British secret police spying on trade unionists, parliament for Rupert Murdoch

This video says about itself:

Wapping Lies: Rupert Murdoch‘s 1984 technocratic beachhead in London (TU/TV 1986)

The “Wapping dispute” or “Battle of Wapping” was, along with the miners’ strike of 1984-5, a significant turning point in the history of the trade union movement and of UK industrial relations. It started on 24 January 1986 when some 6,000 newspaper workers went on strike after protracted negotiation with their employers, News International (parent of Times Newspapers and News Group Newspapers, and chaired by Rupert Murdoch). News International had built and clandestinely equipped a new printing plant for all its titles in Wapping, and when the print unions announced a strike it activated this new plant with the assistance of the Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunications and Plumbing Union (EETPU).

The plant was nicknamed “Fortress Wapping” when the sacked print workers effectively besieged it, mounting round-the-clock pickets and blockades in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to thwart the move. In 2005, News International announced the intention to move the print works to regional presses based in Broxbourne (the world’s largest printing plant, opened March 2008), Liverpool and Glasgow. The editorial staff were to remain, however, and there was talk of redeveloping the sizeable plot that makes up the printing works.

1986 Producer/director: ‘Wapping Lies’, industrial standard video for CPBF and NUJ – Dave Rushton

By Solomon Hughes in Britain:

Special branch ‘political police’ spied on Wapping leaders

Friday 24th April 2015

Reports unearthed by SOLOMON HUGHES show “anti-violence” officers kept secret files on union chiefs and MPs who dared to support striking printers

JUST how much did the Police Special Branch spy on trade unionists, campaigners and members of Parliament?

Former undercover officer turned whistleblower Peter Francis says he collected data for files on MPs including Diane Abbott, Jeremy Corbyn and the late Bernie Grant.

This month Professor Keith Ewing and his fellow researchers revealed in the Morning Star (M Star April 12) how their research in the archives showed an incredible level of Special Branch spying on one minor trade unionist.

Special Branch pestered Bert Edwards, a regional secretary in a carmakers’ union — including spying on his kids and warning employers off giving him a job — from the 1930s to the ’50s. If the secret police spies could pursue Edwards, a good man with a small role, then logically they must be spying on many more activists.

I can take some of the same story into the ’80s.

In 1986 Rupert Murdoch locked out 6,000 printworkers by moving all of News International’s press operations to a new, fortified printing plant and newspaper offices in London’s docklands. Demonstrations and pickets by printers and their supporters took place outside the plant for around a year before the dispute died out.

In 2005 I asked for “Special Branch files relating to the Wapping dispute between the Print Unions and News International.”

The Metropolitan Police gave me the 215-page file, which includes regular — often daily — reports of the picketing and demonstrations by Special Branch officers.

It shows how the police “anti-terror” squad monitored Labour MPs and trade union leaders. The papers very strongly suggest Special Branch had files on trade union leaders, and that they may have had files on MPs including John Prescott.

A typical “special report” covers the TUC-Labour Party “Joint May Day” March and Rally near the Wapping plant.

The Special Branch report describes the numbers of marchers and variety of political organisations involved.

It includes full reports of speeches by Ron Mates, then-MP John Prescott and trade unionists like Jim Knapp of the National Union of Railwaymen and Ken Cameron of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).

The Special Branch undercover cops write that: “John Prescott MP spoke as both shadow spokesman on employment and as a representative of the National Union of Seamen. He pointed out that the NUS had given the miners total backing during their strike, and could always be relied on to show such solidarity. He then castigated government trade union legislation and said that everyone present must work and vote for the return of a Labour government at the next general election if the balance was to be redressed.”

The other speeches are reported in a similar level of detail, including the fact that “Ron Mates MP castigated Rupert Murdoch and suggested that such a man, being a United States citizen, should be deported.

He called upon all trade unionists to halt distribution of News International publications, and prevent movement of newsprint and ink. He said that in his opinion SOGAT, NGA [the print unions] were making too many concessions to News International in their negotiations.”

The report has an appendix B listing those who “were speakers at the rally,” with their names checked against a column marked “SB(R).”

This means their names are being checked against the Special Branch registry, the place where individual files were kept.

This little bit of admin shows the union leaders definitely had files, but is a bit more ambiguous about the MPs. Jim Knapp of the National Union of Railwaymen, Ken Cameron of the FBU and Ben Rubner of the Furniture, Timber and Allied Trades Union all have redacted text (blacked out text) under the SB(R) column, showing they had file numbers — and hence files. The two MPs are listed as “MP” in the SB(R) column, which may or may not have meant they have files.

In a report of another demo, Special Branch note Tony Benn talking about the “butchery practiced by the police,” and the presence of Tony Banks MP.

A March 17 “Special Branch threat assessment” report shows that Special Branch took a very political view of the MPs, accusing them of encouraging violence. It talks about an “increasingly held view that the cause is lost” for the Wapping strikers.

It added: “It is this sense of ‘hopelessness’ which drives many of the strikers present to vent their frustration against the police and the sparks of violent confrontation so generated are then fanned by factions of the left who may be relied upon to exploit such conflagrations for their cynical propaganda purposes in which they receive much able, and valuable, assistance from members of Parliament and other prominent political figures of a similar persuasion, some of whom are known regularly to attend the Saturday pickets in the role of ‘observers’.”

The government like to maintain that the Special Branch dealt with “political violence” and “subversion”. The latter is a handily vague concept. But in reality, Special Branch often acted as political police, spying on perfectly legal forms of protest and trade union activity — and even on MPs.

It tried to cover all kinds of “illegitimate” activity under the blanket of “national security.” It is important to note that they were not fighting crime, but political challenges to the Establishment.

Indeed there is strong evidence they actually covered up crime. While some Special Branch officers spied on MPs at Wapping, other Special Branch officers helped quash regular police inquiries into then-MP Cyril Smith’s sexual abuse of young lads.

In a bizarre twist, while the Metropolitan Police did release these Wapping files to me in 2005, they have since refused all requests from other people for copies of the files, for “national security” reasons. They were not secret in 2005, but they are in 2015.

UNION members should apply to Special Branch to see if undercover cops have gathered intelligence on them, anti-blacklisting campaigner Dave Smith urged CWU conference yesterday.Mr Smith, a blacklisted engineer who recently co-authored a book on the construction industry’s elaborate operation to sideline political and trade union activists, said individuals could place subject access requests to demand their files from police: here.

RUPERT MURDOCH’S mouthpiece The Times is running out of ways to portray Ed Miliband as a puppet in the pocket of trade union leaders. So it resorted on yesterday’s front page to doing what it does best – making up stories: here.

THE leader of a major trade union demanded answers yesterday after a whistleblower suggested that he had been personally spied on by an elite undercover police unit. Fire Brigades Union (FBU) general secretary Matt Wrack said he was “shocked” but “not surprised” to learn that officers of the Metropolitan Police’s special demonstration squad (SDS) had monitored his activities in the trade union and anti-fascist movements. The now-disbanded SDS, which has previously come under fire for allowing undercover officers to sleep with their targets, is heavily implicated in recent revelations over blacklisting in the construction industry: here.

REVELATIONS that the state spied aggressively on Fire Brigades Union leader Matt Wrack are a grave reminder of the despicable behaviour we can expect from the Establishment. Since the Information Commissioner’s Office raided the HQ of the shadowy Consulting Association in 2009, it has become clear that thousands of innocent working men and women were snooped on and deprived of work – sometimes for years – for legitimate trade union activities such as flagging up illegal safety breaches by their employers; here.

The 50-year-old political convention that the UK’s intelligence agencies will not intercept the communications of MPs and members of the Lords cannot survive in an age of bulk interception, government lawyers have conceded: here.

THE Public inquiry launched yesterday into the Police Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) ‘will expose both creditable and discreditable conduct, practice and management’, Justice Pitchford claimed in his opening remarks. The scope of the inquiry into the SDS, a police spy organisation which secretly infiltrated political groups, organisations and parties for over 40 years, was outlined by Justice Pitchford. The SDS was disbanded in 2009: here.

When police can spy on innocent people like me, we’re in the age of thought crime, by Jenny Jones. A principled whistleblower alleges the Met improperly deleted files on me. Yet why was I marked as a ‘domestic extremist’ in the first place? Here

Surveillance firms spied on campaign groups for big companies, leak shows. Targets included grieving family of Rachel Corrie, environmental activists and local campaigners protesting about phone masts: here.

27 thoughts on “British secret police spying on trade unionists, parliament for Rupert Murdoch

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  17. Thursday 23rd March 2017

    posted by Morning Star in Features

    Coyne is betraying everything a trade union should stand for, argues ANN FIELD

    W HEN a trade unionist is the subject of coverage by a national newspaper it’s usually with a headline like “the most hated [man] in Britain” or “the enemy within.”

    Not this time: Gerard Coyne, a candidate for the leadership of Britain’s biggest trade union, has seen favourable coverage in the Sun.

    Coyne was given a column next to a so-called news report and column inches online to present an election address entitled: “I’ll get your union back.”

    The Sun? The paper that has attacked workers and lied about their trade unions for the last 40 years?

    The paper that vilified and lied about the miners and their trade union leaders before, during and after their strike in the 1980s; that rejoiced in the sacking of 5,500 of its own workers in 1986 and never took them back and that lied viciously and malevolently about the Hillsborough disaster, blaming the fans for their own deaths.

    The paper that is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, the company responsible for phone-hacking, whose corrupt links with police, public officials and politicians still awaits full investigation.

    The company that backed Donald Trump in his campaign to rule the US with lies, distortion and the exploitation of people’s bitterness over unemployment and fear of poverty.

    Murdoch’s papers supported pirate trade union leaders in the past and used them in a conspiracy to steal the jobs of the 5,500 sacked workers at Wapping and supported the mine-workers who were used to break the strike in 1984-5.

    Those same union leaders, applauded in the Sun and other antiunion papers, negotiated “sweetheart” deals with companies across British industry undermining established terms and conditions and laying the basis for the race to the bottom that took hold and has led to the horrifying cuts in pay and conditions, the use of zero-hours contracts and temporary labour, and sanctions for being ill.

    And true to form, the Sun has its own “sweetheart union” in its company News UK — it serves to keep independent, genuine trade unions out.

    Collaboration never works. It always ends in tears and it’s never the employers that are crying.

    Using such a newspaper as a vehicle to win support for a trade union election is a betrayal of everything trade unions stand for.

    If someone seeking union election is prepared to stoop to the level of using the Sun for their campaign, then you have question what else they would do.

    Pirate trade union leaders have trodden this path before.

    Gerard Coyne should be aware that the taint of collaboration never really fades once engaged and, even if the workers forget or don’t know, the employers never do, and they always know who to go to to get their way.

    Ann Field is a Unite member and a retired elected national official of the print and publishing union now part of Unite.


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