02.12.09 Updated 26.01.10. Further updates
EXCLUSIVE by Mark Watts
Four “overseers” are to monitor the formation of the London photographers’ branch of the national union of journalists following accusations of a far-left attempted hijack.
  But I can reveal that three of the four are them-selves “NUJ Left”, the political faction inspired by the socialist workers party (SWP) that is at the centre of the accusations.
  Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, has decided to bring in the four in response to photographer David Hoffman’s publication of comments exposing what he sees as the attempted takeover of the new branch by “NUJ Left”.
  Dear’s decision on the four “overseers” is bound to undermine any attempt to reassure photographers, first, that the branch will genuinely represent their interests rather than those of “NUJ Left”, and second, that it will be governed – and its officials elected – democratically.
  Hoffman, who had been one of four key figures setting up the branch, said last month in a posting on a forum for NUJ photographers that he had become “a useful patsy to disguise the real underlying aim of building a power base for NUJ Left.”
  “The branch will in reality be directed by the de-mands of an entirely separate unelected group with its own very different aims and plans.” He named the three other figures behind the branch as following an agenda set by “NUJ Left”.
  Members of “NUJ Left” were planning to hold a private meeting to decide on the branch officials in advance of the LPB’s inaugural meeting.
  One of the three, Jonathan Warren, denied the accusations on behalf of the trio.
  Hoffman’s comments chimed with my revelations about “NUJ Left” made during the election for the editor of the union’s Journalist magazine.
  I have learnt from well-placed sources that Dear has won agreement from the union’s national executive council (NEC) for a plan to replace the four who were going to oversee the election of the officials of the branch, whose first meeting is scheduled for January 26.
  I understand that Dear’s plan is for the role to go to the NEC’s four London representatives, Tom Davies, Phil Sutcliffe, Pierre Vicary and Barry White.
  However, Davies, Vicary and White themselves stood for NEC elections last September as “NUJ Left” candidates, as I previously disclosed.
  Hoffman is understood to be baffled by Dear’s decision and has asked him to reconsider the plan on the grounds that it would “add to mistrust”.
  I understand that Dear is considering a request from Hoffman to appoint non-aligned NEC members to oversee the branch’s formation.
  The sources say that one idea being considered is for other non-aligned senior NUJ figures, such as John Toner, the freelance organiser, and Dave Rotchelle, chairman of the London freelance branch, to observe the establishment of the branch and the election of its officials.
  Update 26.01.10: The branch held its first meeting tonight, and, as predicted, “NUJ Left” members dominate its committee. Hoffman declined to accept a nomination to stand for a committee post. Meanwhile, it emerged that LPB has attracted only 57 members so far – far fewer than originally envisaged at this stage.
Mark Watts – freelance journalist, broadcaster and FOIA Centre co-ordinator – stood in the election for editor of the Journalist, polling third. He is not a member of any political party or group.

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Three of Dear’s four LPB ‘overseers’ are ‘NUJ Left’