One of the quotes below was uttered this week by a Tory politician and the other by Labour Mayor:
My message to the unions is also clear: stop the strikes now and get back around the negotiating table.
I hope she will join me in urging all sides in this dispute to return to the negotiating table and reach an agreement that puts the needs of passengers first
Can you guess which was which?
In fact, the former was tweeted by London Mayor Sadiq Khan to his two-and-a-half million followers, while the latter was said by Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Paul Maynard during the 5 December Commons debate on Southern Rail.
If you got it wrong, it’s completely excusable, because there’s no substantive difference between the two.
Mr Khan appears to have forgotten which party’s candidate he was during the Mayoral election. Rail workers are striking to protect passenger safety and their jobs – and nobody right-minded will begrudge them either. Even on BBC News today, where vox pop snippets are often cherry-picked to fit the government’s agenda, most people were placing the blame squarely on the rail operator – which has an atrocious record – and on the government for allowing Southern to continue to fail and then to attempt to cut costs by dispensing with staff whose job is to ensure passenger safety.
Of course, Khan is a Progress member, a ‘Labour’ group that is to the right of some Tories, so perhaps his identity crisis is understandable.
Meanwhile, on Merseyside, Merseyrail has today confirmed its own decision to do away with train guards, in complete defiance of the loudly-expressed wishes of local passengers, while levering more passengers into each train. It remains to be seen whether Liverpool’s Labour-controlled council will remember which party it represents and intervene as it should, but Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson’s statement welcoming the new trains and guardless mode of operation do not offer much hope of it.
Merseyrail staff protested, negotiated and enlisted support from passengers, but did not strike, although action is now being considered by unions, so their restraint didn’t do any good and ‘negotiations’ were clearly not treated seriously by an operator that had evidently made its mind up.
Southern staff are therefore now completely vindicated in their industrial action. It’s certainly an inconvenience to passengers when strikes occur, but it’s a lot less inconvenient than being physically- or sexually-assaulted on a train and having nobody to help you, or falling out of/under a train and losing a limb or your life.
Khan needs to show some spine and some principles. Labour principles. The same goes for Joe Anderson.
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