UPDATED 23.10.09 Further
EXCLUSIVE by Fiona O'Cleirigh
Concerns about a candidate not declaring his political affiliation in the Journalist editorship election have been raised in the house of lords.
A life peer who is a member of the national union of journalists (NUJ), which publishes the Journalist magazine for its members, raised the matter in a written parliamentary question.
Lord Laird of Artigarvan, the well-known public-relations figure in Northern Ireland, said: “I under-stand that one of the candidates standing for this key position has an affiliation with a particular group within the union, one that he did not declare in election material sent to the electorate. In my opinion, undeclared factionalism is not acceptable.”
The crossbench peer continued: “In union elec-tions, I think people should be suspicious of the candidates and, where possible, opt for the independent.”
Laird began work in public relations in 1973, and from 1976 to 2005, was chairman of John Laird Public Relations, which became Northern Ireland’s premier PR agency.
An Ulster Unionist and former Stormont MP in Belfast during the early 1970’s, Laird says that he has been an NUJ member for nearly thirty years.
Laird asked the department of business, innov-ation and skills, which is headed by Lord Mandel-son, in a written question: “What proposals they have to require trade unions who elect their national officers to publish their political affiliations at the time of such elections.”
Lord Young of Norwood Green, minister for em-ployment relations, responded by saying: “The government has no proposals of this kind.”
The post of editor of the Journalist is being con-tested in an election after the enforced retirement of Tim Gopsill, who has held the post for 21 years. The editorship election takes place every five years, although Gopsill won two polls but was elected un-opposed twice.
Of eight NUJ members seeking election, one has been identified as the “NUJ Left” candidate even
though no declaration was made in the campaign material sent by the union to the electorate, including the election address. Voters could, however, have identified him by looking in Socialist Worker, or the website of “NUJ Left”, or by running
a Google search.
Candidates’ election addresses are required by law to be distributed with postal ballots to voters, but there is no legal requirement for political affiliations to be declared.
“NUJ Left” describes itself as an “inclusive coal-ition of activists” committed to “identifying and tar-geting key elected posts and NEC [national executive council] seats” and ensuring that “senior lay and elected left officials are accountable to NUJ Left.”
Fiona O’Cleirigh is a researcher, journalist and television producer. She has declared her supp-ort for the Mark Watts campaign. She is also a
member of the NUJ’s London freelance branch.
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