Greater Manchester Association of Trades Union Councils mourns the loss of former GMATUC Executive and longtime Manchester Trades Council member John Clegg who died last week aged 70. John had had a difficult couple of years in which he saw the death of his lifelong soulmate Mary, as well as his own worsening health problems. He is survived by his two daughters Nicole and Melanie.
GMATUC President Stephen Hall who knew John for over 30 years, worked with him on numerous projects, and consulted him for advice on many occasions writes:
“John was one of the most committed Socialists and trades union and community activists I have ever known. There are few progressive campaigns or initiatives in Manchester over the last 40 years John was not directly involved in helping to set up or played a key role in, from Manchester Gay Centre, to the Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit, to Greater Manchester Law Centre, to the Unemployed Workers Centre to name but a few.
“John truly was also an exemplar to us all of how to work with others, preferring to find points of agreement rather than points of difference and putting the interests of the movement, and of the working class as a whole at the forefront of everything rather than that of any particular party or group.
“His death is a second huge loss to our movement in Greater Manchester along with that of Brian Northey of Bolton TUC who also died last week. They will both leave gaping holes and be dearly missed by their comrades, friends and family. Both were working class heroes.”
Manchester Trades Council have set up a page for people to share their memories and photos of John, see: Remembering John Clegg (1950-2020). His funeral will take place on Friday 20th November. It is hoped that the funeral service will be live streamed online (details to follow).
Tributes have poured in from across the trades union and Labour movement following the death of much loved veteran trades unionist and lifelong Socialist Brian Northey who died last Tuesday aged 80. He is survived by his wife Lynn, his daughter Ann, son John and his grandchildren.
Leading those paying tribute to the former AEU, Amicus & Unite full-time official, as well as former Bolton Trades Council President during the 1970s & 80s, Unite the Union colleague and Bolton Councillor, Martin McMulkin said: “Brian touched the lives of thousands of people with his integrity, humour and big heart. Brian’s legacy will live on because wherever people stand against injustice and believe a better world is possible, Brian’s spirit will stand with them and his flame will burn in their hearts”.
“Politically Brian was a committed socialist and played an active part in local and national politics, chairing his local Breightmet Branch and Bolton North East Constituency.
“He never shied away from holding to account local and national career politicians who he believed where not acting in the interest of the working class.”
Bolton Trades Council’s Secretary, Andrea Egan said: “He was a fighter for the working class who campaigned all his life for a better world, and for those who knew him personally he was a great inspiration. He never minced his words, was straight to the point and God help if you were on the receiving end.
“Brian will leave us with a big gap in our lives and for many a big gap in our hearts, but he will always remain in our minds and with us in our fights ahead.”
Writing in The Morning Star newspaper his long-time Labour Party and Trades Council colleague Bernie Gallagher writes:
“He came from a humble background and struggled financially for many years with a young family after being blacklisted for trade union activities. As a consequence, he fought all his life for the repeal of anti-trade union legislation.
“In 2016 Brain was awarded the Award for an Outstanding Contribution to Socialism by the Bolton Socialist Club. In his nomination he was described as ‘The scourge of employers across Bolton and beyond’ as it was said that he always put the members first.
“It is the view of many in the Labour Party, and an opinion shared by many beyond, that Brian was the finest full-time union official the town has ever seen.
“Known simply as Northey to his members and friends who he served with dedication, commitment and passion, Brian’s contribution to improving the life of so many is immeasurable.”
Confederation of Shipbuilding & Engineering Unions (CSEU) General Secretary Ian Weddell said Brian was “…a tireless, life-long campaigner and Socialist. Chair of CSEU District 29 long into his retirement with a keen interest in seeing money from the 35 hour week campaign go to good use in the Alex Ferry Foundation. He was a friend and comrade who will be sorely missed”
Former local (NUT) Teachers’ Union and Trades Council Secretary Tom Hanley said: “Brian was part of the fabric of trade unionism in Bolton for as long as I can remember.
“His dry sense of humour, often accompanied by tales that might have provoked defamation claims if repeated, lightened many a post-meeting pint. But his energy and commitment to trade unionism was immediately evident (I think it led to his being blacklisted during Thatcherism). He was active in most campaigns for workers rights throughout his working life and beyond, and was never afraid to get stuck in where necessary.
“I will miss him, value the time I’ve spent with him, and celebrate his great contribution to improving the life of so many by his unswerving commitment to building a world which serves the many, and opposing always the powerful few who stand in our way.”
Fellow Breightmet Labour Party colleague, NHS Ward Sister Marlene Stringfellow said:
“I first met Brian in 2016, when I joined the Labour Party. He was still the Chair of the Breightmet ward at that point. Brian was most welcoming and encouraging – and although I knew him only for a relatively short time, he certainly made a huge impact.
“During the 2017 leadership contest, I came to appreciate his commitment. He always made himself available as we campaigned locally, despite his health beginning to to fail at that point. However, I came to recognise that he was a colossus and clearly respected by many with his unflinching socialist ideals.
“He often had a twinkle in his eye, as delivered his colourful speeches. He became very dear to me, and will be greatly missed…..”
There are many other tributes and kind comments on our Facebook page.
Brian’s funeral will take place at 1.00pm next Tuesday 17th November at the West Chapel, Overdale Crematorium , Overdale Drive (off Chorley New Road), Bolton BL1 5BU
Members of the Trades Council and Brian’s other Trades Union and Labour Party colleagues are being asked if they wish to, and are able to get there, to stand outside the West Chapel from 12.30pm onwards in a socially distanced show of respect for Brian and of solidarity with Lynn and other members of his family at this sad occasion. Please note masks are to be worn throughout.
We think Brian would also want all his comrades and friends to heed the famous words of Joe Hill and rather than mourn is passing to instead step up their organisation and effort to achieve all the things he himself devoted his life to fighting for.
Nursing staff suggest that we should give MP’s nothing and instead clap for them for a few Thursdays.
Add Your View to the Consultation
Interestingly, New Zealand’s Prime Minister has said she and other ministers will take a 20% pay cut lasting six months to show solidarity with those affected by the coronavirus outbreak, as the death toll continues to rise, but at the same time said that there is no suggestion whatsoever that frontline workers should be expected to do anything like.
As members of the labour movement we should support MP’s receiving a salary and administrative costs. If MP’s didn’t receive a salary they would have to rely on donations or perhaps not be able to stand and hence whilst we might like Labour MPs to be supported financially by the Trade Unions the real risk is that without allowances the House of Commons would look more white, more male and more like a public school common room
In 2014/15 I encountered a Conservative MP, me the National Convenor for Unison in the probation sector, he the Minister of Justice setting about the since failed privatisation of probation. He was scathing of my view that we would consider all options to resist privatisation and secure an above inflation pay rise. So I made him an offer which I would go back and recommend to my members if he agreed, which was this:-
We lay out a mechanism that will take the pay of all workers (especially those that have seen stagnation due to government policy) back to 2008 values, then, if MPs receive a 0% rise then so would we, equally they 2% us the same, and as happened in 2014/15 when MPs received over 10% we would expect the same.
Of course he would hear none of it but you have to accept that it is a compelling argument and consider the value of the view of a minister who thought privatising probation was a good idea though it cost the public purse around half a billion pounds and led to an unknown numbers of crimes being committed by those offenders who the privatised system failed to rehabilitate.
As increasingly more and more workers face unemployment or having their pay reduced to 66% many will believe that such a rise at this time is to say the least wrongful and untimely.
I am not critical of a system that gives MPs a rise, I am critical of a system that holds back workers pay and understand why when Matt Hancock said “now is not the time to discuss a pay rise for nurses”, whilst accepting a three grand pay rise, nursing staff suggest that we should give MP’s nothing and instead clap for them for a few Thursdays.
From 2010 to 2020, local government workers have been subject to a combination of pay freezes and minimal increases. Under a two-year deal awarded agreed in 2018, the majority of employees were given 2% annual rises. In total the Pubic Sector have seen their wages increase by about 1% per year, so that’s 10% since 2020 whilst MPs salaries have gone up by over 24% over the same period. Looking further back to the turn of the century when MPs salaries were £48371 to today’s rate of almost £82,000 that’s a rise of over 56% since 2000.
But I am critical of a system that allows many MP’s to have very lucrative other consultant roles that distracts them from being an MP and also massively critical of MP’s who step into lucrative positions with organisations who they came into direct contact with whilst in cabinet. I do also acknowledge that many MP’s do very valuable work as unpaid board members and community activists.
According to a 2014 YouGov poll, people are “overwhelmingly against” MPs having any second jobs. Only 26% agreed with the statement that “some MPs continuing to do second jobs like medicine, law or running a business keeps them in touch with ordinary people, and is better than having a House of Commons made up of just full-time politicians”.