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Most of us returned to the trenches on Tuesday to find the dug-outs still festooned with seasonal good cheer. Christmas leave had indeed been another world with George Galloway making an ass of himself on Celebrity Big Brother and Charles Kennedy treading the parliamentary boards as Julius Caesar with 35 Lib Dem daggers in his back.

Friends thought that STEVE PRESTON was taking extended leave following a heavy period of work, but reliable sources indicate that he is off sick with stress and has lodged an IT1 against LEON BAUGH for bullying. Sources also indicate that other IT1s have been lodged against BOFF for the same reasons. LEON was SANTA at the recent PCS children's party - a very short act, under 15 minutes. When he asked kids what they wanted for Christmas and they forgot, instead of gently coaxing them, he said 'Well, go away and think about it and come back later.'

But back in the real world the guns are being prepared for another big push on the DWP front and Chateau Falconcrest is ablaze as the Lunity Grandees battle with the SOCIALIST CAUCUS for control of the biggest department in the civil service.

The resounding yes for action in the DWP strike ballot has clearly rattled Management, which immediately agreed to emergency talks when the results were announced this week. Though managers and the Sun newspaper played the usual games with the statistics the 32 per cent turn-out was more than credible for a ballot held over the Christmas holiday and the 58.77 per cent vote for strike action represented an overall swing compared to the inconclusive earlier London poll. More significantly, the 80.44 per cent vote for action short of striking told Management, if they didn't know it already, that the vast majority of members in the DWP were opposed to the continuing job cuts that have plunged the Department's front-line into administrative chaos. Though the Grandees will be looking for a negotiated settlement, Management will have to put some serious proposals on the table if another round of fighting is to be avoided.

But while the cease-fire holds on the DWP front, its no-holds barred back at HQ. Between the 3rd and 17th January every Lunity member will be able to cast a postal vote in elections to decide the slate for the 2006 Group elections. Though card-carrying members of Lunity in DWP are probably little more than 200 the Grandees and the Carcase have been furiously signing up followers over the holiday break. While the Carcase are determined to take the DWP GEC by storm, the determination to cut the Carcase down to size comes straight from the top. JAN'N'DAN are sick of Carcase sniping over the pensions deal and they're furious at the posturing of McDONALD & Co in London, which they believe, undermined the Group's bargaining position over the cuts.

The Carcase has always believed that the Grandees could never afford a complete break claiming this would undermine Lunity's position completely in DWP and throughout the union. But the acrimonious exchanges at Lunity's national conference in December and the almost complete defeat of the Carcase over the national slate has emboldened the bloc dominated by former Mendicants now led by the Scottish Socialist Party, to go for the jugular in the DWP.

At the moment the Carcase holds six seats on the GEC and it bagged half the votes at the Lunity section elections last year. The Grandees want that number drastically reduced and this time they think they can do it.

Both sides prepared rival exclusive lists over Christmas but Lunity fired the first shot with a call for a "genuine united left" in the DWP during the break. Denouncing the "so-called 'Socialist Caucus'" as cynical, negative, "ultra-left", and ineffectual. The "Real Left Unity" slate totally excludes the Carcase though two places out of the 36 positions have been left free to allow them to support a couple of Carcasites the Grandees are prepared to work with, subject to the Carcase withdrawing its rival slate. They haven't indicated who these might be but ROD BACON is certainly one of them.

The Lunity slate is the usual list of Big Tent loyalists. MARTIN JOHN, who resigned from the SWP to back the pensions deal is suitably rewarded and ageing Lothario ALAN BROWN (see Judas passim) has also made the cut. Though why the useless DAVE RICHARDS is up for VP is beyond me.

The CARCASE responded immediately with an edition of The Next Step and their list of 20 runners. It makes a number of bizarre claims including the suggesting that it was their push for London action that led to the calling of a national departmental strike despite the fact that they were originally dead against national action when they were rooting for the ill advised and never realised London action.

Their attack on the pensions' deal may help them close ranks with the Socialist Wankers but it's unlikely to win over many new voters. Though the deal, part of a wider agreement with other public sector unions, was hardly the Battle of Trafalgar Madame Godrich would have us believe, it was the best that could be obtained under current circumstances.

MAREK and the Grandees around him argue that the CARCASE flings abuse but puts forward no alternative. While that's not entirely true, the "alternative" is a campaign for rank and file unity over jobs, pay and pensions throughout the public sector which sounds grand in theory but is totally unattainable.

Some of JAKE'S crowd believe this is the beginning of the end for LUNITY but they are much mistaken. The grandees have precisely taken this step because they know that JAKE, MOIRA CAMPBELL and the MAD MONK have failed to make any advance beyond their core constituencies nor can they guarantee that CURRIE will not run another spoiler old Mod list to snooker them. WILDE is currently busying himself with Departmental work having recently been elevated within the HR ranks to that of the HMRC National C&D Team, so if you're on a disciplinary and up for the sack, tell Jake you'll vote for him and it'll be sorted. But I digress.

The Grandees calculate that the membership will give them another vote of confidence at the national polls and they can count on their allies in the Democrats and the Commissars' Unity who have been rooting for a confrontation with ROCK and MACDONALD for months.

As for the Carcase, that depends on how the DWP Lunity vote goes and ultimately on how both sides fare in the section elections. Though it will considerably sour relations within the Big Tent at the NEC, the Grandees are quietly confident. After all, they've successfully blunted the cutting edge of the SWP over the pensions' row without any loss in prestige or support. Indeed the SWP made fools of themselves with own brand of cutting off their nose to spite their face. But ultimately the Big Tent will survive because the Carcase has nowhere else to go.

Omnia iam fient fieri quae posse negabam.
All the things which I denied could happen are now happening.
Publius Ovidius Naso
43 BC - 17 AD