Saturday, 14 July 2007


This blog was started in late April as a response to the vote at ADM for a boycott of Israeli goods. At least five hundred NUJ members, through petitions or branch meetings, got involved in calls for a ballot on the issue. While we failed to get a ballot - the rules were always going to make that difficult to achieve - we did succeed in persuading the National Executive to issue a clear statement that the boycott would not be implemented. Here's the Guardian's account:,,2123001,00.html

Some NUJ officials - notably a couple who write to this blog - have suggested to me that the whole affair was a waste of time. There never was a boycott - merely a call for the TUC to organise one.

This strikes me as a complete misunderstanding of the importance of symbolism in both politics and journalism. The daft motion passed at ADM was never going to result in journalists refusing to buy laptops containing Israeli components or declining drugs developed by the Israeli pharmaceuticals industry. But it did send out a powerful message to the world that British journalists took sides - en masse - in this bitter international conflict.

Incidentally, I see no problem in individual journalists taking sides - unless they, like I do, work for organisations committed to impartiality. The problem is that the NUJ represents all of us - whether we write for a ferociously partisan publication or report for a broadcaster with impartiality rules - and so the union should not be taking stands which will embarrass many of its members.

So if it was important to resist this symbolic boycott, it was also important to recognise and applaud the symbolic climbdown by the NUJ's National Executive.

I have written some harsh words about Jeremy Dear on this blog, but I'd like to put on record my appreciation of the way he handled the conclusion of this affair. I'm told he led the discussions at the National Executive and used quiet diplomacy to bring about a result that should restore some unity to the union.

The 32 people who resigned over this affair - or at least those who contacted the NUJ to inform the union of their reasons for leaving - have now received an email from Jeremy Dear inviting them to rejoin. I'd like to encourage them to respond positively -if only to help reinforce the moderate wing of the union.

Because this is just the first chapter in what should become a campaign to reform the NUJ. Next year's ADM is likely to feature another 200 or so motions on everything from global warming to nuclear power to Venezuela - more issues which most of us feel are for individuals to care about, rather than for NUJ posturing.

Most of us are too busy to spend time at branch meetings, but let's try to make the effort to ensure that the people elected to represent us at ADM concentrate on issues that matter to us.

I think I am unlikely to be posting on this blog again in the near future - too much work to do in the real world, like, errr, buffing up my Facebook profile. So for those who have been - thanks for listening, and arguing. It's been (mostly) enjoyable.

Rory Cellan-Jones

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