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The Red scare: It’s been a bad week for the union bashers

26 Jun 2022 5 minute read
Mick Lynch by Dominic Lipinski, PA Images

Ben Wildsmith

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.

Visible bewilderment

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.

Historical cosplay

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!

Keir Starmer by Peter Byrne, Boris Johnson by Dan Kitwood, PA images

Mythological battleground

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

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2 years ago

“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. “ That sums up our problem. The MSM commentariat is overloaded with people who feed off division and dissent. The political bubble is overloaded with careerists who can’t think deeply about much other than their individual self interest, and slice of dogma which holds them together in their political parties.… Read more »

Last edited 2 years ago by hdavies15
2 years ago

Ben Wildsmith is a very good writer. He writes beautifully. This subject, however, made the song “Hopelessly Devoted To You” play as background music in my head (involuntary Grease song syndrome is no fun, kids). The moment we shift our creative focus to Wales and Welsh politics, the closer we get to our freedom. What we’re doing presently is rolling the dice in a game of “Monopoly – United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland edition” whilst grumbling that we hate this game. Articles like this, every piece on Nation that focus onBoris, the by-elections, HS2, whatever politicians or… Read more »

Last edited 2 years ago by CJPh
RobertLlewellyn Tyler
RobertLlewellyn Tyler
2 years ago
Reply to  CJPh

Excellent point.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
2 years ago

“Remoaners”?🤔 Er the people ive seen trashing the strikes and demonising union leaders are hard brexiters like Jacob Rees -Mogg, Nadine Dorries, Ian Duncan -Smith and Nigel Farage.

2 years ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

And Starmer isn’t a Remoaner any more anyway, is he?

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
2 years ago

If you were unfortunate like me to. watch those bigots in GB News & Talk TV, I am a glutton for punishment, basically calling the striker’s Marxists and demonising Mick Lynch as a Stalin figure not fully understanding why they are picketing makes my blood boil. And where the Tories should be mediating and finding an amicable solution are antagonistic and want a fight especially when you have liked of Conservative clowns Grant Shapps , Jacob Rees-Mogg come out with the most insulting rediculous rhetoric is like pouring petrol on an already blading fire. Our of touch is an understatement.

Last edited 2 years ago by Y Cymro
adopted cardi
adopted cardi
2 years ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

nil illegetimi carborundum Y Cymro !
It’s been this way since mrs thatcher declared war on anyone who didnt agree. In fact, apart from a brief period just after world war 2, its been like this since the Domesday book, and before, for all I know.. On the plus side Wales is like an Oasis in a damn great Desert. We will eventually get there!

The Original Mark
The Original Mark
2 years ago

We’ve now got the Lib Dems talking about using the army to break the strike? wouldn’t be the first time the Lib Dems have sent the troops in to break a strike.

2 years ago

Hello Mark – can you give me a link to this please? Thanks!

2 years ago

If the right wing media want to portray Lynch as Scargill Mark 2 then they are going about it the wrong way. The Tories in reality would love for the country to be held to a standstill so that the public will forget about partygate

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