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Tribute to Morning Star's John Haylett

John being piped back to work after the six-week strike  -  © Private

15 October 2019

Anita Halpin

John Haylett, former Morning Star editor died on 28 September at the age of 74. He joined the Morning Star in 1983 as a journalist, having previously worked as an operator in international telecoms. He was active in the Union of Post Office Workers (which is part of today’s CWU); led a strike at the International Exchange, and was spotted at his union conference by news editor, Roger Bagley, who described him as a "militant rank-and-filer". 

John's political shrewdness and attention to detail meant he rose quickly at the Morning Star. His first major job was joining the People’s March for Jobs and reporting from it. Then came the second miners’ strike of 1984-85, in which his skills as a journalist and incisive analysis of the class struggle were noticed.

In 1985 he became assistant editor and then deputy editor in 1989. He became the editor in 1995 and from 2008 served as the paper’s political editor until his retirement due to ill health earlier this year.

His appointment as editor was not universally popular among the senior management at the time and there were troubled times at the paper and in 1998 he was sacked for, what were later to be shown to be, trumped up charges.

John was unable to defend himself as the charges were not put to him. And it soon became clear to the NUJ's MoC Amanda Kendal "that the Star's then management had no interest in compromise or negotiation. They told the union they couldn’t show us the 'dossier' of allegations against John because they 'didn’t know' that the union represented him". By the following Monday "it was because the 'dossier' was 'the private property' of the management committee."

These ludicrous breaches of the paper’s own disciplinary procedure fueled the NUJ chapel’s anger. NUJ members felt that if the editor could be treated in this way then any member of staff was fair game.

Deputy FoC Chris Kasrils recalls the events at the time: "The strike lasted six weeks, but under the command of our sacked editor the journalists launched their own weekly, The Workers' Morning Star, which appeared for five issues until victory was secured with John’s reinstatement. The strike office, above shops on the Kingsland Road in Hackney was rented by the NUJ - the strike was official - and the union's delegation to that year's TUC women's conference won unanimous support for the strike. Pressure eventually led to Acas talks and a complete capitulation by the old management."

The current Morning Star editor, Ben Chacko, paid tribute to John on his retirement and acknowledged his "mentoring, advice and support throughout my time at the paper, with periodic disagreements on one political matter or another never getting in the way of an excellent working relationship. He showed boundless willingness to help the Star in whatever way he could, not dreaming of retirement until his illness made it essential."

John’s funeral is on Thursday 17 October at 12 noon in the Temple of Peace, King Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3AP.

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