November 10, 2020
From Alternative Bristol (UK)

It is a proven fact that Cullum McAlpine, a long time director of the Robert McAlpine family construction firm, was along with the firm a key mover & funder in the setting up of The Consulting Association in 1993, which until 2009 maintained a Blacklist of construction workers that prevented thousands of workers from getting a job. It’s also a proven fact that the McAlpine’s were involved in the setting up of a second Blacklisting agency, CAPRiM (also 1993-2009). Both these agencies interacted with state agencies – Special Branch, SDS, NPOIU etc – to exchange information.

It is an open and public fact that Cullum McAlpine has been a member of Bristol’s Society of Merchant Venturers (SMV) since 1995 (he was Chair of The Consulting Agency from 1993-7 at least), and was their ‘Master’ in 2016/7 – that is after The Consulting Association was exposed, after the construction firms had paid compensation to some Blacklisted workers, and after Cullum McAlpine had given written & oral evidence to the Parliamentary Scottish Affairs Committee in 2013. Quoting from this 2013 report:

…he admitted that McAlpine was a major user of the service, routinely faxing over lists of names to what was effectively a centralised industry vetting service for HR managers. In 2008 Sir Robert McAlpine was the biggest user of the service. Cullum McAlpine, a director of the company since 1970, said that this was because it had a lot of major projects starting that year…McAlpine projects for which workers were vetted against The Consulting Association’s list of undesirables included: Colchester Garrison, shopping centres in Bristol and Leicester, a major MoD project on Salisbury plan, the M74 link road, the Quarter Mile project in Edinburgh, the Marie Curie Centre in Glasgow and groundworks on Olympic Stadium. (AltBristol note – check out The Bristolian on Cullum McAlpine)

In March 2018, the BBC reported that the Met Police had admitted that Special Branch officers passed info to Blacklisting agencies. In 2019, on the 10th anniversary of the exposure of the Blacklisting agencies, the COPS Campaign noted:

The Independent Police Complaints Commission confirmed that there is information in the files that can only have come from the police. It was routine for every constabulary’s Special Branch to supply the blacklist with information on political activists, mostly anti-racists and environmentalists. This was not police officers upholding the law; this is police officers breaking the law to maximise corporate profit. No police officer has been disciplined. No construction firm has faced any charges or penalties of any kind.

On 6th November, Day 5, Week 1 (report), of the SpyCopsInquiry into Undercover Policing (1968-2010), lawyers & others were giving opening statements setting out the facts around Britain’s secret police spying on trade unions. But one speaker was barred by the Inquiry Chair from speaking. That was Dave Smith, a Blacklisted worker, member of the Blacklist Support group, and co-author of ‘Blacklisted – the secret war between big business and union activists‘ (2nd edition 2018 – buy it here). Why? Well Smith was going to name in his statement to the Inquiry that spycop Carlo Neri was in fact Carlo Soracchi (see this profile) – as that profile explains, the Inquiry Chair had already ‘ruled’ that Neri couldn’t be named as Sorrachi at the Inquiry. That’s a Public Inquiry – WTF is going on, a whitewash & cover-up?! We think so. And Soracchi is not the only SpyCop who spied on Unions & passed info to Blacklisting agencies.

Cullum McAlpine is a slippery character who has so far avoided having to give evidence in a Court – see this article from Unite after they failed to get him into the witness box in 2019. He, like the rest of his family are a part of Britain’s ruling class, loadsa money, and well connected to the political elite – and the Society of Merchant Venturers are undoubtedly a part of that elite class, as this article by Mark Steeds of BRHG makes clear. Over the last 5 months in particular, and for some time before that, the SMV have come heavily under the cosh because of their cheerleading for the former racist slave-trader & Tory MP Edward Colston, not least since his 125yr old statue was toppled & dumped in the harbour on 7th June.

But as we pointed out in ‘Time to disband the Merchant Venturers – cheerleaders for racist slave-trading and exploiters of Bristol’s white working class‘, the SMV didn’t just profit & gain power from the enslavement of African people – their members were also uber-exploiters of the Bristolian working class for many centuries. Given their power & connections, it’s perhaps no surprise the SMV have avoided real scrutiny over the activities of individual members, nor have they been arsed to utter one word of explanation as far as we know. Given McAlpine’s status, one must wonder how many other members in SMV were aware of the Blacklisting? Indeed were others complicit? Bristolians & others would do well to research the entire SMV membership, which extends across every sector of the economy and includes a host of powerful, rich figures…some of whom you may find surprising! We might also ask – why haven’t some of those members resigned in disgust after the exposure of the SMV’s history of profiteering from slave-trading & exploitation, and the fact a recent Master – McAlpine – was exposed as a Blacklister? For Bristol’s workers, as elsewhere in the UK, remains the question – how many are still being illegally Blacklisted by bosses across different economic sectors? It is acknowledged by Unions & activists the Blacklisting of workers continues illegally, but is somehow protected.

Frankly we’re disappointed McAlpine & the SMV have got away with it for so long. We’re surprised Bristol’s campaigners & activists haven’t succeeded yet to get them disbanded, although we acknowledge that’s down largely to SMV’s wealth, power & class. We think the SMV should be disbanded, their assets sold off & their monies and/or buildings handed over for community use. We think Blacklisters, and the police who traded info with them, should be held accountable and made to pay for their crimes – 5 years community service whilst in receipt of Universal Credit might make them see sense. We think the ‘public’ Undercover Policing Inquiry/Spy Cops Inquiry has become a cover-up & whitewash that protects the real guilty figures.  This is Tory Britain 2020, it is time to say enough!

Further reading – use the article links to read further. The links below also contain much of use:
BlackList Support group – on FB / blog / Dave Smith on twitter
Undercover Police/SpyCops Inquiry – Cops Campaign daily reports & history / blacklisting articles
Undercover Research Group – SpyCop’s targets: a who’s who
UNITE Union – blacklisting articles
BRHG – articles on Colston & the SMV
(Image credits: feature image – screenshot of SMV website edited by us / other images – Blacklisted authors & URG)