Saturday, 2 May 2009

Stephen Smellie UNISON Scotland

I knew Malcolm through UNISON's Local Government Standing Orders Committee over the past 4 years.
a committee like this, where it is one delegate from each region, can be quite intimidating the first time. You don't know anyone, you're not sure of the procedures, you're scared of making a prat of yourself.
The first time I attended I travelled down from Scotland and got there bright and early.
Malcolm strolled in either just in time or a little late (I later got used to this) but I remember he spotted the 'new boy,' welcomed me and within minutes of the meeting starting we had established that I would usually support what he was saying and vice versa.
Often his was the only supporting vote I got and mine was the only one he got!
That didn't mean we were not right, we just didn't always get enough votes.

In getting to know Malcolm at these brief meetings that only took place a few times a year I warmed to a man who was not only of similar politics to me but was also a genuinely good comrade.

On the Standing Orders Committee we have a job to do to ensure that business at conference is conducted within the rules and that branches are able to participate in the democracy of the union. This is open to interpretation and therefore different opinions.

Malcolm was consistent. He believed that members of the union should be able to participate fully. That there was no place for bureaucratic games to stifle debate. He would argue for the widest debate possible - within the rules.

When Malcolm put forward a proposal we all knew that he would have a clear and coherent argument, that he would be dogged in putting it forward and that, almost always, he would put it forward with humour and always in the spirit of fraternal debate.

I am sad that I never got to know Malcolm better and that coming from Scotland I never had the chance to work with him on many of the issues that he held dear.

I will miss him on the Standing Orders Committee. (I realised this at the recent meeting when I had no-one to support me when I argued that the Lambeth motion should be admitted back onto the agenda!) However the Committee as a whole will miss his contribution, his integrity, his humour and his grammatical pedantry (the thought of all those motions that will now slip through without the benefit of getting corrected by Malcolm - standards will decline!)

My thoughts are with his partner, family and his comrades.
Stephen SmellieUNISON Scotland

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