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…

Rachel Reeves Deceives

Guido can’t think why the Tories decided to pull IDS from the Daily Politics today. He’s said to be fuming, particularly at Ken Clarke, and made said fury perfectly clear over the phone to him this morning. Owen Paterson has been stirring things up too. Either way it was the Pilgrims™ section of the show that Guido particularly enjoyed:

Leaving aside her terrible attempt at justifying the practice of full-time taxpayer-funded trade union officials, Reeves had the cheek to try and claim that she was not funded by Unite the Union. She acknowledged that they gave her Leeds West Constituency money (£1,500 in May 2009 and another £1,500 in the April before the election), but she categorically denied she had received money directly from Unite:

“I don’t get any money from a trade union…”

In November 2007, two months after being selected as Labour’s candidate for Leeds West, Rachel Reeves declared a donation from Unite of £1,979.50 to the Electoral Commission. Donation Ref. No. C0002459 was paid directly to one Ms Rachel Reeves.

To Be a Pilgrim
Number of Taxpayer Funded Trade Unionists Goes Up

Last year the Taxpayers’ Alliance undertook their largest ever Freedom of Information request investigation to try to ascertain how many full-time taxpayer-funded trade union officials there were in the public sector. Guido has been at the forefront of the campaign against what he named Pilgrims. Today the Taxpayers’ Alliance have announced that this year, in a time of austerity, government bungs to trade unions, which takes money from your wallet to pay for their strikes, have increased.

There are now 2,840 of these non-workers, who instead of being paid to teach or nurse, or regulate the paperclips, are funded to do trade union activity, on office time, in the office. Guido would put the suggested total bill to the taxpayer of £113m down as a conservative estimate. Once the free office space which should be charged to an outside group at commercial rates is taken into consideration, along with the fact that many organisations masked how many “Pilgrims” they really have by not playing ball with the FoIs, the real cost is much, much higher. So when you see those workers on strike next week, remember that you have paid for the organisation, staffing and planning, that should have been covered by union subscriptions. Instead the union subs went to the Labour Party to the tune of over £13 million last year. And don’t forget that someone else has to be employed to cover the job the taxpayer-funded agitators should be doing. So we’re whacked twice…

Union Funded Labour MPs Blocking Debate on Union Funding

The parliamentary campaign against Pilgrims is hotting up. After the bombastic adjournment debate two weeks ago, yesterday plans for full three-hour debate on the issue was put to the Backbench Business Committee. The proposal from Jesse Norman was rejected, despite support from the LibDems and the DUP. Funnily enough no Labour MP would support the idea of debate, which is hardly surprising given how their last attempt to defend the practice of taxpayer funding of trade unions went…

Instead of shouting “prick” and “twat” from the sidelines, if Labour MPs really feel that we should pick up the tab for the unions, then at least have the balls to say it…

Labour MPs’ Pilgrim Fightback
Called Union-Busting Tory MP “Prick” and “Twat”

It’s taken Labour a week to come up with a semi-coherent defence of taxpayer funding for trade unions. John Healey has taken to LabourList, on behalf of their paymasters, to defend the practice. The gist of his argument is that union reps do good things therefore it is a good thing. It completely fails to take into account that regardless of what good they do, why should we pay for it rather than the unions: representation of the workers is the key reason people pay to join unions, and their union subscription fees should be used to cover it. Any work time spent on union activity should be invoiced back the union. Anything else is back door corruption and a multi-million pound political subsidy from the taxpayer to the Labour Party.

But at least some in Labour Party seem to be trying to engage properly, which is more than can be said of the union heavies on Labour benches. When Aidan Burley’s adjournment debate speech rattled them last Wednesday, instead of constructive arguement, the Tory backbencher was shouted down, heckled and jeered by amoungst others Tom Blenkinsop, Ian Lavery and Steve Rotheram. All MPs with strong union funding ties.

When the mace went up after the debate, the tension was not dispelled. Lavery, who is PPS to Harriet Harman, called Burley “a prick” – something he did not deny when Guido asked him about it, simply saying instead that “I’m not denying anything… I’ve got no comment to make.” Guido has four witnesses willing to go on the record saying that Steve Rotheram said “You just love winding people up, don’t you, you twat”. An allegation that Rotheram vehemently denies:

“…in fact I was the peacemaker on the night (Blessed are the Peacemakers eh!) I admit that when another Member made a disparaging comment about Mr Burley I did say sarcastically to him that there wasn’t a Court in the land that would find against the accusation . I also told him that he wasn’t going to wind me up when he was shouting towards me “what are you going to do about it” in an aggressive tone. … I have spoken with my legal representative and will defend myself against this accusation and will have more than 4 Members to support what I ‘actually’ said.”

Guido guesses he’ll have to see Steve in Court then…

Video: Aidan Burley’s Pilgrim Bashing

It made the Labour benches incandescent:

Although the mics don’t pick up what they said, Guido has ears everywhere…

Pilgrims Harangued

Guido is waiting for the video, but last night’s adjournment debate was certainly one of the more lively ones in recent history. Instead of a backbencher and a Minister discussing seagulls, Aidan Burley’s rampage against the “Spanish practices of taxpayer-funded trade union officials pulled a solid crowd and sent Labour’s union heavies off the scale. Eric Pickles appeared on the frontbench which is a good sign that he will keep his promises…

Burley’s whole speech is here and well worth a read, especially given that the term Pilgrim has now been cemented in official record:

By way of an example, the excellent, independent and non-taxpayer funded campaigning website order-order, or the Guido Fawkes blog, has been highlighting the practice of paying union officials out of the taxpayer purse. Following its campaign, full-time taxpayer-funded trade union officials have become known as “Pilgrims” in the media, after Guido Fawkes exposed one such full-time union rep named Jane Pilgrim as a full-time trade union organiser working in the NHS for Unison. She came to public attention in 2011 after criticising the Government’s health policies. Despite being billed as a nurse, she was found to be a full-time trade union official, being paid £40,000 by the hospital. She is now under investigation by both St George’s hospital and Unison for running a private health consultancy—called The Pilgrim Way—on the side, creating a conflict of interests. As the website states: “There is no justification for the taxpayer paying a lobbying organisation to fight for an unsustainable mess in the interests of a vocal minority group. We don’t pay the arms dealers and the tobacco lobbyists’ staffing bills”.

Guido is tempted to bike a copy of Hansard down to St Georges Tooting…

Pilgrims to be Debated In Parliament Tomorrow

Straight after the 7pm vote in the House tomorrow, surviving Tory PPS Aidan Burley will redeem himself for his voting behaviour yesterday. He has tabled an Adjournment Debate on a favourite subject:  “Funding from the public purse of trade union officials”.

Burley will get around fifteen minutes to speak and is guaranteed a Ministerial reply. Though the promise to end the practice of tax-payer funded officials was made at Tory conference, it’s not as if the government have had a good week for doing what they once said they would.

Good to see that the pressure is being kept on…

Mad Frankie Swings the Axe

Hot off the podium:

“…the support they get from the taxpayer has got way out of hand. Just in the Civil Service alone this so-called facility time is costing no less than £30 million a year. Can you believe that

[…]

How the New Weekly Bin Collection Policy Works

[…]

Pickles on Pilgrims

It’s down to Pickles and Maude to announce the end of trade union funded public sector officials – or as Guido christened them – Pilgrims. As revealed yesterday, after months of campaigning on the issue, Pickles will this afternoon […]

Exclusive: Defunding Unions – Osborne To End “Pilgrims”

According to an internal CCHQ briefing, produced ahead of Frankie Maude’s speech, the government will announce a “consultation” aimed at bringing an end to full-time taxpayer-funded public-sector union officials. This is a culmination of a campaign started on this blog […]



Tip offs: 0709 284 0531
team@Order-order.com

Quote of the Day

Andrew Neil on the dying Dead Tree Press

“I read more bloggers now than mainstream columnists, because they’ve got more interesting things to say. Too many columnists today make you think, ‘Yeah, I think you’ve said that 10 times before and I’ve just noticed your column has not go a single fact in it’”.

Top Posts This Week

Guidogram: Sign up

Subscribe to the most succinct 7 days a week daily email read by thousands of Westminster insiders.

Facebook

HANDS ON WITH THE NEW SINCLAIR ZX SPECTRUM HANDS ON WITH THE NEW SINCLAIR ZX SPECTRUM
Typical Trade Union Drivers Typical Trade Union Drivers
Labour MP in Misuse of Taxpayer Cash Row Labour MP in Misuse of Taxpayer Cash Row
BOFFINS: CLIMATE CHANGE CAUSED ISIS BOFFINS: CLIMATE CHANGE CAUSED ISIS
Mystery of Massive Miliband Mystery of Massive Miliband
Cameron With a Gun to His Head Cameron With a Gun to His Head

Save the Children Sorry For Blair Award Save the Children Sorry For Blair Award
Another NHS Hospital Shamed Another NHS Hospital Shamed
Widespread and Habitual Hacking at the Mirror Widespread and Habitual Hacking at the Mirror
Will Straw Silent on Sleaze Will Straw Silent on Sleaze
When Dave Met Walliams When Dave Met Walliams
Home Office: Nerdy Kids are Dangerous Home Office: Nerdy Kids are Dangerous
Jim Murphy Is Laughing At You Jim Murphy Is Laughing At You
Awesome Star Wars Tie Fighter Drone Awesome Star Wars Tie Fighter Drone
Labour Select Palestine Activist to Fight Galloway Labour Select Palestine Activist to Fight Galloway
Watch Our Boys Blow Up Evil ISIS Scum Watch Our Boys Blow Up Evil ISIS Scum
Cassetteboy’s February Mash-Up Cassetteboy’s February Mash-Up
Buzzfeed Bias Buzzfeed Bias
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,815 other followers