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NUJ Conference: Still Quite Mad

This is a guest post by Micky Flong

As mainstream journalism in the UK faces the biggest crisis of its history, the lunatic fringe of the National Union of Journalists is not short of windmills to charge. At the policy-setting annual conference in Southport last weekend, motions took on the 1984 killings of Sikhs in India (a bad thing), Arnold Schwarzenegger’s termination of the school book budget in California (a bad thing) and Israel (a flawed but nonetheless welcome beacon of press freedom in a sea of dictatorships).

Sorry, we made the last one up. More on that later.

The prime moment of loopiness, however, came when one over-excited delegate proposed banning photography. Of a conference of journalists. The trigger was the undeniably unpleasant discovery that the thuggish and semi-literate Redwatch website had reproduced a journalism student’s photo of two dippy-looking delegates posing outside the conference with copies of Socialist Worker. Luckily, sanity prevailed after a stirring speech by another student.

Back to the big question. Item five of a seven-point round-robin condemnation of Israel noted “The call by the Scottish TUC for a campaign of boycott, disinvestment and sanctions against Israel.

The National Executive opposed the motion and tried to remove the boycott paragraph, but the standing orders committee ruled that it had to be taken as a whole. It passed overwhelmingly.

The NEC was also rebuffed when it called on members to vote for an amendment that would have excused the NUJ from the next trade union delegation to Palestine/Israel on the grounds that participation would compromise journalists’ impartiality. The sentiment got short shrift. “The Middle East is not a football match where journalists can hold impartiality,” said David Crouch of the London Central Branch. “We must be on the side of those who suffer most.”

The good news from our inky-fingered brothers and sisters is that the gap between the loonie fringe and the mainstream mass of working journalists has been shown up decisively by the (relatively) high turnout of in the election for the NUJ’s house magazine, The Journalist. The NUJ Left’s candidate was soundly defeated by Christine Buckley, a former Times reporter and the only woman in the eight-sided race.

Placed second was freelance Michael Cross, who had stated explicitly that The Journalist under his editorship would have less space for political campaigns of only marginal relevance to journalism. And despite the backing of his PCS boss Mark Serwotka, NUJ Left’s candidate Richard Simcox came a dismal seventh.

To add to NUJ Left’s woes, the house Bilderberg enthusiast and 7/7 Troofer told the conference webcast that he would not consider joining the fringe group.

Still any organisation that Gosling won’t have anything to do with must have something going for it.