Shouts of support still follow Gilchrist after tabloid attacks

Andy Gilchrist dipped a few miles into south Wales yesterday on the final leg of his frenetic mission to meet firefighters on the Celtic fringe. At Newport's leisure centre, striking firefighters were incensed by the treatment meted out to the leader of the Fire Brigades Union by the tabloid press.

In a question-and-answer session, one FBU member tore into The Sun in particular, which recently published a large picture of the firefighters' leader on the front page with a headline "Flaming Idiot'' on top of it. Yesterday the paper asked the question: "How many more people have to die?'' in close proximity to a photograph of Mr Gilchrist.

The firefighter said: "We are discussed the way we have been treated by the press. We are saying to the press that when you insult this man, you insult us all.''

To shouts of approval from the 500 firefighters gathered in the sweltering meeting room, Mr Gilchrist said that "he didn't give a monkey's'' what the tabloid press said, that it would not deflect him from his mission to eradicate poverty pay among his members.

That is a well-worn sentiment from a union leader in industrial action. But this is very much a modern industrial dispute.

Mr Gilchrist spent most of his time with his ear glued to a mobile phone talking to officials organising the industrial action, dealing with the media, occasionally speaking to fire service management and once or twice to the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, who tends to announce himself on the phone: "JP here.''

The only respite yesterday from the phone was on the plane from Belfast to Bristol, part of his three-day Meet-the-Members tour that also took in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

During the first firefighters' strike in 1997-78 the electronic media was not omnipresent. But today, 24-hour television has its insatiable appetite for pictures and interviews with the main dramatis personae in the FBU, largely Mr Gilchrist. Ever-present was a fly-on-the-wall camera whose operator is occasional asked to give the firefighters' leader and his small entourage a break from the oxygen of publicity.

At the Temple fire station in central Bristol at lunchtime, some 300 FBU members sounded their warning sirens as Mr Gilchrist approached. In a speech outside the fire station, which is also the headquarters of the Avon Brigade, he lambasted the "barmy Bain report'', a reference to the inquiry on pay and modernisation in the fire service compiled by Sir George Bain. It was one of the Government's attempts to provoke the firefighters' strike, Mr Gilchrist said.

His members' attitude to the deliberations of Sir George was summed up in a poster in a window at the fire station "For Sale by Auction – The British Fire Service''.

The FBU leader's peroration was greeted with acclaim by his audience, who waved a placard near a brazier: "Andy Gilchrist for PM''. Underneath a rough canopy thrown up outside the building, a barbecue had been made ready to sustain those on picketing duty. It could be much in use during the coming weeks.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
news

Sport
footballThe latest scores and Twitter updates from tonight’s games, featuring Bayern Munich vs Man City and Chelsea vs Schalke
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur
film

It scooped up an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards when it was first remade in 1959

News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's starring part
Extras
10 best table lamps
indybest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager (technical, applications, infrastructure)

£55000 - £60000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: IT Proj...

English Teacher (Bristol and South Gloucestershire)

Negotiable: Randstad Education Bristol: English teachers for day to day cover,...

Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Year 6 Teacher RequiredThis teaching...

SharePoint Administrator - Bishop's Stortford / Stansted

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SharePoint Administrator - Bishop's ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week