Sir Ed has his cape on!

We are saved, saved!

This week has left the country drained after government ministers reverted to divisive political playbooks last seen in the 1970s and early 1980s.

The Liberal Democrats are against the rail strikes and if a summer of discontent is not to turn into a winter of discontent and full-on stagflation, ministers must step back from the brink.

The position of lower-paid workers across our country should be at the forefront of ministers’ thinking – not that of the highest earners in the City, whose pay and bonuses the government announced this week would not be limited in any way.

For back in the real world, I’ve heard this week of anguished people unable to visit their elderly and vulnerable parents. I’ve heard of nurses now forced to take multiple buses, struggling to get to their 12-hour hospital shifts. And I’ve also heard from dedicated public sector workers, scraping by on low or even minimum wages, unable to afford to pay for even basic necessities, as prices spiral out of control, leaving wages far behind.

Good analysis! So, Ed, whaddawegonnado?

The solution to such distressing stories is clear: instead of strikes, there should be dialogue between government ministers and union bosses.

Oh, right.

28 thoughts on “Sir Ed has his cape on!”

  1. Oh Lordy, what a useless twonk.
    I guess the problem that Davey and his merry band of half wits have, is that what we have today : stagflation, high fuel prices, people forced to use public transport etc Are exactly what their policies are designed to bring about.
    I wonder if any interviewer will actually say to any of these morons
    “But shirley, this is what you want ? Why are you complaining?”

  2. Interesting that it is reportedly thirty years since a rail strike of this magnitude, pre- privatisation.
    Quite a few minor disputes over the intervening, but no ‘all out brothers’. Who was in power 30 years ago? Oh yeah, the cons, headed by John ‘put your knickers back on Edwina’ Major.

  3. ” … the highest earners in the City, whose pay and bonuses the government announced this week would not be limited in any way.”

    Good – since it’s rightfully none of government’s damned business.

  4. @Addolff: Given that they didn’t engage in mass strikes under Cameron, it’s probably more to do with increased government involvement making them more vulnerable to mass action. Add in weak leadership and a pandemic response that proved the government had no backbone, and it isn’t surprising. Domestically and internationally, we’ll see more actors trying it on.

    Given the state of public finances, I think we’ll see things get much more vicious as various parts of the public sector realise their funding is going to be a zero-sum game.

  5. Al Beebra says:

    Prices are continuing to rise at their fastest rate for 40 years as food, energy and fuel costs continue to climb.

    UK inflation, the rate at which prices rise, edged up to 9.1% in the 12 months to May, from 9% in April, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

    The figure is now at the highest level since March 1982, when it also stood at 9.1%.

    The Bank of England has warned inflation will reach 11% this year.

    I’m a huge fan of the 80’s, but this is ridiculous. RMT are asking for a below-inflation increase of 7% apparently, so it’s not exactly the second coming of Arthur Scargill, feels more performative this time.

  6. Domestically and internationally, we’ll see more actors trying it on.

    Belgium is pretty close to a General Strike

  7. JuliaM,

    Spot on.

    There is no good reason for the government to negotiate. Rail is drowning in debt and the government wants to reduce numbers. Why would they offer a whopping pay rise in the face of that? What do the RMT have to offer? Sure, they can threaten strike days, but most travellers have the backup plan of remote work.

  8. PM: “What on Earth can we do about the railways? We poured £15bn into them during the lockdown, and they are still losing money!”

    Sir Humphrey: “You must stop the flow of money or the deficit will go out of control and the treasury will object.”

    Bernard: “Sir, I have an idea….Since we’ve spent 2 years WFH and hardly anyone (important) commutes any more, why not just stop paying for the railways?”

    PM: “What about the real workers: nurses, builders, drivers, those who can’t WFH?”

    Sir Humphrey: “Who?”

  9. Mick Lynch (or should that be Lynch Mick): “We want more money”.
    Government: “OK. You can have the pay rise you want, but to pay for it, you must lose 15% of your staff. Give me a list of those people you want to lose their jobs and you can have the dosh”.
    Worth a try.

  10. Tim the Coder,

    But Bernard has a good point. I’m sure there are some bits of urban rail in London where these people take the train, but you don’t get many nurses, builders or factory workers on the Great Western line. It’s mostly coders, PR people, architects and other ne’er-do-wells on laptops.

    Most of those real workers live near where they work, and those workplaces are out of town. My wife used to do a real job and sometimes she’d go to the site near Slough, but she always drove. Because if you have to get to the station, catch a train, then catch a bus at the other end, it’s quite a lot slower than driving, and more expensive. And out of town places don’t have the same problem of congestion that centres do. Getting into the Honda plant in Swindon was a 5 minute traffic jam.

    It’s why season tickets have fallen to 28% of pre-Covid. I’m sure there’s still some heart surgeons who have to travel from Pangbourne to the hospital in Reading every day because you can’t do it remote, but most of the people who took the train don’t need to.

  11. The Meissen Bison

    It’s time (again) to cancel HS2 and let the railway people strike for as long as they like.

    Apparently post office workers are about to go on strike as well. Good. Yet another public sector “business” that is no longer needed.

    How about some severe pruning to the benefits system too.

  12. Steve,

    “I’m a huge fan of the 80’s, but this is ridiculous. RMT are asking for a below-inflation increase of 7% apparently, so it’s not exactly the second coming of Arthur Scargill, feels more performative this time.”

    Have they added 7% of value? No. Their value has fallen by 30%. Is that their fault? No, but when did anyone care about that? I knew people who lost their jobs when Enron failed. I’m sure there was a whole team around Gary Glitter or Rolf Harris who had to find another job in a hurry.

    Frankly, most of these people were overpaid because they could hold commuters to ransom for years. They’re all like “they barely earn more than the average” but what’s the like-for-like? The average salary of “rail travel assistants” is £33K. The salary of someone working in a travel agents like Tui is £20-27K. Not surprising that they’re striking rather than quitting.

  13. Dennis, Not Being Sarcastic At All

    The solution to such distressing stories is clear: instead of strikes, there should be dialogue between government ministers and union bosses.

    Ed spelled “Let’s jerk off and hope the problem goes away” wrong.

  14. JK277 – “probably more to do with increased government involvement making them more vulnerable to mass action”

    Southern had a long running dispute before 2020. Other regional franchises had managed to implement much of what caused that dispute with minimum fuss.

    The difference being that Southern isn’t really a franchise like the others. More like out-sourced management under the control of the DfT. Changes to Thameslink, plus Crossrail effectively creates a supra-regional franchise, operating some very large chunk of national capacity, that effectively is under direct control of the DfT.

    Can’t imagine why the comrades are kicking off. No idea.

  15. BoM4 – I’m sure there was a whole team around Gary Glitter or Rolf Harris who had to find another job in a hurry.

    I hope they let his abo go loose, Lou.

    The average salary of “rail travel assistants” is £33K.

    Sure, but that’s not a lot of money. They’re being asked to eat a sharp reduction in their standard of living, can’t really blame them for kicking off. High inflation always turns into a pass the parcel game like this, but the railies aren’t the ones who blew up the money supply and global supply chains at the same time.

  16. Steve,

    “Sure, but that’s not a lot of money. They’re being asked to eat a sharp reduction in their standard of living, can’t really blame them for kicking off. High inflation always turns into a pass the parcel game like this, but the railies aren’t the ones who blew up the money supply and global supply chains at the same time.”

    It’s not a lot of money, I agree. But nor is bus driving, or working in Wetherspoons, or fitting tyres at my local garage. And in my experience all of those people do a much better job than the railways. I have a lot more sympathy with making the bus drivers a bit richer who never let me down than the rail people who seemed to fuck up on a regular basis. If the railways ran Wetherspoons, the breakfast would cost twice the price and about once a week they’d have to cancel it because they didn’t have a chef, or hadn’t ordered enough bacon.

    I’ll gladly have my tax raised by 2% and the tax thresholds raised for the poor. What I’m not in favour of is spunking billions of quid on a specific bunch of 100,000 jobs.

  17. “There should be dialogue between government ministers and union bosses.”

    But they’re not working for “British Rail” these days. The only dialogue should be between union reps and the operating companies…

  18. Nurses who work 12 hour shifts don’t use public transport as it doesn’t run to a schedule they can use, London maybe an exception, but try doing shift work in most places and relying on public transport isn’t an option

  19. ‘The average salary of “rail travel assistants” is £33K.‘

    Basic salary maybe. But pension and other benefits will increase that by at least £10K, compared to a similar private sector worker.

  20. Nurses who work 12 hour shifts don’t use public transport as it doesn’t run to a schedule they can use, London maybe an exception, but try doing shift work in most places and relying on public transport isn’t an option

    Tell me about it. To get to my Sunday shift, I’d have to set off for work ten minutes before my previous shift ended on Saturday.
    Weekdays are slightly better. I might get home for a whopping fifteen minutes before I have to leave the house and catch the last bus, spending the night at the interchange, to get a bus to get me to work on time…
    Or it’s a 10 minute drive…
    Gee, wonder why I use a private vehicle…?

    So fuel prices don’t matter. I’ll always pay for it.
    I just cut back in other places if I need to – not going to restaurants or pubs or days out.
    Of course, next these places will be struggling as everyone does the same.

    How did these morons get to be in charge?

    And it means I’m not at the mercy of some crazed union thinking it’s the 1970s all over again.
    Let them strike. Strike as long as they want. I don’t care. The more they do, the more people will see what an overpaid, unnecessary burden they are.

  21. Given that

    The overwhelming majority of the population does not use railways

    Railways do not serve the majority of the country

    Railways arw incapable of running without subsidy

    Express coaches are far more effective, efficient and appease the climate god’s and don’t require ludicrous levels of infrastructure

    Isn’t it time to cut our losses and shut the entire railway network?
    Rip it up and turn it into an express coach network

  22. Coaches don’t go where I want to go.

    I remember back in the 1980s I could get a direct coach, no changing, from Sheffield bus station direct to Whitby. Today, the furthest I can get is Whitby to Leeds (on the admittedly beautiful Coastliner route). It’s then an hour’s wait for a connection on to Sheffield.

    I like spending time in the county archives, transcribing and digitising documents and making them available for people. When my car died I investigated getting there by bus. I think I found it would take three buses, and by the time I got there I’d have to then catch the next bus back home. By car it’s about an hour. Glod only knows how any new county councillors from our area are going to get to county hall meetings after all the districts are abolished if they can’t drive now that Boris has abolished the ability to have Remote Council Meetings. I’m glad I’m just a parish councillor really.

  23. Dave Ward @ 2.32, it may not be called British Rail and there may be lots of different uniforms, flashy log’s and branding, but it is most certainly run by the DfT.

  24. @JGH

    So train is your preferred solution?
    ?
    Just imagine how good coach and bus services could be if £billions of rail funding was repurposed?

    Rail services in my County, Cornwall, probably support less than 20% of the population

  25. “So train is your preferred solution?”

    Surely there is no “solution”, ie, horses for courses? Lots of trains work very well into Central London and other urban conurbations, and especially during peak times. Fast longer distance Intercity, ditto: Manchester / London in 2 hours beats anything else by a mile if heading from centre to centre. Elsewhere coaches might work well. Sparsely populated/rural and often even buses are not really viable.

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