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An unusual speech writer

Martin Wicks


 

You are a new trade union leader. You are inexperienced, a little bit unsure of yourself, and those rabid left wingers are gunning for you. What could be more natural but to ask the boss of a private rail company to write your speech to your union annual conference. Perhaps even a Rail Minister might give you a little moral support.

 

Shaun Brady, breezed into Arkwright Rd after his election as General Secretary of ASLEF, threatening to sack all the staff if they went on strike, set up a staff association, and bring in scab labour. As they say in the union movement, treat your staff as you would want a company to treat your members!

 

According to Kevin McGuire of the Guardian, Stephen Hardwick, BAA’s director of public affairs wrote a draft of a speech, “private and confidential”, for Brady to deliver at ASLEF’s conference in June. BAA runs Heathrow Express. ASLEF members at the company were on strike last year before the enthronement of the great man Brady.

 

Shaun did not deny this. He told McGuire, “I asked him to help me. I just needed a bit of assistance.” Admittedly there weren’t that many people in the union talking to him, but surely he could have found some help in ASLEF?

 

It’s an extraordinary picture, BAA’s senior manager, suggesting to a trade union leader how to deal with an internal struggle in the union. Brady met him twice before the draft speech was e-mailed by Hardwick. It appears that an unnamed Labour MP brought the happy couple together.

 

Hardwick was an adviser to John Prescott before the election of New Labour in 1997. He was, he said, merely helping out a friend who supported Brady by writing the speech, presumably in the hope that it would help him deliver it in at least a semi-coherent fashion.

 

McGuire also revealed that Kim Howells, a minister of state responsible for the railway industry, sent a hand-written note, apologising for being unable to address the conference, but expressing his wish to have a chat with Brady so he could “fill me in on the situation re the national executive”. Not that he wished to interfere, of course.

 

Brady attacked his opponents with his usual eloquence. “This is not a witch hunt against me, it is a witch's’ coven. They are trying to twist an angle against me. There was no deceit. If there was deceit in this, there would be no e-mails.”

 

Thank God he did not get to deliver the speech!

 

September 2004

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