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Richard Halfpenny, who passed away on 14th October 2105, was an icon of CPSA and PCS conference life for decades. Though not a member of the PFL’s A Team production unit “Halfbrain”, or sometimes “Halfwit” was a pillar of the “Yorkshire Soviet”, and a regular contributor to the Conference bulletins who could hold his own with the legendary drinkers like Colonel Harding and Ray Alderson and still turn up bright eyed and bushy tailed for the late evening PFL de-briefings at the nearest seedy hotel to Conference we could find. Please use our site search engine, the PFL Traitor Finder to discover his exploits over the years.
Richard was also a leading activist in the DWP going back to the old DE days and a patron of lost causes like Bradford City FC, which he doggedly followed for years. He even helped run the City Gent supporters club magazine which immortalised him in the cartoon which celebrated the fanzine’s 25th birthday issue in 2009. Can you spot him? He’s right in the front in a black jacket! The pic didn't transfer very well - have a gander at the original http://www.thecitygent.co.uk
It all began in the halcyon days of the 1970s when the unions packed a punch. CPSA was no exception. Though never in the blue-collar strike league dominated by the miners, engineering and transport unions, CPSA was able to launch major national pay campaigns as well as winning a whole number of bread-and-butter local disputes across the departments and fringe bodies.
The average age of Conference delegates was about 25, or so it seemed, who grudgingly accepted the leadership of the old guard, who had led the blocks from right to left, with the spirit of defiance, contempt and satire that made conference an annual cess-pit of factional intrigue and back-stabbing that nurtured the PFL.
In the days before computers, smart phones and the InterWeb the only way that members could find out what was going on in the union was to attend branch meetings, read the monthly rag, then called Red Tape, or read the dreary national and section circulars from head office. But alternative sources of information were available. All the big factions produced campaigning journals while many branches produced magazines of varying quality which provided outlets for local humourists, cartoonists and commentators. Delegates would bring their magazines to conference socials to reach a wider audience. Some, like the PFL and the Yorkshire Soviet focused on Conference itself.
Richard, of course, was a major player in all the Soviet’s activities. The Yorkshire Soviet was largely the creation of a number of Broad Left DE activists in south Yorkshire who prepared a spoof Pravda http://www.pflcpsa.com/summer_88.htm
every day of main conference. Unlike the PFL, which is produced every night, the Yorkshire Soviet communiques, all short runs, were printed in Yorkshire and brought down for distribution to the chosen few. Though its brand of satire was different to ours the PFL often plundered its columns to give them a wider audience and to promote their regular fringe social. Another Yorkshireman and senior full-time official, Peter Thomason, bankrolled the Soviet social (see PFL passim) which rapidly became one of the high-spots of the Conference week. One regular feature was the “show-trial” of one of the prominenti which always ended in the victim being despatched by water pistols in front of the jeering crowd. Sir Roy d’Lewis was done twice. Agent Apollo, one of the PFLCPSA’s Revolutionary Command Council, was another.
Sadly the Soviet did not survive the merger in 1998 which created PCS. Many of their founders had retired or gone to a better place like Peter Thomason, whose premature death put an end to the traditional Thursday night social. Richard kept it going for a year or so on his own before throwing his lot, and his undoubtedly writing skills, exclusively to the PFLCPSA.
He worked in a methodical way with a statistical analysis of the national and group elections ready (usually scribbled on the train down to Brighton) for the first Sunday night debriefing. During Conference he would ridicule all the factional hand-outs in the PFL’s “what their papers say” under the Dick Halfbrain by-line. During Conference he would feed us stories at the PFL table in the bar and update us at the evening debriefing or pass on gossip on pages of scrawl that was the hall-mark of his copy.
Others, usually Colonel Harding or another of the drunken rabble that surrounded him, would tell tales on Halfpenny -- like this particular story from a usually reliable source in the Tuesday 2012 Brighton conference bulletin:
RICHARD HALFPENNY is AWOL this week claiming “back ache”. However a usually reliable source tells us that he’s actually ponced off for a foreign holiday with his missus. He doesn’t want anybody to know so don t pass it on. Curiously enough we learn that HALFBRAIN brought his wife down to Conference last Year incognito. She’s reportedly a highly paid executive who earns much more than
Halfbrain wasn’t always obsessed with statistics. Here’s a gem from the Brighton PFL’s 2006 Conference Wednesday bulletin:
While the “Great and the Good” gathered in London for RAY ALDERSON’S southern retirement bash the “Good and the Seriously Dodgy” assembled for a serious second
Most of the time was spent in recalling the escapades of a lost youth in CPSA, much of which is too unsavoury for genteel readers. For example, back in the 70s JOHN FILBY, feeling a little hung-over at a Brighton Conference repaired at 10.00 am to the SPORTSMANS BAR with HALFBRAIN. On being asked whether he wanted a soda or a tonic FILBY ordered a pint of strong lager. Drinking half in one gulp he then added two alka-seltzers to the remainder which he then downed in another gulp. LES PRIESTLEY turned up sometime later but was ignored by most of the “good” and all of the “dodgy”.
As the sun began to set the jolly throng was joined by staff from the Leeds PCS office including GRAHAM “Gentleman Jim” CORBETT and some paid hacks whose names are not worth recalling.
Apologies were taken from CPSA NEC member and leading 1970s Commissar JOHN