Earlier this year, in a number of articles referencing the fake fascist Solidarity "trade union", we stated that the "one big union" had a grand total of 211 members - a figure culled from founding member Tim Hawke's email statement made to a member of the LU team in May 2007 that Solidarity then had "nearly" 100 members, and Patrick Harrington's later claim for gains in membership that brought the total in early 2007 to 211.
We have to admit that we were wrong - completely wrong.
However, as our figures came from sources that are known for keeping only the most mercurial of relationships with The Truth, perhaps we can be forgiven the error?
As it turns out, the true figure for membership of the "fighting union" at the end of 2007 was a whopping 124, four of which appear to have "no home or authorised address". Given the fate of membership lists belonging to fascist outfits, the allegedly homeless four may yet have cause to celebrate their untraceability - always assuming, of course, that they actually exist.
Since its founding, the fortunes of Solidarity have assumed the pace and scale of a Brian Rix farce (this being the fate of any organisation touched by the luckless hand of Patrick Harrington), and the doings of the fake union's cast of misfits and losers have provided us with a good deal of amusement in the past two years. The same doings by the same misfits and losers should also have provided those unfortunates who insist on taking Solidarity seriously with more than ample cause for concern.
It is a matter of record that the BNP was obliged to hijack its own front-group from its founders to save the skin of Patrick Harrington and to keep it on a course favoured by the BNP, which led to the simultaneous existence of two Solidarity's - the legally constituted version led by Clive Potter and Tim Hawke, and the BNP-dominated hijacked version, led by Adam Walker and Patrick Harrington.
It was only in May of this year that the trade union Certification Office took up numerous complaints regarding irregularities in the financial affairs of Solidarity, all of them lodged by Clive Potter, Tim Hawke and Bill McLinden, with additional material supplied by Lancaster Unity and Searchlight - neither of which organisations, I must emphasise, has been in contact with, or has in any way supported Messrs Potter, Hawke and McLinden.
The Certification Office investigator's findings on the allegations are now available for download, and I recommend you read them carefully.
The inspector appointed to investigate the complaints was Gerard Walker (Assistant Certification Officer), who was hamstrung in that his terms of reference precluded him "from reaching any conclusions" in the matter of which version of Solidarity was the legitimate one - even though this was of fundamental importance to many of the allegations he investigated. Intriguingly, Mr Walker does say that he considered "various complaints of breach of rule and breach of statute that had been made against Solidarity by Mr Potter, Mr Mullen, Mr McLinden and Ms Haynes and which are now being progressed to a hearing or hearings".
Perhaps Clive Potter intends to have his day in court after all?
The inspector's looming visit to Edinburgh seems to have galvanised Patrick Harrington, since, being unable to provide an original receipt for £39 in printing expenses, he apparently did have a copy of the same "certified as an authentic copy by an Edinburgh solicitor". Since it is highly unlikely that the Edinburgh solicitor was present when Harrington came into possession of the original (and we are assuming there ever was an original) and also present when it was copied by whatever means, we can only presume that Harrington took himself off to this solicitor, copied receipt in hand, and swore to its authenticity.
If that is indeed what happened then it is a very curious circumstance indeed. We wonder how many real trade union general secretaries have found it necessary to have solicitors certify "copies" of receipts they claim to have "mislaid"?
Mr Walker continues: "Mr Harrington admitted that he had not kept structured petty cash records. He explained that given the small amount of money involved he had merely kept receipts when using the cash in hand and kept the balance in his own personal safe... He has also given an explanation as to his handling of the cash in hand, having admitted that he kept no structured petty cash records... Given the small amounts of money involved and the apparent authenticity of the receipts presented to me, I declined to investigate further in the absence of any evidence that the receipts were not authentic."
Or, indeed, any evidence that the receipts were authentic. Maybe we should be grateful that Mr Walker did not choose a career in the police force.
In section 15 Mr Walker states: "Mr Potter had alleged that since January 2007 Mr Harrington has been operating an 'unknown' Paypal Account to which he refused to share the access codes or relinquish control when he was suspended on 3 June 2007."
In the next section Mr Walker says that Potter did have knowledge of the account, and in section 17: "When interviewed by me Mr Potter accepted that, in essence, he was arguing that by Mr Harrington not having given the Executive access to the Paypal Account (which he says was requested by them prior to his suspension) Mr Harrington had improperly retained 'de facto' private control of part of the Union revenue. Mr Potter also argued that from the date of Mr Harrington's suspension, 3 June 2007, fund transfers to the Solidarity HSBC Account were no longer evident. He alleged that Mr Harrington had therefore committed fraud by operating a stolen account."
But Harrington's suspension, though vital to this matter, is something beyond Mr Walker's remit. In section 18 we have:
"In response to these allegations Mr Harrington stated that he had never formally been asked by the Solidarity Executive to hand over the Paypal Account details including access codes. He accepted that he may have been asked informally for this information by Mr Potter and he agreed that he did not give the information to Mr Potter."
And in section 20 Mr Walker washes his hands of the Paypal affair: "In essence the allegations made by Mr Potter and others in regard to this matter arise out of the unresolved dispute within Solidarity about the application of its rules to its governance. My terms of reference specifically preclude me from reaching any conclusions in this area."
Section 21 deals with Potter's allegation that Harrington made two unauthorised withdrawals from Solidarity's HSBC account, and one unauthorised transfer from its HSBC Business Money Manager Account into its HSBC community account in September 2007. Potter claimed that Harrington's name had been removed as an authorised signatory in June 2007, which the HSBC clearly accepted since it re-credited the monies following a complaint by Potter.
According to Mr Walker, in section 22: "Mr Harrington admitted that he had made the withdrawals. He produced minutes of a meeting of the Solidarity Executive held on 14 July 2007. The Executive in question was the new [BNP dominated] Executive appointed at the EGM on 14 July. These record that he had been instructed to take all necessary steps to gain full control of the HSBC account of the union. They also record that he was instructed to 'withdraw all funds possible from this account and pay into a new bank account.' In addition Mr Harrington produced bank statements and receipts to show what had happened to the money after he made the withdrawals. As already pointed out Mr Potter and Mr Hawke do not accept the legitimacy of the Executive Committee appointed at the EGM on 14 July 2007 and subsequently dispute any action or instructions it has issued."
And by section 23 Mr Walker has his hands under the tap again: "At the heart of these allegations is the unresolved dispute within Solidarity about the application of its rules to its governance. My terms of reference specifically preclude me from reaching any conclusions on this issue."
Section 23 deals with a number of cheque payments made by Harrington which Potter alleges were not approved by the Solidarity Executive, and for which Harrington had not provided receipts. Harrington did show cheque-book stubs to Mr Walker, but there are some curiosities here.
Mr Walker says: "The first payment concerned the purchase of rail tickets. The rail tickets in question had been retained by an automated ticket barrier."
It happens all the time.
"The second payment was in respect of expenses claimed by a Solidarity member who had travelled to London from Swansea for the Union's AGM. He had not been able to find the Solidarity steward redirecting members to the AGM location and had been very angry about his wasted journey. Mr Harrington stated that he and Mr Potter had agreed to pay the rail and tube fares and subsistence as a gesture of good will. Mr Potter does not dispute that he agreed that this payment be made. He alleges however, that it was paid in cash out of a cash donation made to Solidarity at the AGM. Mr Harrington denies this. Given that the relevant bank account is currently frozen it is not possible to retrieve the cheque to settle this dispute one way or the other."
Two cheques for a total of £485 were paid to "a commercial printer in Edinburgh" in May and June 2007, of which Mr Walker notes, "During the course of my investigation Mr Potter suggested that there might be some personal or political link between Mr Harrington and the commercial printers in Edinburgh used by Solidarity."
Harrington denied this.
Most curiously of all, Harrington was paid £75 per month in expenses, but not - as you would suppose - into an account in his own name. For his own mysterious reasons Harrington had the expenses paid into an account in the name of P.A. Sharp, his briefly famous ex-wife. This does not seem to us to accord with the behaviour of real general secretaries of real trade unions. Why, and from whom, did Harrington wish to obscure the fact that he was in receipt of £75 in expenses each month? Is this still his regular practice? We think we (and perhaps certain agencies concerned with the disbursement of benefits) should be told?
Rather too often, but inevitably, Mr Walker falls back on the refrain, "My terms of reference specifically preclude me from reaching any conclusions in this area", notably in relation to an account opened by Harrington with the Bank of Scotland in August 2007, which Clive Potter claims to be "unconstitutional and unlawful", due to the fact of its being opened on the instructions of the usurped BNP-dominated Executive.
Pressing on, Mr Walker records the appointment of Graham Williamson's super-unsuccessful Accentuate PR to act on Solidarity's behalf. As we have commented on this particular incestuous - and deeply suspect - relationship on previous occasions, we'll pass directly to Mr Walker's remarks:
"On the evidence presented to me it does not appear that the appointment of Accentuate amounted to a breach of the rules of Solidarity. I was presented with no evidence which established to my satisfaction any corruption or other wrong doing regarding the appointment of Accentuate or in the on-going relationship between Solidarity and Accentuate. Whether Solidarity needs a PR company and whether it is getting value for money from its association with Accentuate is an issue for the Solidarity Executive and the wider membership of Solidarity. It is not a matter within my terms of reference."
Embedded within that statement is, at least, a gentle hint that Solidarity is not getting value for money from Accentuate - something readily apparent to anybody not operating within Mr Walker's terms of reference. As for "corruption and other wrong doing", we credit our readers with enough intelligence and common-sense to make up their own minds on the nature of the unhealthy old pals act currently slicing up the Solidarity cake in their own favour. It all comes down to how the each of us defines "corruption".
Later in the report, Mr Walker is slightly more free with his views, drawing the attention of Solidarity's membership to the "close relationship (based on previous and current political connections) between the owner of the consultancy and Mr Harrington and Mr Kerr. [And] the question [of] whether a union of the size and with the limited resources of Solidarity needs or can justify the employment of a PR consultancy."
The deeper we go into the report, the more obvious it becomes that despite the formality of his civil service approach, his impartiality, and resolve never to step outside his remit, Mr Walker seems well aware of the nature of the people with whom he is dealing.
In the matter of Solidarity's 2006 accounts, Clive Potter made the incontrovertible allegation that Harrington (strangely, for a supposed trade union general secretary) breached the union's Rule 15 in the appointment of "close friends and political allies", Messrs Lindley and Smith, as auditors. Lindley, apparently a barrister, had been a member of the National Front, while Smith was with the BNP.
Mr Walker again:
"Mr Potter stated that the Executive Committee had played no role in the appointment of the auditors but had expected Mr Harrington to have the accounts independently audited. He said that Mr Harrington had told the Executive that, between Easter and the end of May 2007, he was working on the accounts but had met a problem in the amount of the fees required by accountants to act as independent auditors. He said Mr Harrington was 'given space by the Executive Committee to do his job' and that it was Mr Harrington who found the auditors Mr Lindley and Mr Smith. Mr Potter stated that he only became aware of the identity of the auditors when he received the AR 21 [statement of accounts] in May 2007. He was aware that Mr Smith was close to the BNP and was concerned that the auditors did not comply with Solidarity's rules. Mr Potter was unable to produce any minutes of the Executive Committee or other documentation relating to the appointment of the auditors. He said there was none. He further explained that the last quorate meeting of the Executive Committee (prior to the May 2007 meeting referred to above) had been in October/November 2006. Mr Potter said there was nothing in his note of the Executive meeting on 20 May 2007 about auditors but that the appointment of auditors was an obvious issue in May 2007 as it was close to the deadline for the submission of the AR21 to the Certification Office. He added that he had received e-mails from Mr Harrington asking to be left alone to do his job. Mr Potter stated that he had told Mr Harrington that the appointment of the auditors had to be agreed by the Executive Committee and that they must be independent."
We presume that Potter had drawn Harrington's attention to Rule 15 - in fact we must assume that as general secretary, Harrington was well aware of it, and of the relevant statement contained within Clause B: "Professional accountants shall be engaged to audit the account of the Union and prepare annual accounts for the Executive Committee."
Here Harrington managed to provide what he claimed to be a copy of his note to the Executive Committee meeting, in which - allegedly - the matter of auditors was discussed, with Potter and Tim Hawke agreeing that Lindley and Smith should be approached.
Mr Walker states that this copy was prepared by Harrington, and signed as a "true and accurate record" by himself - and close friend Graham Williamson. Mr Walker stresses again that Clive Potter disputes the accuracy of this note, and that no agreed minute of the meeting exists.
Fortuitous, then, that Harrington should happen to have a copy.
The inspector continues: "Mr Harrington now accepts that the rules of the Union appear to require that professional accountants are appointed by the Executive to audit the accounts. He accepts that this was not done."
This seems to us to be something of a let-off for Harrington, since the man could not fail to be aware of his own union's rules, which are quite explicit. And yet still - Clive Potter's contradiction of Harrington notwithstanding - he went ahead and appointed close personal friends to act as auditors.
Mr Walker: "Mr Harrington accepts that in appointing lay auditors to audit the accounts of the Union for the period ending 31 December 2006 Solidarity probably acted in breach of its own rules. However, Mr Harrington claims that this was done in error and was not a deliberate breach."
To this we can only restate that Harrington must have been aware of his own union's rules - he is, after all, its general secretary. So, Solidarity did not act in breach of its own rules. Harrington did. And knowing those rules, the breach cannot have been anything other than deliberate.
Needless to say, Solidarity is seeking (or already has made) a rule change to allow for the appointment of lay auditors, which will, we are sure, prove to be a far more convenient and convivial arrangement for the general secretary of the one big union.
The report's conclusions are, as you might expect, unsatisfying. Mr Walker restates the instances of unacceptable financial practices found by him, but always runs back for the cover of his limited "remit", his strongest language being that Solidarity had demonstrated a "regrettable attitude towards compliance with its own rules".
That's certainly one way of putting it. We can think of many others.
Harrington, then, received kid-glove treatment throughout the report, while "those bringing the allegations that I have investigated were more concerned with progressing [the internal] power struggle than the actual issues relating to process and compliance that I have been called upon to investigate by my terms of reference".
Quite how that applies to information supplied independently by Lancaster Unity and Searchlight is not clear in the slightest.
Passing on from Mr Walker's hand-washing exercise we come to Solidarity's 2007 accounts, which may be downloaded here.
I do not propose to deal with the accounts in any depth, save to draw attention to certain matters of interest.
Filed under "administrative expenditure" we find the astonishing figure of £7818, while "benefits to members" are listed as a miserly £224 (this last would appear to be covered in £200 solicitors' costs and £24 "travel to hearing"). Not exactly "benefits to members", then, as most trade unionists would understand the term.
Further on we find "legal and professional fees" listed as costing £1034. Presumably this includes payments made to the useless Accentuate PR company owned by Graham Williamson. Below this are costs for "stationery, printing, postage, telephone, etc.", which come in at a whopping £6189. Allegedly.
Bear in mind that this "union" had only 124 members as of 31st December 2007, and for much of that year membership was well below that figure.
I leave it to others to work out exactly what was spent on what (and why).
Solidarity's craven lack of success throughout 2007 is self-evident in the membership figures. As stated earlier, in May 2007 the union claimed to a member of our team to have "nearly" 100 members, and yet despite the publicity attendant to the internal dispute, despite the clarion calls made by Nick Griffin et al to the BNP membership to "save" Solidarity, only 124 individuals were paid up by the end of the year - which explains the tiny attendance at the organisation's AGM in January of this year, when, LU readers will recall, the "brotherhood" came under the scrutiny of the Stasi-like security employed for the hole and corner occasion.
Desperate for members, the BNP membership list leak was viewed by Harrington and Solidarity as a heaven-sent opportunity to recruit hitherto resistant BNP members fearful for their jobs, Harrington promising that "immediate protection" (!) would be extended to any BNP member joining now.
To be a member of one turbulent fascist organisation that cannot hold on to its membership list might charitably be described as careless, to join another just as turbulent and amateur as split-prone Solidarity would be reckless, and we understand for most BNP members it's a case of "thanks, but no thanks, Patrick".
Maybe, too, BNP members thought it more than a little hypocritical that while Solidarity fulminated against the General Teaching Council for mislaying thousands of teachers records, which "angered" the fighting union - "Heads must roll!" it screamed, in an Accentuate press release which appeared only on its own website, - just a few days later it was rather more understanding of Nick Griffin, the man in charge of the BNP and who bears ultimate responsibility for the leaking of the BNP membership list.
When Harrington calls for Griffin's head to roll we'll be the first to let you know, and it won't be long, because as Harrington has said, Solidarity doesn't operate double standards.
Getting back to Solidarity's 2007 accounts, these are signed off by two lay auditors, who, in a report written by them (we don't think) go out of their way to touch on some of the points raised with Patrick Harrington by inspector Gerard Walker. Naturally, these auditors can find no faults at all, and so everything is hunky-dory in fake trade union land.
Did we mention that one of the auditors is Andrea Whelpdale, of Spennymoor, Durham. Or that she stood as a BNP candidate and is a friend of Solidarity president Adam Walker?
Or that the other auditor is Norma Walker, also of Spennymoor. Or that she is the mother of Solidarity president Adam Walker?
We have now.
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose!
(With thanks to TWAFA for information supplied.)