In 1989 (I can’t believe that is twenty five years ago) I was the Branch Secretary of the National and Local Government Organisation (NALGO) in Hackney, I was at the head of a bunch of left wing extremists.The Communist Party, Class War, The Militant Tendency, The Black Workers Group, Labour Party, and several other groups that I have thankfully forgotten. The point is, they (each group) all hated each other and I had to represent their views as a cohesive force when negotiating with Hackney Council. After two years, I was a wreck and pleased to stand down as the Branch secretary. Mind you, it has to be said, they were as pleased to see me go as they, knew by then that I was not going to bang any particular drum, just because a faction thought this or that.
Earlier about 1983 I remember thinking “well life isn’t so bad”. I had a new semi-detached house, (OK it was a council house in Harold Hill: I was driving a new vehicle- OK it was a hired Hackney Toyota Van but I was the foreman plumber at work and earning good money. I had a lovely wife, four smashing kids and great friends and neighbours. Yes I was spending lots of time and money in the Myrtle Road Hall where I was the Tenants Association Chair but I was in the heart of the community. My Mum had said many years before “you only get out of life – what you put into it”. I still think, that that is true.
By this time I had become “A Parent Governor” at my daughter’s school at the top of Straight Road, and attending some of the first meetings I was half petrified, that I would ask some stupid question, or say something daft and half in awe as to how the then Chair of Governors (Rita Coffin) managed to scoot through the most complicated agendas with so much detail in the supporting papers, but she did and, made it look easy. It was several years later when I learned from Chris Rudge that Rita was not well and was in hospital, that I let it be known that I would be interested in standing for the position of Chair of Governors. I was duly nominated and seconded and finally elected to that cauldron of responsibility and soon recognised that I needed to be not only on top of the business but involved at every level one way or another. Fortunately, Chris Rudge and all of the staff were very supportive and helped me get to grips with the minutia, especially over the financial side of running the school. Little did I know then that I would spend the best part of twelve years in the role.