Train company boss wrote speech for sacked Aslef leader

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The Independent Online

The sacked rail union leader involved in the infamous "battle of the barbecue" enjoyed the secret help and support of both ministers and train company executives, according to confidential documents.

The sacked rail union leader involved in the infamous "battle of the barbecue" enjoyed the secret help and support of both ministers and train company executives, according to confidential documents.

The papers reveal that a senior manager at the operator of the Heathrow Express rail service - a former special adviser to John Prescott - wrote an inaugural speech for Shaun Brady, who is seeking reinstatement as general secretary of the train drivers' union Aslef.

And, in a private letter, the transport minister Kim Howells seeks a briefing from Mr Brady, a Blairite, on the union man's battles with left-dominated executive of the union. The committee dismissed the Aslef general secretary last month for "gross misconduct".

In a hand-written postscript to the letter regretting the minister's inability to attend the union's conference, Mr Howells says: "I'd appreciate a chat soon so that you might fill me in on the situation re the national executive. Hope we can meet!"

Other evidence of the Government's close links with right-wingers at Aslef emerges in a memorandum from Martin O'Donovan, adviser to Ian McCartney, chairman of the Labour Party, to Aslef's assistant general secretary Mick Blackburn.

In the memo, Mr O'Donovan confirms that Pam Tatlow, a left-wing employee of Aslef, was at a meeting at which she promoted her intention to be selected as Labour parliamentary candidate for Tooting. Fellow left-wingers believe she was being "spied on" by the New Labour hierarchy which was determined to block her selection.

The documents seem to demonstrate that, despite continual denials by ministers, Government figures constantly interfere in union politics offering help to "friendly" trade unionists.

Perhaps far worse in the eyes of Aslef members is the revelation that a senior manager wrote a speech for Mr Brady intended as his inaugural address to the union's annual conference in June. The speech was never made because the conference was postponed until later this month pending an inquiry into Aslef's finances.

It was Mr Brady's refusal to co-operate with the investigation that led to his dismissal. A hearing into other allegations against Mr Brady, including bringing the union into disrepute over his involvement in the brawl at the barbecue, has been delayed.

The Brady speech, supplied by the ex aide to the Deputy Prime Minster, now a manager at BAA - the privatised airports authority that runs the Heathrow rail link - is predictably supportive of the Labour Government. The speech, written by Stephen Hardwick BAA's director of public affairs who advised Mr Prescott when he was Shadow Transport Secretary, is critical of both the executive and of Mick Rix, Mr Brady's left-wing predecessor.

On his contact with Mr Howells, Mr Brady said it was essential to build up a rapport with the minister with responsibility for the rail industry.

Andy Reed, national organiser at Aslef, said: "You have to ask yourself how is it that the general secretary of Aslef had so few allies in the union that he had to use a bosses' mouthpiece to write his speech."

Mr Hardwick said the speech for had been written for Mr Brady in "a private capacity as a Labour Party member and trade unionist."

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