Guru loves a trip to the seaside, so it is lucky for him that the trade unions all tend to have their annual shindigs in Brighton. The mother – or in light of the location’s allegiance to the ‘pink pound’, should that be the co-habiting father? – of these bashes comes every September when the TUC rocks into town.
So last week, Guru arose early (before midday), packed his hankie for headgear and headed for the beach. After a quick walk along the seafront, he joined the queue at the Brighton Centre to enjoy the traditional first spectacle of the day: the soapbox squawkers.
This year, for the enjoyment of delegates and locals, there was a bloke shouting about smoking. “The problem in this society, the reason for the holocaust we are subjecting our children to, is actors smoking in films,” he announced. They should be banned, apparently. Those smoking in feature-length TV dramas would appear to be OK, though.
Once inside, Guru bought an over-priced cup of tea and a greasy bacon sandwich to get into the union mindset before settling down to enjoy the opening addresses.
General secretary Brendan Barber told delegates that prime minister Gordon Brown’s below-inflation public sector pay rises were “plain wrong”, and then welcomed Brown to the rostrum with a smile and a handshake that said it was OK really.
Delegates waved placards telling Brown they wanted higher public sector pay. Brown smiled and said that he wouldn’t give them higher public sector pay. Delegates clapped.
Starting to tire of the empty rituals, Guru sloped off to the beach for some revitalising fluids. He returned just in time to witness the real action at an evening fringe event.
Unite joint director-general Tony Woodley, and Rail and Maritime Transport union chief Bob Crow, were spitting feathers over the prime minister’s speech. They wanted more rights to strike, more left-wing policies, and more chances to shout in their heavily accented unionist manner. And there was free alcohol. Whining and wining – this was more like it.
As the event drew to a close, Guru headed off happily for a sundowner on the pebbled shore before catching his train home. Yet another summer ritual completed.