Let’s TalkTalk about hacking

It’s an unfortunate reality of the modern digital age that people will, from time to time, fall foul of individuals who seek to disrupt and subvert business and discourse. The current situation which TalkTalk finds itself in is a case in point.

Yesterday the Twitter account of General Secretary candidate Alison Millar fell victim to someone who hacked the account and deleted her tweets. Yes, that’s right, deleted her tweets.

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You’d have to wonder what type of individual or group would be interested in suppressing democratic opinion to the point that they would be desperate and disingenuous enough to hack a twitter account and risk a possible criminal conviction for doing so.

It’s regrettable that at the time of writing the silence from many of those who call for fair play and open and democratic debate, who you would think would vehemently oppose such behaviours, is deafening.

True democrats will, of course, speak out against this type of attack. It is an attack on democracy, free speech and the promotion of trade unionism.

As Socrates might have said in a modern context “When the debate is lost, hacking becomes the tool of the loser”.

Speak out and condemn these behaviours.

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Let me fix that for you….

The post below appeared on the twitter feed of @nipsaelection. It’s interesting for a number of reasons.

Let's talk about

Yes, many Headquarters staff and NIPSA unity members are indeed involved in Ms Millar’s campaign but then again so are many ordinary members, as is their right to do so in a democratic election involving a membership.

The commentator forgets to mention that the Broad Left and ordinary members are also involved in Padraig / Patrick’s campaign as they too are entitled to do and fails to mention the fact that the Socialist Party, a political party with no affiliation with NIPSA, which announced Padraig / Patrick’s candidacy, which has since 2006 been working to take over NIPSA and other unions for it’s own ends, has had its members (not members of NIPSA) campaigning outside various buildings on behalf of Padraig / Patrick. As such Padraig / Patrick’s camp have been anything but “quiet”.

Admittedly Twitter limits comments to 140 characters which makes reporting difficult but one would have thought, given that the account owner stated previously that the Twitter account was part of an effort to obtain a journalism qualification of some sort, that objectivity, impartiality and reporting of the facts might have been somewhat more to the fore of their reporting.

not a troll

I’m sure Padraig / Patrick would be disappointed to see this lack of acknowledgement of the hard work of his supporters, especially those who are giving of their time despite no connection to the union itself.

A way to go yet it would seem.

It’s democracy. stupid!

Now that the ballot papers have begun arriving with members it’s perhaps worth reminding people of a few things.

Irrespective of which of the two candidates your branch may have nominated, who you vote for is a matter for you and you alone. There is a lot of misinformation out there and some members think that you have to vote how your branch tells you to vote. This is simply not the case. Irrespective of who your branch has nominated (if anybody) you are free to vote for the candidate of your choice – that is what democratic elections are based upon. Should you wish to clarify this as fact you can email NIPSA at info@nipsa.org.uk or call them on 028 9066 1831 and they will be happy to confirm this to you.

If for whatever reason you do not intend to vote then under no circumstances should you pass your ballot paper to someone else. Ensure that your ballot paper is destroyed and rendered useless. People have been known to trawl through waste and recycle bins in offices to recover discarded ballot papers to shore up support for their preferred candidate(s). Do not afford them the opportunity to do this with your ballot / vote.

Let’s keep it fair, clean and most of all democratic.

“For a general secretary on a member’s wage”.

Perhaps Padraig / Patrick could clarify exactly what this pledge means.

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Will he specify what he means by “on a member’s wage”?

Is he proposing to take an average member’s wage (circa £25,000) or some other definition of a “member’s wage”?

In the spirit of a level playing field and an open democratic, clean campaign I think the membership should be told, because otherwise people might be duped into thinking this is some sort of salary sacrifice on Padraig / Patrick’s part whereas in reality he is simply stating the obvious in the hope that people are fooled into thinking he’s doing something unique or extraordinary.

Five reasons to elect Padraig / Patrick NIPSA General Secretary”. An analysis.

Well, here they are.

 The “five reasons”.

The salary promise deserves some analysis as it appears to be something of a red herring. Posturing aside, if elected Padraig / Patrick will accept the full (unknown) wage together with the pension benefits it brings and he’ll do exactly what anyone else can do with their salary and donate whatever amount of that to whoever he wants. Most people make such donations privately and don’t feel the need to publicize them. Had he announced if he were elected that he would accept only the average member wage (£25,000 approx) that would have been quite a commendable and meaningful promise. Padraig / Patrick says that he will take (claim) the same expenses as NIPSA members as opposed to the higher officials rate. Why take any expenses? I mean, if he can presumably afford to donate thousands of pounds to various causes from his new salary why would he need to claim expenses? To use Padraig / Patrick’s own terminology this salary and expenses pledge is “Tokenistic” , nothing more.

If he considers one day strikes “tokenistic” why did he campaign so hard for the one day strike on March 13th? What is this “”REAL” anti cuts movement” he is committed to building? Is this separate “movement” something outside of NIPSA or is this a thinly veiled announcement of an intention to align with the Socialist Party and other parties in an attempt to politicize NIPSA?  He had three years as President to develop “a “REAL” strategy to defend jobs and services”. What was he doing during that time?

He’s opposed to alliances with political parties that are based on the (religious) sectarian divide but is happy to have NIPSA commanded by the Socialist Party which itself in some regards is considered politically divisive / politically sectarian by many.

He’s committed to job creation, rebuilding public services, defending the welfare state – all things to be reasonably expected of any NIPSA member – but he’s also committed to “NIPSA’s democratic socialist alternative to austerity”. What exactly is that? How does it differ from NIPSA’s alternative to austerity. How, and why, is what Padraig / Patrick is committed to more “democratic” and why ought it to be “socialist” by definition in comparison to NIPSAs position. We really should be told.

According to the pamphlet Padraig / Patrick has allegedly been “a strong voice for public servants in the media”. I don’t recall his “strong voice” actually achieving anything but am happy to be corrected if someone can provide an actual example of his appearance in the media having directly positively affected the result or outcome of any public sector campaign issue.

The “Throughout his term as president Padraig / Patrick has proved….” statement is irrelevant. The qualities listed are not unique to Padraig / Patrick and have been qualities expected of and displayed by many past Presidents and will be expected of Presidents to come.

The reality is that there’s nothing specific in this pamphlet about Padraig / Patrick’s achievements or experience. Why is that?

An analysis of any new Alison Millar campaign materials will follow in due course.

“Elect one of your own”…

…..says the man who is supposedly standing on an  anti sectarian ticket. Padraig / Patrick has hinged his entire campaign on what he understands to be anti sectarianism.

The phrase “One of your own”, especially in a Northern Ireland context, is the epitome of sectarianism.

Clearly, given the banner headline of his election material, Padraig / Patrick has some issues with his interpretation of what constitutes sectarianism.

It’s embarrassing that his supporters and campaign members are engaging in the distribution of election materials encouraging the very thing their collective conscience is supposed to detest and rail against.

If Carlsberg did irony….

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It’s worth noting that there’s a rather touching endorsement on the reverse of the pamphlet which, rather conveniently, forgets to mention that one of the signatories (NIPSA President Carmel Gates) is also his partner.

An analysis of the “Five reasons to elect Patrick NIPSA General Secretary” will follow.

“Troll” is the new black….

…so it seems.

I notice a lot of use of the word “Troll” on Twitter and Facebook during this General Secretary election campaign.

Just because someone disagrees with you their doing so does not make them a “Troll” by definition.

Have a discussion, encourage discourse and challenge positions but don’t automatically call someone a “Troll” because they dare to question or challenge something that you might say. Continually doing so smacks of a victim mentality and suggests that you’re not at all confident in your stated position.

Play nice.

How about some real and genuine democracy?

Everyone knows that “All members” meetings are generally very poorly attended and that the majority of decisions to be taken at all members meetings are, in reality, taken by small numbers of attendees, mostly committee members.

This is a regrettable result of general indifference on the part of members compounded by increased workloads and demands on time which has resulted in many branch committees taking decisions for and on behalf of their members without proper engagement and consultation with them.

Now that both candidates have declared the number of branches (roughly, in Ms Millar’s case) that have nominated them will Padraig / Patrick and Alison be calling on the branches that nominated them to ensure that they circulate all election materials from both candidates to their branch members?

This is an excellent opportunity for both candidates to show and to prove their commitment to true democracy and a level playing field.

Padraig / Patrick has already been calling for a level playing field (though some have seen this as a “playing the victim” move) via his somewhat nonsensical  online “pledge” here . Padraig / Patrick’s statement “We believe that this election should be fought honestly, fairly and on a level playing field” is commendable. In reality both he and Ms Millar already have it within their grasp to ensure a greater degree of democracy and a level playing field in this process by acting as detailed above and ensuring that their respective support networks follow suit.

For example, those who hold branch committee positions who have signed the pledge, and there are a few, let’s see them back up their support for a level playing field by acting in line with the proposal above.

To not do so would suggest that genuine democracy is a casualty of the current process and that these “pledges” are mere window dressing and playing to the crowd.

Let’s see some real and genuine democracy Padraig / Patrick and Alison. You don’t need pledges, you just need to act.

Who has the right to campaign?

I see there is some debate over the participation of NIPSA HQ officials and their involvement in the current General Secretary election.

Posing the question but ignoring the issue.
Posing the question but ignoring the issue.

The conversation can be followed here.

There seems to be an attempt on the part of some to imply that any HQ staff involved in campaigning are, by default, “interfering” by campaigning for and on behalf of Ms Millar and that in doing so they are doing so for “personal gain”. Why should one assume this to be the case? Is Padraig / Patrick so unpopular at HQ that every official in HQ is campaigning for his opponent or is this an attempt at playing the victim?

I’m quite sure there will be HQ officials and staff campaigning for Padraig / Patrick.

Either way, I think it’s more appropriate that those with a close tie to NIPSA such as employees are allowed to campaign in that capacity as opposed to those who appear to have no ties to NIPSA campaigning from what appears to be a purely political perspective in order to achieve a political objective.

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Not a NIPSA member but campaigning on behalf of a fellow Socialist Party member.

As seen here.

Clearly the Padraig / Patrick campaign are happy for similarly politically minded outsiders to campaign on his behalf, so why the fuss expressed by others over the participation of HQ staff?

How much is this costing the membership?

Many if not most NIPSA members will be unaware that earlier this year the (predominantly Broad Left) General Council and the then President (Padraig / Patrick Mulholland) decided, contrary to legal advice received from the NIPSA solicitors McCartan Turkington Breen, to expel & revoke the membership of two members.

Despite various questionable reasons having been put forward for the expulsions there are grounds to believe the reasons behind the expulsions were politically motivated. Both of the expelled members apparently hold political views which differ from those of the Socialist Party, the political party behind the planned takeover of NIPSA. They were identified as representing a threat to the planned takeover and were dealt with as such with the General Council and President using an allegation of a flawed membership admission process as the reason for their expulsion.

Apparently the two individuals have taken legal steps to have the decision on their memberships reversed. The General Council have sought further legal advice (using members subscription money) to try to bolster their position. Unfortunately for them the second set of legal advice is rumoured to confirm what the original legal advice stated.

This raises very serious issues and questions.

Why will the General Council not reply to letters from branches asking for a breakdown of the costs incurred so far?

Is this the future of NIPSA where if you disagree or show dissent or are perceived to think contrary to a certain political mindset you are expelled?

Where does this tie in with the supposed open, accountable “democratic union” we are being told we are to be afforded?

Will either Padraig / Patrick Mulholland or Alison Millar be up front and honest with the members and tell them what the legal advice was (both sets) and how much of the memberships monthly subscriptions have already been spent on what appears to be a futile exercise in political sectarianism and political bureaucracy and how much the solicitors anticipate the potential costs and reputational damage to be in the event that NIPSA is taken to task and loses?

Since Padraig / Patrick is making such a big issue out of financial accountability to members on what he might spend his additional salary on in the event that he wins the General Secretary election we can only but wonder why he and the General Council are so tight lipped on how they are spending our money in relation to this issue.

As for the sets of legal advice received, we’ve paid for them so we’d like to see them.