The Red scare: It’s been a bad week for the union bashers
On a fateful morning in 1926, while the crowds in Merthyr chanted ‘Caws a briochches’, their leader, Wat Tyler, appeared live on Good Morning Britain from his 400 000 groat manor in Tolpuddle.
‘So, are you, like, a Marxist?’ demanded Richard Madeley, ‘Because if you are, that means you’re into revolution and bringing down capitalism!’
The studio lights flickered as, with coal stocks low, Norman Tebbit’s father pedalled hard to keep the generator going.
‘I’ll tax you until the pips squeak!’ snarled Tyler.
Hard-working-families across the nation trembled at the prospect of being herded onto communal farms and Boys from the Black Stuff replacing Love Island on telly.
It’s been a confusing old week for the media, hasn’t it?
Political commentators, who are used to speculating on how many members of the 1922 Committee can balance on the head of a pin, have been required to report on an outbreak of politics from an unthinkable source: actual working people.
Their visible bewilderment at real-time industrial action has been shared by politicians of all stripes.
For the Tories, it has been like Colonel Sanders pitching up to one of his restaurants and finding a chicken working behind the counter.
Labour, meanwhile, had expected to take a Jamie Oliver role, advocating that the chicken be killed more humanely, only to find it brandishing a meat cleaver.
I mean, who do these people think they are? Politics isn’t something they do, it’s something that’s done to them.
Amongst the political class, there seemed to be an inability to accept that the rail strikes were real.
For them, the events could only make sense as some kind of historical cosplay, as if the Sealed Knot had turned up late to Platty Jubes and put on a re-enactment of the Battle of Orgreave.
On Sky News, Kay Burley was desperate to find out when the thuggery was scheduled to kick off.
‘What are the pickets going to do?’ she wailed as Mick Lynch amiably gestured towards four blokes in high-vis vests with placards.
The RMT leader has been a headache for television news producers all week. Each deployed their most expensive presenter to skewer this interloper from another age, only to see them done up like kippers as Lynch refused to play his assigned role of angry idealogue and calmly put his case to the nation.
If you require confirmation that we have not, in fact, ‘returned to the 1970s’ then Piers Morgan’s decision to grill Lynch over whether his choice of Facebook profile photo suggested a desire to bring about global chaos should remind you we do not live in a world inhabited by Robin Day.
Ice bucket challenge
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister, speaking from his political heartland in Rwandashire, pointed out that some train drivers are on £70 000 a year.
We can, I hope, assume he’s aware that train drivers’ pay has nothing to do with the current strikes and credit Johnson for using the political gambit for which he will surely be remembered: saying things that sound a bit like other things in order to confuse the public.
‘Train drivers’, you see, occupy the same space in our mental filing cabinets as ‘rail workers’. Likewise, who amongst us has time to clearly label ‘European Court of Human Rights’ so that we don’t confuse it with ‘European Court of Justice’?
Remoaners, that’s who, say no more.
And where was the King of the Remoaners as anarcho-syndicalism became this week’s ice bucket challenge?
When the world’s most cautious baby emerged quietly from the womb in 1962, he could have done without being named after the firebrand founder of the Labour Party, Keir Hardie.
Historical Keirs had it easy, anyone can swan about with a hipster beard representing a uniform demographic against a cigar-chomping ruling class that hasn’t had any media training.
Your modern Keir must address the concerns of his traditional base without demonising aspirational values so he can build a broad coalition around progressive ideas that serve the needs of a modern economy whilst ensuring that workers are fully protected against…hello? Is anybody listening?
Come back from that picket line and discuss this reasonably!
As I was stuck in traffic on the A470 on Tuesday, I listened to interviews with the RMT representatives and with those from Network Rail.
It struck me how, between the actual protagonists, there seemed to be a great deal of mutual respect.
This was no rancorous clash of ideologies; it was a simple dispute between interested parties that had come to a head.
The contrast was not between those involved but with commentators and politicians who are so divorced from the working life of the country that they can only discuss it as a mythological battleground upon which ghosts from the past can be invoked to spook the populace one way or another.
*Wat Tyler’s spokesman explained he was unavailable for comment, having been at a work event with Richard II for the duration of the Glastonbury Festival.
You can read more from Ben Wildsmith here
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.