Mark Steel: Solving disputes the Boris way

Share
Related Topics

The marvellous part about a transport strike, such as the one on the London Underground on Monday, is the reports on the news afterwards. This is where we're told that, "one plucky commuter beat the strike by breaking into the Imperial War Museum and stealing a Spitfire, which he used to ferry grateful passengers who'd been left stranded by the union in a swamp with little hope of ever seeing their children again. And an insurance clerk got permission from London Zoo to borrow a leopard, and rode on it to his office in Shoreditch. There was a slight hitch on the Camden one-way system when it mauled a queue for the 159 to Westminster, but he arrived only 10 minutes late, and was able to do plenty of filing."

Then they tell us how much misery has been caused, with stories such as, "one Ealing man was especially upset by the militants' day of anarchy. He was planning to commit suicide by jumping under a Central Line train to Ruislip, but had to cancel his plans as the line was closed for 24 hours." "It's so thoughtless of them," the man said, "I'd even bought my Travelcard in advance. It's such a disappointment, and now I'm going to have to go back tomorrow."

The phrase "tried to beat the strike" is used for anyone who travelled anywhere, but the aim of the strike wasn't to make everyone sit still all day. You might as well say you can beat a firefighters' strike by setting fire to your house and then spraying water over it yourself.

The strike was to demonstrate opposition to cuts in staff, and the reduced safety levels that would accompany this, such as halving the checks on brakes on the trains. Whereas the Government insists the unions must accept the need to "modernise", because checking brakes is SO last season.

But the main issue could become the vote for the strike. Because 79 per cent supported the action in the union's ballot. But Boris Johnson has declared this result wasn't fair as the turnout was less than 50 per cent, and new laws should be made to ensure strike ballots must have a higher turnout than that to be legal. This is a novel approach to democracy, as it makes abstaining more effective than voting against. Campaigners against a strike would say, "Make your vote count – don't forget to not vote." It's a rule that would invalidate lots of current elected politicians. To pick an example at random, the current Mayor of London was elected on a turnout of 45.3 per cent so he'd be sacked for a start.

The Conservatives say they're considering the proposal, which has clearly got little to do with democracy but because they don't like strikes. It would make just as much sense to say that anyone who didn't vote was considered FOR the strike. They seem to find it hard to accept that despite all the obstacles placed before the unions, workforces still vote for these strikes. The next proposal will be that if a strike vote still wins a majority, the Government is allowed to go "Right – best of three."

It's an attitude that might be fair if it applied to all areas of society, so that a vote in a shareholders' meeting wouldn't be valid unless a majority of the staff voted on whether a £2m bonus should be paid to the chief executive, or whether the office should be shut down so everyone had to move to Peterborough or be made redundant.

But also, Boris's commitment to resolving disputes is unconvincing, seeing as this year he's not met anyone from the unions on the Underground, which compares to two meetings he's had with Kelly Brook and one with Lily Allen. To be fair, with Boris he could have got them mixed up and thought Lily Allen was the RMT leader, and sat there going "Gosh, blimey, well then, it's really not OK you say, well yes we'll see about that Mr Crow."

And when he does finally meet the RMT leader he'll say, "Gracious, I'd heard you sang in a common accent but that rather takes the biscuit. So is, 'Our demand is simply a removal of threatened job losses' your next single then? Goodness. We're all in it together you know."

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY - An outstanding high level opportunity...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Should parents be allowed to take pictures at nativity plays?  

Ghosts of Christmas past: What effect could posting pictures of nativity plays have on the next generation?

Ellen E Jones
The first Christmas card: in 1843 the inventor Sir Henry Cole commissioned the artist John Callcott Horsley to draw a card for him to send to family and friends  

Hold your temperance: New life for the first Christmas card

Simmy Richman
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick