Hearty congratulations are in order this week to Sir Brendan Barber, whose lifetime of “services to employment relations” has finally been recognised by the queen.
What services are these, you may ask?
Barber took a full time job at the TUC a year after leaving university. He gradually drifted up the promotions ladder without building a single union branch or winning a single election.
He was there for 38 years without ever being elected by the membership. And looking back, it’s hard to find many examples of him having made the slightest difference either way.
But in 2011, as 2.5 million workers struck over public sector pensions, Barber held secret talks with Tory ministers and pushed through the deal that got the strikes called off.
That’s a “service to employment relations” that essentially ended Barber’s career—a sacrifice for which the bosses were immensely grateful.
John Cridland of the CBI bosses’ organisation called him “the rational face of trade unionism” whose “measured leadership has been very much in evidence in dispute resolution, particularly in the public sector”.
Need we say more?
Other new knights include one MP from each of the main coalition parties, and top civil servants like Jonathan Stephens—who oversaw the BSkyB scandal at the Department of Culture.
And let’s not forget hedge fund manager Michael Hintze, knighted for services to philanthropy.
We know he likes to give his wealth away, having donated more than £1.5 million to the Tories.
He even helped pay for the world travel and office space of Adam Werritty, sidekick and “advisor” of former defence minister Liam Fox.
Then there’s Thames Water boss Robert Collington, who got an OBE for services to consumers.
Presumably that refers to hiking prices up above inflation while declining to pay any corporation tax.
The rich and their media sycophants would like us to get excited about the queen’s birthday honours.
This year has plenty of celebrities—from Adele, the crooner who said paying tax made her want to “buy a gun and randomly open fire” to Anish Kapoor who “designed” the monument to Boris Johnson’s ego in east London.
But they’re less keen to name the 20 people who turned down an honour this year.
Spare a thought for 11 year old Jacob Lynn, who was in tears last week after his Devon primary school refused to serve him lunch—because his family owed the school a measly £1.75.
Jacob’s outraged dad is trying to find him a new school. At least 168,000 other children will soon know how he feels—as the new Universal Credit benefits system is set to rob them of free school meals.
The Duchess of Cambridge smashed a £1,250 giant Champagne bottle last week—to launch the latest in a long line of ships named Royal Princess.
Its last illustrious predecessor changed name and owner twice, following a bankruptcy and then a fire in the engine room. We wish Kate’s boat all the same good fortune.
The drivers who got skirty with the boss
After Virgin Rail in Britain, Arriva in Sweden has been the latest transport company to see staff rebel over harsh uniform policies.
It banned male drivers on the busy Roslagsbanan line from wearing shorts to work in hot weather. They had to “look well dressed and proper, and that means trousers if you’re a man”.
But instead of submitting to uncomfy trousers, the drivers took to wearing skirts. After two weeks, the bosses backed down and lifted the ban on shorts.
Rail regulators have blasted bosses at Network Rail.
Apparently privatised trains are expensive, run down and unreliable. Who knew?
Network Rail could face a heavy fine unless it saves £2 billion at the same time as bringing in new trains and making them run on time.
But hang on—weren’t we told that privatisation would make the system more efficient?
Guess it must be the wrong kind of privatisation.
Imagine you’re the prime minister of Syria—at war with your own people and universally hated for killing tens of thousands of civilians.
How might you fight back in the propaganda war?
Maybe you could try posing for photos with Holocaust-denying MEP Nick Griffin, beleaguered leader of the fascist British National Party.
Dictator Bashar al-Assad’s henchman Wael al-Halqi did just that last week.
Perhaps he figured even he would seem like a decent fellow in comparison with Nazi Nick.
Griffin said he was in Syria on a “fact-finding mission” to discredit the Syrian rebels.
In that spirit, can we humbly suggest that he could find a particularly informative vantage point standing in the path of their bullets?
Tax avoiding utility firm
State deaths quads in Derry, Phillip Green still trousering cash
The Troublemaker looks at the news of the week