Roger MacKay: Socialist and Trade Unionist. A Tribute.
Roger MacKay, President of Ipswich Trades Council, was diagnosed with cancer at the end of April. 71 years old he passed away in St Elizabeth’s Hospice last Thursday.
A Socialist and active Trade Unionist Roger was also a leading figure in the Ipswich and Suffolk National Union of Teachers (NUT) for many years. A talented teacher he will be remembered warmly by former pupils. He was an active member, with his wife Teresa, of the Socialist Party, who had been expelled from the Labour Party for his support for ‘Militant’. He played an important role in Ipswich political life, most recently as Chair of the Suffolk Coalition for Public Services. As the organiser of the Ipswich May Day festival – known affectionately as the “Roger and Teresa show” - he kept the popular event going in Alexandra Park every year. A tireless supporter of the left’s campaigns Roger’s ability to work with everybody was greatly appreciated.
In the Evening Star Ipswich MP Benedict Gummer (Conservative) is cited saying that Roger was a genial “old fashioned Trot”. It was meant well, but fails to capture the Trades Council President’s rare ability to appreciate the opinions and values of new generations and new conditions. Roger once said to me, at a time a few years ago when the Left was particularly isolated, that he was sometimes struck by how socialism, once seen as very modern now was regularly attacked as old-fashioned.
Roger played a part in disproving this assertion by responding to change. Over the last couple of years Ipswich has seen mass protests at government policy of a kind the town has not experienced for decades. They have been enthusiastically supported by young and old. Roger was the heart of this movement, able to bring together trade unionists, local civic campaigns, students, and the wider public.
In his campaigning Roger was far from limited to Ipswich. Apart from helping build for on the big national TUC demonstrations, to which large numbers of coaches were sent, Roger and Teresa took a small group of us to marches across East Anglia, including support for the Travellers in Dale Farm and an anti-ATOS protest in defence of the disabled in Norwich. On the Trades Council he backed internationalist causes, opposing the Invasion of Iraq. A strong anti-racist he helped in anti-BNP activities. As part of a genuinely collaborative body the President was involved in formulating policies, such as a strategy for decriminalising prostitution developed after the Ipswich murders, and opposition to Welfare-to-Work and Workfare, that fed into the national trade union movement.
Widely liked, and known, around the town, Roger’s death is a great loss, not only to his family and immediate friends, but to the left and the labour movement. We extend our deepest condolences.
The Funeral will take place at Seven Hills Crematorium, Ipswich, on Friday 13th July at 1:30pm. This will be a celebration of his life and none of the family will be wearing black! After this we will be moving to the Brewery Tap on Cliff Quay.
NUT notice: Here
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