The Queen Mother Was A Union Member
Mark Seddon is the former United Nations Correspondent and New York Bureau Chief for Al-Jazeera English TV. He reported from eighteen countries during that time, including North Korea, China, Haiti, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has interviewed, amongst others, Ban Ki-Moon, Lech Walesa, Tony Blair, Hans Blix, Michael Foot, Mia Farrow, and George Clooney. In a journalistic career spanning over twenty years, he has been Editor of Tribune and an elected member of the UK Labour Party's National Executive Committee. He has written for most British newspapers and many magazines, including The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Mail, The Times, The Spectator, New Statesman, Private Eye, British Journalism Review and Country Life Magazine. For a number of years he was a Diarist at the London Evening Standard, and has also reported for, amongst others, the BBC and Sky TV. He lives in Buckingham, England.
Yesterday the City of London moved against the fish porters of Billingsgate Market in London, revoking their licences in a move that would be more familiar to mediaeval Knights than it would to twenty first century elected Mayors. The City of London is in itself a feudal hangover, essentially only accountable to itself – which of course hugely pleases the banks and insurance companies that are based in the Square Mile.
It is claimed that the licences were revoked because the fish porters, whose existence spans hundreds of years, might at some stage emerge as opponents of the City of London’s expansion plans.
If the equally ancient Smithfield meat market were within the boundaries of the City of London, I bet the unelected authorities wouldn’t raise a hand. The meat porters are known as ‘bummarees’, and until not all that long ago had an honorary Royal amongst their number. She was no less than the late Queen Mother.
The reason I know this is that a former leader of the then Transport & General Workers Union, Ron Todd, once showed me a letter he had received from the Queen Mother, in which she said that she would also be delighted, as an honorary bummaree to become an honorary member of his union. “My late husband, King George, was a great admirer of Mr Earnest Bevin”, said the Queen Mother in the letter, and so “it would be an honour” to become a member of the union. Earnest Bevin, was a Bristolian docker who helped set up the mighty transport union and served with distinction in the war-time Coalition Government.
So there we have it. The late Queen Mother was honoured to be a member of a trade union. Tell that to the Governor of Wisconsin.
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