Monday 20 February 2012
As a student at the LSE in the early 1960s, I remember Allan Segal (obituary, 15 February) as a moderate firebrand, writes Nick Howard.
He challenged both lecturers and left radicals about the practicality of their ideas and their means of getting them across. His method of working was made for documentaries and current affairs programmes. I met him again in 1973 and 1980, when I was a trades union studies tutor for employees of the steel industry.
BSC was still being run by its managers from the old private companies as though they had no accountability; Allan took up the case of the families whose relatives had been killed for lack of proper safety provisions. BSC banned the use of TV cameras on site; Allan gave permission for union safety reps to operate them. The programme was both dramatic and truthful.
When Sir Keith Joseph and Nicholas Ridley decided to take on the unions, Allan's team was given internal documents rescued from the shredder which were used to uncover the facts behind the prolonged steel strike in 1980. Graphic images were shown on television screens across the nation, showing that Tory ministers had provoked the strike by cutting subsidies to BSC at a time of rampant inflation. What had appeared to be a normal trades union dispute was now shown to be the first Thatcherite onslaught against organised workers.
Allan was meticulously insistent that his research team had the facts right. That they did was proven by the subsequent parliamentary and legal rows that tried to condemn World in Action's intervention as somehow illegal and irresponsible. Allan Segal's principled approach to the task of letting the facts be known has still to be taken up by many of the main television and radio news channels and remains the hallmark of the best investigative reporting.
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