabs to end overnight, but they absolutely need to know that “Israel is working to
      find a solution that is acceptable to everyone involved.” This suggests positive intent.
      This suggests progress. This suggests hope. And all three are important components of a  successful communication effort.

      Further reading

      Free Palestine Protest
      Stop Israel's attacks on Gaza
      Friday 1 August 5.30-7.30pm
      Outside the Israeli Embassy
      High Street Kensington
      London W8 4QB

      UN report shows army used chemical weapons on a hospital

      "UN Mission also finds that, on the same day, the army directly and intentionally attacked the Al Quds Hospital and the adjacent ambulance depot with white phosphorous shells."

      Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission 15 September 2009 para 35:

      That site seems to be down a lot  here is a similar Guardian report:
      Human Rights Watch report claims war crimes committed in use of air-burst white phosphorus artillery shells