2011: The Year of the ‘Pilgrim’

Continuing with the review of the year, one campaign that Guido has been proud to put on the agenda has been the fight against taxpayer-funded trade union activists. He coined their now commonly adopted nickname: “Pilgrims”. 

Eighteen months ago Guido was chewing the cud with a source who works in education in some Westminster watering-hole. Even after four Guinnesses, he still did not believe the story he was being told. Apparently there were teachers that were paid full-time salaries, yet worked full-time on trade union activity. Another teacher had to be employed to cover for this activist, this pushed a particular school over budget. Guido didn’t really think much more on the subject until a piece of research by the Taxpayers’ Alliance came across his desk a few months later. Their formidable FoI team had scatter-gunned almost every area of the state, trying to work out exactly how much of our money was was being wasted on unions bods who are paid for by us rather than out of the union members’ subscriptions. That leaves plenty of union money around to prop up Ed Miliband and bus people around the country for astro-turfed protests. It was on…

With the unions agitating it was only a matter of time before someone said something stupid. In April one such taxpayer-funded trade union official put her head above the parapet and claimed to the Standard that Andrew Lansley had lied about NHS cuts at a pre-election visit to St Georges Hospital in Tooting. Unfortunately for the now infamous Jane Pilgrim, Mark Clarke, the local Tory candidate who had organised said visit, had a slightly clearer recollection of events – mainly that Jane had refused to meet Lansley on political grounds. The first shots were fired and suddenly Jane Pilgrim, the union-funded smearing liar, began to unravel. She had a private consultancy firm on the side and lived at the expense of the taxpayer too. Eventually she was forced back kicking and screaming to frontline nursing, but the can of worms had been opened…

Guido has seen emails sent around senior brothers expressing concern that the activities of Unison’s poster-girl could be the thin-edge of the wedge and they even speculated that her big mouth might ruin the taxpayer funded fun and games for everyone.  How right they were. Suddenly, with personification and a focus point, the outrage about the concept of taxpayer-funded trade-union staff grew. Speeches began to be made in Parliament, motions were put down and people began to realise that there is a Nurse Pilgrim in every hospital, school, government department and pen-pushing office in the country.  The TPA numbers came alive and the bandwagon was rolling

As Guido began smoking out further pilgrims, David Cameron was put on the spot about at PMQs in May. June saw public opinion turn in the polls. The tabloids waded in and Eric Pickles and Frankie Maude soon got behind the issue. As conference season approached word reached Guido that a breakthrough was imminent. On the eve of Tory conference leaked CCHQ briefings saw MPs given anti-pilgrim lines and Pickles and Maude opened fire from the podium. In less than six months a full government consultation had been announced and the figures mooted as potential savings saw even more people get behind the campaign. Union funded Labour MPs went berserk

By the end of the year the term “Pilgrim” was being used by the BBC and every broadsheet. Guido hears that the Oxford English Dictionary might have a surprise for Jane in the New Year. If all goes to plan Guido will personally nail the page to the front door of Unison’s HQ. In April their Head of Press, Mary Maguire, tried to launch a formal investigation into Guido for having the audacity to question her when she said there was no story here. Now we know why…

Guido’s jihad does not stop here though. New TPA numbers reveal the number of Pilgrims went up in the last year, a fact that could be the straw to break the camel’s back. Legislation from the backbenches is in the pipeline, Mark Clarke went on to form the Trade Union Reform Campaign to fight for a total overhaul of union funding, and Guido will be keeping a close eye on Maude and Pickle’s promised consultation when it launches next month.

The threat of ending taxpayer-funding may well be a useful bargaining chip in strike negotiations, but at the end of the day the practice is morally wrong and Guido’s in this one for the long haul…



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