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The Queen Mother was a union member

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 (members of Unite the Union) 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 (now part of Unite), 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 Ernest Bevin”, said the Queen Mother in the letter, and so “it would be an honour” to become a member of the union. Ernest 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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One Comment

  1. And why not? Attlee had appointed Mountbatten (admittedly, no friend of the Queen Mother’s) as Viceroy of India, and Mountbatten had been Wilson’s first choice for the new position of Secretary of State for Defence, which he had felt obliged to decline only because of his closeness to the Royal Family, no small part of the reason why he had been asked in the first place.

    The Silver Jubilee was held under the Callaghan Government. The Queen had famously good relations with Wilson and Callaghan, in stark contrast to her famously bad relations with Thatcher, who called her “the sort of position who votes for the SDP” and who sought to usurp her position in public life. Callaghan threatened to resign as Labour Leader rather than contest a General Election on Tony Benn’s policy of abolishing the House of Lords as that House was constituted in 1980.

    Peter Shore denounced the Major Government’s decision to scrap the Royal Yacht, and supported Canadian against Spanish fishermen not least because Canada and the United Kingdom shared a Head of State. Labour MPs who opposed Thatcher’s cutting of Canada’s last tie to the Parliament of the United Kingdom, so opposing for the sake of the Aboriginal peoples and of the French-Canadians specifically as Her Majesty’s subjects.

    The Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party was founded out of the T&G explicitly in order to secure for the British workers of Gibraltar the same pay and conditions enjoyed by other British workers. Wilson deployed armed force in order to protect the right of the people of Anguilla to be British. Callaghan successfully prevented an Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands. Bernie Grant vociferously supported the monarchy because of its role in the Commonwealth, probably also the view of Diane Abbott.

    Such was the movement of the trade unionists and activists who peremptorily dismissed an attempt to make the nascent Labour Party anti-monarchist. A movement replete with MBEs, OBEs, CBEs, mayoral chains, aldermen’s gowns, and civic services; a movement which proudly provided a high proportion of Peers of the Realm, Knights of the Garter, members of the Order of Merit, and Companions of Honour, who had rejoiced in their middle periods to be Lords Privy Seal, or Comptrollers of Her Majesty’s Household, or so many other such things, in order to deliver the social democratic goods within the parliamentary process in all its ceremony.

    And such is the only movement, deeply rooted in municipal and parliamentary pageantry and charity, that could retain the pageantry and charity of the Lord Mayor, the Livery Companies, and so forth, while removing from the heart of our capital what amounts to a tax haven and, as the case to which Seddon refers illustrates, a state within the State, the last great Medieval republican oligarchy in Europe, right where the United Kingdom ought to be. No wonder that the republican oligarchs of New Labour, although theirs was a most limited concept of the res publica, were so keen on the City just as it is.

    There will now be no such movement this side of electoral reform. Bring it on.

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