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Wednesday, September 22, 1999 Published at 19:18 GMT 20:18 UK

UK Politics

Tributes paid to Clive Jenkins

Clive Jenkins: Hobby was "organising the middle classes".

Union leaders have been paying tribute to their former colleague, Clive Jenkins, who has died following a short illness at the age of 73.

Mr Jenkins held the post of general secretary of the white-collar union, the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs, for about 20 years.

Independent journalist Barry Clements: " He had a great reputation as a champagne socialist"
The union later became the MSF, which now has more than 400,000 members.

TUC General Secretary John Monks said: "Clive Jenkins was a one-off, an intellectual gadfly who drove forward the growth of trade unionism amongst white collar and professional workers with enthusiasm, wit and style.

"He was one of the characters of trade unionism, equally at home in a TV studio or on the conference platform."

[ image: Roger Lyons:
Roger Lyons: "Immeasurable contribution"
Roger Lyons, MSF general secretary, said: "Clive's contribution to the union movement was immeasurable.

"He was the most outstanding trade unionist of his generation.

"Clive was the first to see the potential of organising white-collar workers and he was also the first general secretary to recognise the power of the media and use it in a positive way on behalf of working people. His legacy will live on for a long time to come."

A Downing Street spokesman said the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, had been "deeply saddened by the death and loss of a man who had made a major contribution to the trade union movement".

Mr Jenkins was known as a dynamic, irrepressible figure who once listed his recreations in Who's Who as "organising the middle classes".

Conference favourite

His passion for his beliefs, and his Welsh oratory, made him a favourite at the TUC and Labour conferences.

Mr Jenkins will be remembered as a gourmet, wit, bon viveur, who had a partiality for fine clarets whose generosity was legendary.

He was educated at Port Talbot County School and Swansea Technical College before starting work in a metallurgical test house in 1940.

[ image:  ]
But he spent almost all his working life in the service of his union, beginning working for the Association of Scientific Workers in 1946.

He became a full-time official of the Association of Supervisory Staffs, Executives and Technicians (ASSET) in Birmingham. In 1954, at the age of 28, he became its national officer, the youngest member to hold such a post.

In 1961, he became general secretary of ASSET, when it had 22,000 members.

Mr Jenkins increased this to 55,000 when he negotiated the amalgamation with the Association of Scientific Workers.

Under his leadership, from 1970, the amalgamated Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs grew to a membership of over 650,000 through 26 amalgamations.

Mr Jenkins maintained his position until 1988, when the union became the Manufacturing, Science and Finance Union.

He remained general secretary of the MSF for some two years before his retirement.

During his career, he served as the president of the TUC and as a local councillor in London from 1954 to 1960.

He retired to Tasmania "to watch the dolphins play, devour seafood and conserve the fairy penguins" but returned to the UK in 1990.

Key Kinnock supporter

Labour MP Tony Benn described Mr Jenkins as "one of the most important young left leaders in the union movement".

He said: "He played a significant part in promoting Neil Kinnock for the Labour Party leadership as soon as Michael Foot resigned.

"I remember him speaking, I think it was at the 1974 Labour special Christmas conference.

"He made a radical speech. He was a very effective, amusing speaker."

Bill Morris, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, said Mr Jenkins had brought "flair and flamboyancy to trade unions and unionised the middle classes".

The Independent's Labour Editor Barry Clements said Mr Jenkins' clever use of the media and many television appearances stirred up some jealousy among other union leaders.

"He had a reputation as a champagne socialist," said Mr Clements.

"He used to go to Blackpool to the various conferences and you would find him in a fish and chip shop not far from the Imperial Hotel with a bottle of Chablis. He was quite a character."

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