A LIFELONG “club man” from the North-East is celebrating Christmas and the New Year in style after being elected national leader of the CIU movement.

George Smith was voted into office as the new national president of the CIU in overwhelming fashion, taking more than half of the 314 votes to easily defeat his two rival candidates.

The Durham branch secretary, a CIU national executive (NEC) member for almost six years, received 181 votes in the recent ballot, defeating former president George Dawson, the West Yorkshire branch secretary, who polled 79, and Wessex branch secretary John Wood, receiving 54 votes, giving an overall majority of 48.

Mr Smith, 77, a CIU member all his adult life, is now the overseer of not just the 158 clubs in the Durham branch area, between Tees and Tyne, but all 1,400 affiliated premises nationally.

The Sunderland-born former shipyard worker takes up office early in the New Year and will spend time between the CIU’s Islington head office, in north London, and his Teesside home, still heavily involved in Durham branch affairs.

“I was down in London for the result and came back the day after the verdict.

“I’m going down in the New Year to Islington, but it should only require me to be down there for about three days every month.

“We’ll be having a meeting the day before the national executive to thrash out when we want to have our different meetings.”

All being well, Mr Smith should be sitting in the president’s chair wearing his chains of office on, or shortly after January 6.

“I’ve got a few things on my mind to try to push forward, but I’m very much someone who will talk to people and not shout at them.

“I’m a believer in talking things over and I’m sure things will come good.

“I get on well with everyone at our headquarters who seem pleased with the outcome of the election, so that will help when I take up office.”

He hopes to maintain the traditions of the CIU movement, while continuing to oversee the modernisation and efficient running of clubs

A big date on the presidential diary will be the CIU’s annual meeting, staged in Blackpool, over the weekend of April 2 to 4.

Mr Smith, who has had recent hospital treatment, is now planning a few celebratory pints over the festive period with friends and colleagues at Billingham Trade Union Social Club, where he remains general secretary and treasurer.

Despite his Wearside upbringing, joining local clubs in South Hylton and Pennywell in his younger days, he transferred club allegiances to Billingham after moving to work at the former Haverton Hill shipyard on the Tees.

He also went on to spend several years as a merchant seaman.

Replacing Mr Smith as Durham branch representative on the CIU NEC is Stephen Foster, who was unopposed in the recent election.