Awkward Squad

The phrase Awkward Squad is used usually to refer to any grouping of individuals, normally within an existing organisation or structure, who wittingly or otherwise associate together to resist or obstruct change and are possibly stubborn in doing so.


It is commonly accepted that shortly before his death Robert Burns uttered the words "Don't let the ackward squad fire over me" The phrase is recorded in use around the late 19th century in military slang applied to a troop of recruits which seemed incapable of understanding discipline or was not yet sufficiently trained or disciplined for its duties

Literary use

Norman Cameron ends one of his poems - Forgive me, sire - with the words 'awkward squad' , which plays with the above definition. This would have been written at least about 50 years before the current use.

Current union usage

Most notably in recent years, the name Awkward Squad was given in 2002/2003 to an informal grouping of left-leaning British trade unionists who opposed what they regarded as the neo-liberal policies of the ruling New Labour faction of the Labour Party It includes such figures as Bob Crow of the RMT, Mark Serwotka of the PCS and Jeremy Dear of the NUJ, and has seen an increase in co-operation between unions in an attempt to set a new political agenda.

The "awkward squad" is split between those who wish to "reclaim" the Labour Party for socialism, and those who want to break with Labour and try to build a new mass movement. Some of the latter have already shown some support for parties, including the Scottish Socialist Party and the Respect Coalition. Two former members of the "Awkward Squad" have since lost their union posts. In July 2003, Mick Rix of ASLEF was ousted by a right-winger, Shaun Brady. Two years later in May 2005, Andy Gilchrist, a member of the "reclaim Labour" grouping, was ousted by Matt Wrack who is more inclined towards building a new party Members - Bob Crow (RMT) Jeremy Dear (NUJ) Billy Hayes (CWU) Paul Mackney (NATFHE) Mark Serwotka (PCS) Derek Simpson (Amicus) Tony Woodley (T&G) Matt Wrack (FBU)

Quote "It's a well known secret that many of us meet up to discuss. We'll support each other on specific issues and follow each other's lead." (Andy Gilchrist)

Other uses of the phrase

Trades Union 'awkward squad' references

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