Balliol man climbs to top of union tree

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The Independent Online
LEIF MILLS, who took over as president of the TUC yesterday, has a curriculum vitae of which most senior Conservatives would be proud.

A graduate of Balliol College, Oxford, Mr Mills spent his national service as an officer in the Royal Military Police. He was the commanding officer of Corporal Jimmy Airlie, now a senior member of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union executive.

Mr Mills, 58, a doughty right-winger who is wont to bemuse his colleagues by speaking in Latin, has been general secretary of the Banking Insurance and Finance Union for 24 years, and is one of the longest-serving members of the TUC's ruling general council.

Mr Mills's first speech to TUC Congress was followed in short order by his union's expulsion from Congress. His union, along with the National Graphical Association, was expelled for registering under Ted Heath's Industrial Relations Act, which was subsequently repealed by the Wilson government.

On the TUC platform yesterday, while others wore Labour and union ties, Mr Mills's neckwear was representative of the Thames- based Leander Rowing Club, possibly the most upmarket sporting association.

Mr Mills said: 'I am particularly proud to be the first Balliol graduate to become TUC president - the last unclimbed peak of British life for the college.'