Opposing the Toxic Lottery of Blacklisting

Since 2004, the Big Lottery Fund has distributed around £6 billion “to community groups and projects that improve health, education and the environment.” Such financing partly makes up the short-fall caused by Labour and Tory cuts to vital front-line public services. Although that said such funds are not nearly enough to make up for the ruling-classes savage attacks on our lives; moreover, the poorest still face a double-whammy as the Big Lottery Fund is financed from the pockets of those whose services are being slashed.

Given this sordid background, it is fitting that the chief executive of the Big Lottery Fund (Peter Wanless) was recently called upon to serve on the advisory board of “Big Society Capital” which is merely David Cameron’s latest exercise in philanthropic power.

National Lottery tickets are of course predominantly bought by the working-class; the super-rich preferring to “gamble” with capital (earned by us). The latter “gamble” having the bonus of nearly always paying dividends to capitalist investors — whose losses are underwritten by the working-class: consider the £1 trillion we recently paid out to the rich and powerful who caused the banking crisis.

Usually such lottery profiteering (and its accompanying feel-good “philanthropy”) is ignored by progressive commentators, but today the GMB union will be organizing a protest in Birmingham outside of the Big Lottery Fund’s offices. This is because the current Deputy Director of the Fund’s Human Relations department, a woman named Dianne Hughes, had prior to taking on her position at the Big Lottery Fund, served as the Head of Human Relations at Crown House Technologies (which is part of the Laing O’Rourke Group). In this position she actively destroyed workers livelihoods by serving as the “main contact” between Crown House and the infamous Consulting Association, which distributed an illegal covert blacklist throughout the construction industry.

As part of the ongoing anti-blacklisting campaign, GMB have been approaching the named managers and human resources professionals involved with blacklisting in construction to ask them to apologize for their role in the blacklisting saga. However, in Dianne Hughes’ case she decided to refused to cooperate with GMB, and instead threatened the union with litigation.

No doubt in her efforts to shut down dissent Hughes will obtain support from the former investment banker and former Tory MP, Peter Ainsworth, who serves as the chairman of the Big Lottery Fund.  Rank-and-file trade unionists however may be able to exert additional pressure to force Hughes to come clean about her dirty past by pressing Frances O’Grady, the Deputy General Secretary of the TUC, into action. This is because O’Grady serves with Ainsworth as an advisor to RenewableUK’s ongoing campaign, Action for Renewables. Elite connections likes these have to be milked for all they are worth.

Or perhaps GMB activists might seek the solidarity of some of the many groups which have obtained funding from the Big Lottery Fund. Notable organizations that spring to mind include the Workers’ Educational Association, and Kalayaan — a human rights campaign for overseas domestic workers living in the UK.

Working from another angle, perhaps the Big Lottery Fund’s recent multi-million pound donation to G4S’s HM Parc Prison project could be used to help Hughes’ herself, as the project apparently aims to is reduce “the likelihood of ex-offenders committing further crimes”. If this could prevent Hughes screwing over more workers this has to be a good thing.

If help is not forthcoming from like-minded grantees of the Big Lottery Fund, at the very least the highly problematic food banks — like FareShare that the Fund so kindly helped get off the ground — might be able to provide sustenance for the victims of Dianne Hughes’ blacklisting escapades.

Likewise aid for blacklisted individuals could be provided by Life Transitions, which has received tens of millions of pounds from the Fund to “support economically inactive people into work, helping people experiencing multiple barriers” to move on with their lives.

Trade union activists could also take a leaf from Hughes’ own ideas about how to take theory and put it into practice; thereby making sure that their message is well and truly drummed home to both Hughes and the Big Lottery Fund. As Hughes explained in a management pep-talk last year:

I think the key thing that we found that was really important to maintain the levels of staff engagement was communication: how we communicate. So we’ve talked about every single way we can repeat the message. So that’s one thing. How often do we deliver the message, how do we do it, and to whom? So we’re constantly repeating it, because the times I come across people who go ‘I don’t know what this is about’; you go arrrhhh… ‘I’ve told you what this is about so many times.’ So we can’t underestimate that…

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