First elected to the YCL National Committee in 1969, I was a continuous member until 1978 of this body and its successor, the Executive Committee. On the 1969-71 NC, I was a member of the Finance Committee, when Tom Bell was National Treasurer. During the 1971-3 EC, I was responsible for the Midlands Regional Editorial Board of Challenge. In 1973, I was elected to the Political Committee and was continuously a member until October 1978, when I reached the maximum age limit for YCL membership.
Identified with the centrist trend in the leadership in the late 1960s and 70s, by the time of the 1971-5 leadership crisis, I had moved to a loose alliance with oppositionalists, especially on the issues of the nature of Challenge and industrial work. With the exclusion of all opposition from the EC at the 1975 Congress, I found myself isolated. The overwhelming nature of the leadership now being Bell loyalists, I resolved to work as best I could to build the League, setting aside political differences with the dominant trend as being divisive obstacles to YCL growth. In common with many YCLers, I felt at the time that the splits in the organisation were the root cause of its decline and that the clearing out of one faction or the other might help. I therefore played something of a role to this end in the 1977 Congress and the lead up to it, a congress that was to see the decisive rout of all effective opposition. I introduced two items at the EC in 1976, as part of these preparations, and was the Chairman of the EPC at the Congress in April 1977, playing a somewhat ruthless role in excluding opposition.
I was the National Young Workers Organiser of the YCL from June 1977 to April 1978 and represented the League on an international work delegation to Cuba in 1972 and the German Democratic Republic in 1977, being the fraternal delegate to the Free German Youth Congress. I was a T&G delegate to the 11th World Youth Festival in Havana in 1978, having become active in the TGWU in 1975.
Throughout my membership of the YCL I was a regular contributor to Challenge, including film and book reviews and cartoons, as “Brummie”, as well as political articles, the last of which was a full page feature on the 60th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution in 1977. I was the joint author of the 1977 YCL publication “Young People and Industry in the 1970s”.
A member of the Communist Party from the first possible moment, at the age of 18, I was a member of the Midlands District Committee of the Party from 1969 to 1978 and of its Secretariat from 1972 to 1978. At the Midlands District Congress of the CPGB in 1978 I was Chair of the Standing Orders Committee. Despite being on the recommended list, I was not elected by the Congress in what was effectively a take over by the Euro-Communists of the Midlands District.
I was a shop steward at the BSA Guns engineering factory for some years prior to, in 1980 being appointed a full-time officer for the TGWU, operating as District Organiser in the Derby area until 1987. I was initially responsible for a wide range of membership in north Derbyshire. In that capacity, I held positions of responsibility in a number of sectors, including the Local Authority Provincial Council and the Cast Stone JIC. By 1982, I was the Secretary of the East Midlands Municipal Bus Co-ordinating Committee, which led to a major campaign across the region against the privatisation and deregulation of the bus industry.
During my time in Derby, I was a member of the East Midlands District Committee of the CPGB from 1982 and its Secretariat from 1984. I was Chair, or Secretary, of the Derby CP branch for most of the period I was in Derby. In 1986, I became the first all-Midlands Regional Trade Group Secretary of the T&G’s Passenger Services section for several decades, being based in West Bromwich. In 1988, I was promoted to National Secretary of the Passenger Group, operating from the union’s head office in London. I have thus been identified with leading the 90,000 strong trade group of the Union covering bus, coach, taxi, tram, light rail and underground workers for over two decades. From the end of September 1996, the National Secretaryship of the T&G’s Docks, Waterways and Fishing Trade Group, covering a wide range of the union’s ports and maritime interests, was added to my responsibilities. In June 1999, I was appointed National Organiser of the T&G’s then new Transport Sector, which united 240,000 members of the T&G, covering passenger workers, road haulage, civil aviation and ports, waterways and coastal maritime members.
The Vice President and then President of the two million strong European Transport Workers Federation (ETF), I have been Chair of the Joint (“Parity”) Committee of Road Transport Employers and Trade Unions at the European level. I was also a member of Executive Board and Management Committee of the global union federation, the five million strong International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) and chaired the UK and Republic of Ireland Co-ordinating Committee of twelve ITF affiliated unions. The ITF had a total affiliate strength of 681 trade unions in 148 nations of the world. I have sat on innumerable British TUC, Government and Non-Governmental Committees and boards, especially on matters of pensions, transport policy and vocational training and was a Director of Go-Skills.
I remained a member of the CPGB until its dissolution. In the following two years I was Chair of the non-party organisation, Communist Trades Unionists, which united disparate tendencies which had emerged from the demise of the CPGB. Many involved in CTU were party to the Communist Unity process which was eventually resolved by virtue of applying en bloc, but individually to local branches, to the Communist Party of Britain which had emerged in 1988 from the CPGB dispute over the Morning Star, as the re-established Party. I thus count my membership of the British Communist movement as continuous from around 1966 and remain an active member.