Once again the nation has been treated to a childish outburst from Sir Roy Trotman, the grandfather of Barbadian trade unionism, over an issue that is as relevant to a nation up to its neck in economic problems as it is for a shopper forced to join the back of the queue. We all know, as a nation, that Sir Roy, who ought to be the elder statesman of industrial relations, is capable of crying like a naughty baby who has thrown his toy out of the pram. To my mind, he has no sense of statesmanship or of good leadership and should be sent out to graze by his members.
Sir Roy got his smalls in a twist when, it is alleged, members of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations voted to deny the Barbados Workers’ Union, of which he is general secretary, a place as part of the delegation to the International Labour Organisation meeting.
It appears, even to those of us not connected with the discussions, that it was a snub, whether intended or not, a small matter that Sir Roy could have drawn to the associate members’ attention.
But, true to form (I even get the impression he did not consult his executive colleagues, and indeed a move of such magnitude should be voted on by all the union’s members) he decided he would walk out. It is consistent with the impression I have of him as a poor negotiator – it is his way or no way.
The sudden, but not unexpected, death of Baroness Thatcher, one of the most dynamic if divisive of Britain’s post-war political leaders, and her grand ceremonial funeral have marked a staging point in the continuing story of Britain. Those who remember her elevation in to the Edward Heath cabinet as education secretary, when she gained notoriety as ‘Thatcher, Thatcher, the milk snatcher’ and then made the sudden jump to takeover of the Tory party then led it to government in May 1979, might have missed out some of the most important signals of her political drift to the right.
For me, 1979 was a time to remember: it was when Ken Livingstone carried out a post Greater London Council election coup to take control of the Labour-led authority; the exciting launch of Root magazine at Regine’s, later the Roof Garden. It was an exciting time. For Britain’s embattled black community, it was also a threatening time. Thatcher’s ideological guru, Sir Keith Joseph, then social security secretary, had developed a Social Darwinian view of single parents, the poor and those who some now call the underclass. It did not take very much imagination to figure out that the black community, no matter what, were part of this problem section of society; and, like now, the key debate was about immigration. In fact, Thatcher had given a television interview in February 1978 in which she talked about being ‘swamped’ with immigrants. Although Enoch Powell had made his well-publicised speech ten years earlier in April 1968, the debate about race and immigration had not moved from the public agenda and, to a large extent, Thatcher’s television interview set the tone for the next decade.