As passport staff threaten strike, we look at the union's leader
‘Not New Labour’: As passport staff threaten to ruin the summer holidays of thousands with fresh strikes, we take a closer look at the union’s self-described ‘real socialist’ leader
- His membership of Socialist Organiser led to expulsion from Labour in 1991
- He makes fewer friends in Governments than he does among Labour moderate
His critics say that he is a Trotskyist plotting general strikes – and Mark Serwotka scarcely disagrees.
The general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union prefers to say he is a ‘real socialist’, making clear he is ‘Not a New Labour version’.
His membership of radical group Socialist Organiser led to expulsion from Labour in 1991 – re-joining only in 2016 after his hard-Left comrade Jeremy Corbyn became leader.
And as well as recently being linked to ‘general strike’ plans, ‘to bring the Tories down’, Mr Serwotka, 59, declared in 2014 before town hall workers walked out: ‘We should combine these set-piece big political strikes with effective targeted action that will really hurt them.’
He makes even fewer friends in Governments than he does among Labour moderates.
His critics say that he is a Trotskyist plotting general strikes – and Mark Serwotka scarcely disagrees
Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union on the picket line outside Birmingham Airport in December last year
But no one can deny father-of-two Mr Serwotka’s will to fight – not least for life, after suffering permanent heart damage due to a ‘severe allergic reaction’ sparked by cleaning his pet dog.
Mr Serwotka’s struggles began at birth, with six months in a Catholic orphanage in Cardiff.
He was then adopted, his father having a Polish background, his mother Welsh.
At 16, he started in the civil service as a benefits clerk – joining the union on his very first day.
The next year, he was a rep and he was elected general secretary in 2000 – retaining the role to this day.
Despite being described by the Tablet newspaper as one of Britain’s 100 most influential Catholics, while Serwotka’s dedication to socialism grew, his faith waned.
‘I broke with the Virgin in my 20s and don’t consider myself a Catholic,’ he has said.
‘I increasingly saw problems, and the answers were not provided by religion.. My philosophy is to try and change the world we live in now.’
The general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union prefers to say he is a ‘real socialist’, making clear he is ‘Not a New Labour version’
He rose rapidly through union ranks and was elected General Secretary in 2000 – retaining the role to this day.
Keeping alive has been more of a struggle. In 2010, at the Surrey home he shares with wife Ruth, with whom he has children Imogen and Rhys, his Labrador, Scampi, returned ‘stinking’ from a run through woods.
He thought nothing of washing the filthy pet down – but the next day his face and legs became grotesquely swollen. A week later he felt his heart ‘going crazy’, reaching 220 beats a minute..
Doctors found permanent scarring to his heart, blaming a ‘severe allergic reaction’ or virus caught when he cleaned his dog.
He survived thanks to a pacemaker linked to a bulky rechargeable power-pack in a bag over his shoulder – reported to have left him with ‘no pulse’ – before a heart transplant in 2016.
Serwotka joked of his years plugging his pacemaker into sockets during meetings: ‘I’m the only Duracell-powered general secretary in the Labour movement.’
As his members prepare to ruin Britain’s holiday plans, he is certainly charged up now.
Source: Read Full Article