Most of the rows about Labour candidates being selected in London for May’s local government elections have centred around the rise of Momentum and challenges to established Labour leaders in Haringey and Newham.
But while all this is going on quietly a new kid on the block has emerged unnoticed in the London borough of Greenwich. She was the sole person criticised by a part time judge in a hearing over the election of Dave Prentis, the general secretary of Unison, Britain’s largest public service union last year.
Linda Perks, the former London regional secretary, was castigated by part time judge Mary Stacey during as certification officer hearing which followed complaints about rule breaking from other candidates who challenged Dave Prentis for the job.
The judge upheld a complaint against Linda Perks, for flagrant breaches of union rules – after reading a transcript and listening to a secret tape of a meeting held at the TUC’s Congress House, where, it is said, 50 officials were urged to break campaigning rules to ensure the re-election of Dave Prentis. The code name for the campaign was ” Special Chocolate Biscuits”.
After listening to the tape the judge ruled :“ Ms Perks tone is not just confident and swaggering in so openly breaking the rules but chilling in its brazenness and demonstration of unchecked power”.
She blatantly had known she was breaking union rules by getting officials to organise support for Dave Prentis during work time which was against union rules. The judge notes that it almost looked that for 3 or 4 days officials would do little else but campaign for Mr Prentis.
Linda Perks was suspended by the president of the union. But the judge said:
“The subsequent leisurely disciplinary proceedings of Ms Perks and outcome do not inspire confidence or serve as a deterrent for future overzealous officers. Some might think the move to National Secretary in Head Office on unspecified strategic projects retaining all pay and benefits represents reward rather than punishment, though she has endured the imposition of a final written warning.”
Since then Linda Perks has retired from the union and was given a huge farewell party attended by Dave Prentis who tweeted ” Absolutely packed house to thank Linda Perks, one of our longest serving regional secretaries. We will all miss her”.
Now the Labour selection body has selected her as one of three candidates to represent Charlton- one of the poorer wards in the borough. There is a full report by a local journalist and blogger, Darryl Chamberlain on his 853.com blog. He quotes an email from her saying:“My union work has also enabled me to develop a good understanding of how councils work and how decisions are taken.”
The ward she is representing is one of the poorest in the borough. Its faded grandeur has led it to put on the ” at risk register” by Historic England as reported here. It has a low level of home ownership and high levels of council housing and housing association and higher levels of unemployment.
Linda Perks declined to reply to a request for a comment about her selection. Her contribution to local affairs – should she be elected for this safe ward where Labour romped home in 2014. – remains to be seen.