Saturday, January 20

Collaborator -v- Appeaser

A somewhat boring (but important) election is about to commence between two Johns for the National Chairmanship of the UK's largest Business Organization. The competition is between an overt collaborator and a covert appeaser.

The losers will be the Federation of Small Business's (FSB) Members who will be too engaged in their over regulated toil to notice, or care, as to who their next Chairman will be. The salient fact is that all 200,000 plus of them should care but if past performance is any thing to go by less that 5 per cent will actually complete and return the postal ballot papers.
John Walker is the appeaser. He is a long standing businessman, a former self employed recruiter for the FSB who is currently developing a business as a freelance marketing and research expert (what ever that means) and has been the Chairman of the Federation's National Policy Committee for six years, not that many have noticed.

In the key role as UK Policy Chairman and in defiance of the sentiments of the membership, which has twice voted for withdrawal from the EU, once in 1995 and again in 2001, when the majority was 2:1 Mr Walker has placated the pro-EU fraction within the Federation. Last year he proudly announced the opening of a new FSB office at 'the heart of Europe' in Brussels, celebrated by the publication of a a report, which amazingly made no concessions at all to the well known views of most of its members.
Mr Walker (a polite, quietly spoken and charming man) has a detailed grasp of the complex structures of the workings of our true government in Brussels, which makes his appeasement stance quite inexplicable, though one is forced to conclude this is in keeping with the risk adverse nature of the FSB.
Under Mr Walker's control a large group of men and women meet regularly and discuss policy issues produce reports and discuss the how the government can make better (not less) regulations. The Policy people are obsessed with working with, not against, government and the constantly increasing number of regional quangos. On key issues that are debated at the FSB's Annual four day extravaganza for activists Mr Walker's policy representatives appear during debates, all to frequently, to announce ''that on this issue the policy committee has no policy''. Risk adverse indeed.
The collaborator is John Wright from the North East (pictured right on the right). Mr Wright's profile on the FSB web site curiously describes his background as both 'rooted in small business' and 'a Lawyer specializing in employment law, contract, patent and company law.'
Well now, the reality is that Mr Wright's background is rooted for many years as a Legal Clerk (later titled Executive) with the now disbanded Cleveland County Council and a Trade Union Activist to boot. Mr Wright's membership of the National Executive Committee of the anti-entrepreneurial Trade Union NALGO (now merged with UNISON) is perhaps not surprisingly not mentioned in his election address to members. The reason perhaps being that NALGO fought every single change that vastly opened up market opportunities to small businesses in the '80s and early ‘90s, and it lost on nearly every occasion.
For some eleven years Mr Wright, now 64, has been in business in Middlesbrough. In a feature last November in his local newspaper, The Gazette (published in Teesside) Mr Wright revealed the best and worst pieces of advice he had received in his short business career. The best being, ''never underestimate your own capabilities'' and the worst being ''don't listen to your staff''. One of Wright's self claimed capabilities are employment law. In December 2004 as a national vice-chairman (he prefers 'chair') Mr Wright seriously failed to listen to an FSB regional office employee when he was involved (following a secret Officers meeting) with closing down the north east's regional office (a curious decision itself) which served the local membership of over 3,000 business people.
The disgruntled (and newly jobless) member of staff commenced legal proceedings against the FSB following a seriously botched affair by the north east regional officers; Mr Wright was conclusively found to be the principal blamed by the FSB's General Secretary for mishandling the issue, the former employee was awarded a substantial out of court settlement to save the FSB from further considerable embarrassment. As an Industrial Tribunal hearing Chairman in the north east Mr Wright was also clearly very keen that the badly managed affair did not go to an actual hearing since the details would have resulted in many reassessing his capabilities in his supposed area of expertise.
Mr Wright's old style Trade Union habits have surfaced from time to time as an FSB activist. His macho control style of chairing committee meetings and his intolerance to criticism is that of the classic British union bully and often commented on by fellow activists. Last summer the editor of this blog, Peter Troy, (a long time member of the FSB) was 'sent to Coventry' in a motion proposed by Mr Wright's wife, Pam and seconded by Mr Wright himself for the 'offence' asking too many questions about (Wright's) brazen pro Labour Party, pro Regionalisation, pro EU, pro Quango bias on Federation policy issues and indeed lack of proper Political Lobbying. At the Blackpool Head Office an increasingly annoyed General Secretary subsequently ruled the sending to Coventry of Peter Troy as illegal. Mr Troy's subsequent formal complaint to the FSB's Disciplinary Committee is still ongoing; four months after the complaint was made since Mr Wright is refusing to co-operate with the Federation's complaint process.
Amazingly Mr Wright, who is not renowned for his attention to detail, is advocating the abolition (in effect) of the highly successful professional recruitment teams of the Federation which have produced huge numbers (currently over 35,000 per year) of new members constantly for 14 years. Mr Wright apparently believes that it would be more cost effective if the FSB's all too numerous committee members had a go at recruiting. Well the last time that was tried the FSB was losing more members each year than it was recruiting; hardly a logical policy.
One wonders though, whether the FSB rank-and-file membership, who are notoriously apolitical, will actually notice who is the new Chairman of their organization. They have after all joined because one day a highly motivated recruiter had persuasively (and correctly) pointed out that with the ever increasing regulations imposed upon them by our political masters they can not afford not to join.
So there we have it, John Walker (left of picture, at a Darlington Branch meeting in December 2002) the entrepreneurial appeaser from Surrey or John Wright from the troubled North East, the collaborator and former Trade Unionist turned employment law expert.
Well as is very clear this blog is of the view that Mr Wright is wrong (for the FSB) and should leave Mr Walker as the better (but far from ideal) candidate to run the UK's largest member based business organization.


Tom Aspinal said...

Now I know I was right to join and right to leave.

Edward Spalton said...

FSB (of which I am a member) seems to be going in the direction of many trade associations, becoming de facto part of the administration - going into "partnership" with official agencies.

At one of the last FSB meetings I attended, I overheard two men who operated training companies hatching a ripping wheeze. There is a simple type of defribrilator now available (the machine that gives an electric shock to someone who has had a heart attack). Their idea was to lobby for a new law requiring employers to have one of these machines "just in case". Then people would have to be trained to operate them safely and this would be a whole new market for these chaps, guaranteed by legislation. They could not understand why I was so cross with them!

I am afraid that many trade association have permitted themselves to be coopted into the corporate state as quasi regulators themselves.

Edward Spalton

Lynn Riley said...

Oh my God !

Malcolm Pearson said...

Leaving the European Union would free us from its stifling regulation and would therefore be hugely advantageous to our economy; it would create many jobs, adding substantially to our GDP. It is thus a positive, enriching and thoroughly modern thing for us to do in this globalised world. It is a policy for a better future.

Anonymous said...

How can a committed Trade Unionist belive that he is the right man for the top job in the FSB ?

Rooted in business - who does John Wright think he is kidding ?

An FSB Member

Peter Troy said...

Yes, some may well be amazed at the true colours of John Wright. He is in my experience a bully and a nasty one when he is in danger of being exposed. When it was clear to him that I was asking questions which if he answered truthfully would expose his pro Regionalisation bias (in full support of his Trade Union chum John Prescott) he acted against me.

Amazingly and against all the rules of natural justice and indeed the FSB's own rules John and Pam Wright formally proposed at the May 2006 meeting of the FSB's North East Regional Committee meeting that I should be sent to Coventry (my term). The proposal followed a Kangaroo Court which was held in my absence.

Below is an extract from the minutes from the Committee meeting.

The Member {Peter Troy} had submitted two questions and a proposal to the branch and these were read out to the Regional Committee.

After discussion it was proposed that the Regional Committee should not communicate with this member now or in the future.

Proposer: Pam Wright
Seconder: John Wright


In September 2006 I made a formal complaint to the FSB - a hearing date has been set for eary March it will be interesting to see if Mr and Mrs Wright turn up to account for their bullying actions. I might get a surprise and they may both apologise but then Pigs mighty fly from the TUC HQ down Whitehall and land in front of the gates of Number 10. said...

When is this election diue to take place.. or has it happened already?

Peter Troy said...

The ballot papers were sent out to members in the last week of February.

On 27 Feb I made a formal complaint to the Federation that Mr Wright's Election Address to members is both misleading and seriously deceptive.

John Wright's roots are in the public sector not as he overstates in ''the small business'' community. He has spent years giving people the very distinct impression that he is a qualified Lawyer - he is not.

Wright makes much of his skills as a public speaker and meeting Chairman. In the former he is boring at the latter he is an outright bully.

Doreen Simson said...

Mr Troy appears to have an issue with John Wright and I suspect it is far more to do with personalities than with any internal FSB issues.

If he's that against John Wright, why is it that there are numerous photos on various websites showing him buddying up to Mr Wright? And indeed to Mr Walker.

Peter Troy said...

I also have photographs of my self taken at the European Parliament; which I also disagree with.