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DIARY - TOULMIN SMITH

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Anyone curious about the progress of maverick ex-policeman Ray Mallon as mayor of Middlesbrough - or mayors general...
Anyone curious about the progress of maverick ex-policeman Ray Mallon as mayor of Middlesbrough - or mayors generally - may be interested to know he was the sole absentee at the first meeting of directly elected mayors set up recently by the Local Government Association.

Too busy, obviously, commented one of the other six mayors who did attend.

The Law Society and the Local Government Group are trying to get to know each other better and improve their relationship, as reported in this week's LGC.

So I was somewhat surprised when the Law Society press office informed me it had never heard of the Local Government Group. A lot of work still to be done there then.

LGA gets standing ovation - literally

Delegates at the Local Government Association's day conference on regional assemblies were left standing after the morning sessions. Sadly, this was not in amazement at the stimulating debate, but through a lack of chairs during lunch.

The balancing act of holding onto a full plate without spilling food down their suits was too much for some of the delegates, who paid up to£358 to attend.

Perhaps the barn style seating arrangements had something to do with the venue - the Royal Horticultural Centre.

Tensions between Unison and the GMB over strategies to oppose privatisation were magnified at Unison's national conference.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, delivered a robust rebuttal to a motion that praised the GMB's hard-hitting press and media campaign opposing privatisation and suggested Unison follow suit.

Mr Prentis said: 'I can live with many of the critical motions that may be carried this week, but I really object to motions telling us to adopt strategies adopted by the GMB. Where the hell did friends of Unison get that line from?'

He asked: 'Is this the same union that went to the Scottish employers, while our members were taking strike action, to tell them not to talk to Unison?

'The same union that only last week instructed members to cross our picket lines in London? The union that slags off the government in public and then phones No 11 to apologise in private?'

He concluded that the GMB was 'a union of johnny-come-latelys more interested in destabilising Unison than campaigning for public services'.

If you wish to disseminate any gossip, please email me on

joshua.toulminsmith@lgc.emap.com

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