Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

Christmas wrapping-up: Goodbye blogging

Friday 24 December 2010

Avid readers of this blog (err, my mum, Jerry Hicks, a few people who used to support Les Bayliss) may have noticed I’ve not updated it much recently. Mainly that’s because I’ve left Tribune magazine and started a new job in financial reporting. Unlike Tribune it’s full time and hard work, so I’ve much les time on my hands to get in touch with trade unionists and blog about industrial stuff and politics.

So I’ve decided/been forced to mothball this blog, at least for the time being. For the next few weeks I won’t even attempt to update it regularly. There isn’t time, I’m afraid. The update I wrote today will be the last one for a while, if not forever.

But before I go, there are a few thing that need saying and can be safely said here. I started this blog in mid-2008 in a desperate attempt to get more reader than the low-circulation pages of Tribune would allow. But if that was selfish, then hopefully the way I have written it hasn’t been entirely so: I have tried, quite hard sometimes, to tell the truth about things which don’t see the light of day often enough. That’s especially the case with trade union politics. The demise of industrial reporting means journalist aren’t reporting and scrutinising trade unions in the way that their members or the public deserve.

I have quite enjoyed writing the blog. I am grateful to everyone who has read it for reading it. And I’m particularly grateful to people who’ve read it and then come forward with information and assistance with my stories. You know who you are. Your generosity is touching, and I offer big thanks. How couldn’t it be? I can’t offer anything in reward, and indeed I shouldn’t, so more often than not I think this has been a selfless act [update – on their part, I meant]. As a journalist I am humbled by people who give those precious nuggets of info with no thought of reward. I won’t try and name names, partly because some people might get into trouble if they were so named. That’s one of the problems with internal trade union politics especially, and politics generally.

Most of the people I’ve met in trade unions and politics have been either okay or nice; some have been exceptionally nice, cheerful, kind, sunny, helpful and so on. They’ve made life more worth living. A small number however have chosen to be hostile, or even malevolent. I mean they’ve tried to get me into trouble for no good reason. The reason, as far as I could make out, was that I was writing things which didn’t agree with the PR line they were trying to enforce and they saw it as their (paid) job to squash anyone who threatened that line. Sometimes this has been actually scary. Again, a problem with internal union politics, though that doesn’t wipe away personal responsibility. But spare a thought for the people who have to deal with that all the time, and not just because of a blog. Not everyone involved worked for a union either.

And I won’t mention the MP who upset me a bit by texting me in fury, called me “disgracefull” [sic] and said “please do not speak to me again” over something I wrote he found unhelpful. (Oh all right, it was Jon Cruddas. To be fair, I’m sure he was under a great deal of stress at the time – but I had not misreported him.)

These people didn’t get, or didn’t want to get, that I am not interested in helping the Labour Party, the TUC, Ed Miliband, or any of those trade union general secretaries through my journalism. That’s the difference between journalism and PR. This may sound obvious to you. I can assure you that it is not obvious to them.

Anyway, that’s a wrap, for now. Diehard fans can check this blog again in mid-February by which time I’ll have hopefully made my mind up what to do with it. I don’t want to abandon industrial affairs: it’s been far too stimulating and fun.

Again thanks to all my readers and those who’ve helped out. I’ll not forget. And since ’tis the season to be jolly, even if you’re out of work or otherwise feeling the pinch, I’ll leave you with Christmas wrapping of a different kind. When not obsessing about unions I obsess about music, and this is one band I like a lot. Merry Christmas! (Even you, Jon).

Update, 21 January: Tribune editor Chris McLaughlin has been in touch to say that some people took the comment above about Tribune being a ‘low circulation’ magazine to signify that it was in financial difficulty, or otherwise in trouble. I’m sorry if anyone took it that way; that wasn’t my intention, nor did I want to put the magazine down, so I’m happy to set the record straight and say so. For the record also, Chris tells me that it’s inaccurate to call Tribune ‘low circulation’. However I stand by what I’ve written.


This blog ranks higher than ever

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Belatedly I’d like to thank John Wood at Tigmoo for his good work compiling lists of trade union related bloggers. This year, René Lavanchy’s Blog rose to number seven in his list of the top 25 trade union blogs in the UK – calculated on the basis of number of posts, ranking, number of comments and inbound links. It’s up from number 10 last year.

It’s nice to have risen a bit, but I would like the traffic on this blog to be much higher. We shall see.

You can view the full list here.

Holiday time

Tuesday 17 August 2010

Forgot (as usual) to say, I’ve been on holiday since last week and will be until 31 August. Blogging will be suspended until then, although hopefully I’ll find time to post a book review…


Friday 2 April 2010

I haven’t been posting this week as I’ve been on holiday, and I’m on holiday next week too so don’t think I’ll be blogging. However, given that nobody seems to read a fucking word I write (regardless of how many stories I break or how under-reported industrial affairs are), what difference does that make?

Iain Dale – an apology

Thursday 18 March 2010

In my post below, I referred to Nick Griffin’s Total Politics interview with Iain Dale. Unfortunately I hadn’t noticed that the press release I was quoting from was embargoed until midnight today, and I broke the embargo by blogging about it.

It’s a total accident, but a totally stupid one. As a lowly and little-read blogger I’ve got much more to lose than gain by such lapses. But more to the point, it was a breach of trust and journalistic practice, accidental or otherwise. So to Iain I say sorry, and I’ll make sure it never happens again. I am now quite embarrassed.

Incidentally, the interview did sound fascinating, and now the embargo’s off (and it’s on newsstands on Saturday) I encourage people to go and read it.

Apologies to all concerned.

The Times has been forced to print month-old stories about Labour, this blog has learnt

Tuesday 5 January 2010

“Labour has been forced to scrap a planned manifesto meeting of its National Policy Forum on cost grounds, just before a campaign in which Conservatives are preparing to out-spend it by a factor of about three to one, The Times has learnt.” Thus today’s front-page splash.

All well and good – except I wrote the same thing, in slightly less attention-grabbing language, in Tribune last month. And the meeting of Labour’s Joint Policy Committee where it was decided not to hold an NPF was actually held two weeks before that. Breaking news eh?

Anyway, the Times report quotes David Blunkett as saying that Labour’s campaign war chest is only £8 million. I’ve no idea about this, but I do know that £8 million is funnily enough the size of the Unite union’s political fund, or was in late 2008 when Charlie Whelan said so. Not that the two are the same of course…

Okay, I promise to stop bitching and find something original to write about next time.

L’affaire Christine Quigley: Labour at war with itself?

Monday 30 November 2009

The Tory Bear blog is very excited about the online activities of Christine Quigley, a junior civil servant in the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Quigley was elected on Saturday as the new chair of London Young Labour, and is described by friends as being “soft left”. For people who don’t know the Labour party, that means emphatically not from Labour Students, which is traditionally more loyal to the leadership and (they might say) moderate. Quigley has been writing a blog and some articles on LabourList supporting Labour and attacking the Conservatives.

Anyway, her new position, and her writing, were pointed out to Harry Cole who runs the Tory Bear site, and now I hear the Telegraph is working on a story about this civil servant’s perceived failure to be impartial. (As Cole mentions on his blog, DEFRA have said Quigley does not work in a politically restricted post, so she is allowed to engage in some party political activity).

Meanwhile, Labour activists are puzzled as to who could have provided Tory Bear with the details of Quigley, who is not a famous face and whose job title is known to very few people outside the civil service.

It’s not gone unnoticed by them that Quigley’s victory over her opponent for chair of London Young Labour, the Labour Students candidate David Green, happened just two days before this revelation. Quigley didn’t actually win on votes, but on a coin toss: it was a dead heat.

Green has distanced himself from any involvement, and I imagine Labour Students (with whom I’ve left a message tonight) would do likewise. There is of course no evidence to link anyone to anything, and I don’t suggest otherwise for a moment. But such is the fractious nature of Labour’s internal politics, it would be disingenuous to say this doesn’t look at all like an inside job. After all, Labour sources are known to have given damaging material on enemies within the party to bloggers in the past.

Labour’s planned smear website: Telegraph gets it wrong

Monday 13 April 2009

My blog post today was going to be about my experience of the government’s special advisers in the light of the Damian McBride scandal – and I will write about that, later today if I get time – but I’ve spotted a bizarre piece published on the Telegraph website yesterday purporting to be a profile of the Unite official Andrew Dodgshon, who it says is the “apparent frontman” for Red Rag, the empty blog website where McBride proposed to publish unfounded smears against senior Tories.

This article is full of mistakes and its author has obviously not bothered to check any of the contents.

I don’t know what, if any, involvement Dodgshon has with Red Rag. But I have had some dealings with the man, so I can tell you that he isn’t a “journalist and press officer for the Transport and General Workers Union” any more. For over a year he’s actually been based in the political department. And someone should tell the Telegraph about the T&G’s merger to form Unite. He doesn’t live in Milton Keynes either. Charlie Whelan is Unite’s political director and therefore Dodgshon’s boss, but he’s not in charge of press officers, who are in a different department under different bosses. And yes, he does review books for Tribune – as do people far more loyal to the government, like Denis McShane – but why didn’t the article’s author check by putting the website through a Google search?

Come to think of it, why didn’t he get hold of Dodgshon’s phone number – which isn’t hard – and ring him up? This article should have been more rigorously checked before the Telegraph’s web editors let it get published, and it doesn’t reflect well on their standards.

Journey to Gaza

Thursday 5 March 2009

The Viva Palestina humanitarian convoy may be the most famous lefty-inspired journey to Gaza, but it’s not the only one. Patrick Ward* is a staff writer for the Socialist Review and has visited Israel and Palestine before. He’s also a friend of mine, and along with Stop the War Coalition’s Stewart Halforty he’s travelling to Gaza to report on the situation there and (in his words) “bypass the corporate media”.

Whatever your politics, it is a worthy pursuit and I wish Patrick and Stewart very well. There will no doubt be some interesting updates on their blog here – Patrick already tells me he’s made “excellent contacts” – so I encourage you to check it for updates.

*Note for student politics geeks: Patrick was editor of London Student, the University of London Union newspaper, in 2005-06 (which is how I met him), and Stewart Halforty was ULU president at the same time. Patrick is a Socialist Workers Party member.

Rene told you so (part the umpteenth)

Friday 20 February 2009

12 February: Tribune reports that GM is going to flog off Saab.

18 February: reports: “GM Europe will also consider partnerships for German-based Opel and is aiming to dispose of loss-making Swedish car maker Saab.”

20 February: Saab hits the headlines big time.

Maybe you should try reading Tribune, guys. You might learn something.