THE POPULAR FRONT FOR THE LIBERATION OF CPSA
FREEDOM! UNITY! SOCIALISM!
REVOLUTION UNTIL VICTORY!
ROBERT LEITCH 1959 - 2003
Rob died suddenly and unexpectedly from a heart attack at home the weekend before last and was cremated in Dundee on 18th December. A long serving CPSA, PCS activist and recently the Industrial Relations Officer for the British Dental Association, Leech, Screech and latterly Agent McCavity (geddit?) had been a member of the PFL Revolutionary Command Council since the late 80's.
Irreplaceable, we will miss him.
What wasn’t known, though it was hardly a closely guarded secret, is that Rob had been a regular contributor to the PFLCPSA for over fifteen years. He would feed in gossip at Conference and write short sketches for the PFL magazine that was produced erratically throughout the 80s and never had a print run that exceeded 120.
Satire covers many things ranging from punning, common abuse, sarcasm, innuendo, irony, wit and gossip. Rob’s forte was gossip and he possessed the scandal writer’s true assets – big ears and probing eyes. The tales he spun about the antics of the movers and shakers in CPSA were witty, amusing and almost lavatorially vulgar. They blended into the reports of Judas and Barrabas virtually unchanged.
Though Rob was never actually part of the Conference “A Team” – the senior officers of the PFL who organise the editing, distribution and fundraising for the Conference editions he was one of the crucial band of contributors and fund-raisers who ensured that the Conference editions came out everyday and he always checked in with his stories on a daily basis.
Stories come in verbally or scribbled on bits of paper. Some are badly written or inaccurate. But not Rob’s. He had a style of his own and a nose for gossip and his stuff went in almost as it stood. Rob didn’t like that. He never fully appreciated his own abilities and often said we should have reworked his copy. To the outside world Rob projected himself as a wit and a dandy. In reality he was a modest guy who underestimated his talent to amuse.
Rob joined the ODA as a CA in Scotland and soon gained promotion, at one time he line-managed Ally McCoist (TV’s Question of Sport). He transferred to London in the early 1980s, where he traversed the political spectrum as a loyal member of BL-84 from its inception through its incarnation as the “Democratic Left” until it merged in practice with the National Moderate Group. Though Scottish, Rob was never part of Barry Reamsbottom’s Jockocracy and they never seriously considered him for a full-time post. Though he climbed up the ladder to SEO he finally achieved his ambition by becoming a full-time officer for the obscure British Dental Association in November 2001.
From that perch he posted reports to the PFL and the PCS Independent message board as “Agent McCavity” or “Agent McC”. Indeed his last posting to the Indie was only three days before he died.
His humour was demonstrated by one of the last pieces he wrote for the PFL:
I'm very sorry to hear of Rob's death.
He was a committed member of CPSA in Westminster, when I was Chair of the NUCPS district commitee. At the time, of course, CPSA hated the idea of cross-departmental organisation.
When we were out, Rob was there to help us organise and to advise CPSA members who wouldn't cross our lines.
I to am very sorry to hear of Rob's sad and early death. Rob and I were members of BL84 from its inception and although he left to help form the Dem left, I always saw him as a dedicated trade unionist. My thoughts go out to his family and loved ones
I heard the very sad news last weekend but unfortunately was unable to travel to Dundee to pay my respects.
I was first introduced to Rob by Graham Belchamber back in 1986 and at some point after, Rob was elected Chair of Broad Left 84. Rob was a committed trade union activist and held particular interest in international issues. He helped me a great deal during my early days as a CPSA Branch Officer and Conference Delegate.
On the social side Rob and I would often meet up when he visited Liverpool on CPSA 'Assembly' business and my head still feels the effects of some of those sessions. Our paths crossed less frequently during the nineties when Rob parted company with Broad Left 84 and often when we did encounter each other it was on opposite sides of the political debate. Sometimes that period proved painful for all concerned however I was always drawn to listen intently to Rob's contributions as they remained as constructive as ever.
The last time I bumped into Rob was on the platform of Streatham Hill Railway Station (after he had boarded the wrong train!) at around 6.00 pm one evening shortly following the formation of PCS and at that time Rob was a NEC member. We chatted and decided to go for a few drinks. The 'few' drinks turned into 'many' drinks as we met up with another old comrade. The three of us debated many things deep into the night - particularly those that were (at the time) good and bad about the new union. We also discussed the fact that the two of us no longer met up for drinks, we identified the reason for this and resolved to put the matter right. I seem to remember we poured Rob into a taxi around 2.00 am and sent him on his way to his home which, at then time, was the other side of Streatham.
Sadly, we never did meet up for those drinks and now we never shall but I did have a drink the other night and my thoughts went out to Rob.
Thanks for all you did Rob - for civil service trade unionism, for the wider movement and for socialism.