17 NOVEMBER 1961, Page 4

Forward, Slowly

So far, so good. That must be the appropriately cautious verdict on the movement to break the Communist grip on the Electrical Trades Union. The Executive election-clearly produced, in the nine seats which went (or remained) non- Communist, majorities too high for the Com- munists to rig, and control has apparently passed into the hands of those determined to clean up the ETU. The 'apparently' is necessary, for it is already clear that the Communist Party will use every device, legal and otherwise, to retain their hold. To begin with, the old, rigged Executive has a 'lame-duck' period of another six weeks before they hand over; during that period they will not be idle. The day Mr. John Byrne won his court victory the Communists began to burn in- criminating papers at their Hayes Court head- quarters; this may be regarded as a symbol of what they will do between now and January 1.

But that is not all. Next week, unless stopped by the court injunction Mr. Frank Chapple has applied for, a rules revision conference, the majority of delegates safely hand-rigged by the Communists, is to take place. At this, it is pro- posed to whittle away the powers of the Execu- tive, placing more of the control of the Union in the hands of the tame Annual Conference. At the same time, the six-week Communist Majority on the Executive has installed Mr. McLennan, one of their number, to perform the functions of the stricken Mr. Byrne—though McLennan was 'elected' to the post of Assistant General Secre- tary by the same methods as Mr. Hazen to the post of General Secretary, and although there is a court order in force at the moment restraining him from calling himself Assistant General Secre- tary until the action is heard.

And, of course, nobody need imagine that, even if their hold on the Union is finally broken, they will not attempt to restore it at the first oppor- tunity. One of the members of the outgoing Exe- cutive, 'Honest John' Hendy (a curious appella- tion for one as deeply implicated in the con- spiracy as he was) has already said that they will fight on, and because they have been prevented from rigging one election is no guarantee that they will not succeed in rigging the next.

Still, there are hopeful signs. Mr. John Byrne has left hospital and should soon be back in his chair—this time without the hostile majority to badger and wear him into collapse, as they did before. The press, as Mr. Foulkes said (quite truthfully for once), was to a large extent instru' mental in bringing about the result of the election, by the publicity it gave to the scandal, and to the result and implications of the legal battle; and the newspapers will, it is hoped, remain vigil' ant. But one point needs to be made, lest we for. get. In some of the comments on the result of the Executive election, the long years of Corm munist control were attributed to the apathy o the members of the Union. There is solid evil dence that this was not the cause : for it can be and has been, shown (by Mr. Woodrow Wy att, who started the whole avalanche as long ago as 1956) that the fraudulent election which Nir. Byrne finally got overturned in court has been fraudulently run ever since the Communists first won it; Mr. Byrne has in fact been regularly elected for years, and deprived of the post to which the members have elected him by the methods which were finally defeated only by legal action. No matter how large a majority maY be, it will do the candidate who gets it no good if the loser is declared the winner. That is what has happened for years in the Electrical Trades Union, and what we may—cautiously, as before —hope will happen no longer.