It’s time to state the blindingly obvious – these are Tory rail strikes

Labour’s leader should drop the cautious Keir act, pick up the cudgels and go on the offensive. These are the Conservative Party’s strikes

James Moore
Tuesday 21 June 2022 11:51
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Nothing we could do to stop rail strikes, says Grant Shapps

And they’re out. The rail strike has begun and Big Dog Boris Johnson is rubbing his sweaty hands together in the hopes of squeezing some political advantage from the country being at a standstill.

I want to play too, shouts gormless Grant Shapps from the Department for Transport. It’s a marvellous opportunity to shift the narrative away from our own dismal failures and the latest scandal(s) engulfing Number 10! Such as, I don’t know, behaving like a plastic Putin, allegedly doling out dodgy jobs for cronies/lovers, and let’s not forget parties, parties and more parties, while people were dying.

Commuter misery? Pfah. Who cares just so long as we can find something, anything, to hit Keir Starmer with and divert attention from the rumblings of discontent on our back benches. Oi Keir, whatcha doing about this then, eh?

Oliver Dowden, the dismal minister for culture (wars) turned Tory party chairman, actually had the gall to tweet a shrill petition bellowing  “stop Labour’s strikes”. Sign up, and you too can have your inbox filled with spam from Tory HQ. This despite the fact that the RMT isn’t affiliated to Labour and Labour is not in government like it was during the last “winter of discontent”. It’s a funny old world.

But the fact that this is all typical Tory disinformation doesn’t mean Keir Starmer shouldn’t be ready to combat attempts to paint him as the cause of Johnson’s “Summer of Sadness” – because a squeezed public sector is preparing to join in.

Johnson has proved before that lying, lying, and then lying some more can be a very effective political tactic. It got him into Downing Street, after all.

Labour’s leader should drop the cautious Keir act, pick up the cudgels and go on the offensive. These are the Conservative Party’s strikes. Their genesis was in Downing Street. Mick Lynch, the general secretary of the RMT, says the government prevented a deal from being done and I believe him.

Mr Speaker, the prime minister says he wants better wages for workers. He’s told companies who are short of workers to pay more. Why is he now preventing a deal on the railways? Mr Speaker, isn’t all this because of record inflation, a cost of living crisis and the mismanagement of the economy he has done nothing about? Hear, hear, hear, or whatever it is the muppets across the floor of the chamber do when they think their leader’s scored a hit.

Mr Speaker, they keep saying these are Labour’s strikes, but it’s the Tories who are in power. It’s under the Tories that wages are falling at their fastest rate for a generation. It’s the Tories who have forced hospitals to put on food banks for nurses. No one wants to be striking now, but they feel they have no choice. Why doesn’t he tell his transport secretary to get them around a table and sort this out instead of preventing a deal from being done?

That “get around the table” line is indeed a bit limp, a point made by my esteemed colleague Sean O’Grady yesterday. The leader of the opposition ought to be able to find a better way of showing up the government for sitting back and watching as the nation descends into chaos while doing three fifths of sweet FA, and cynically exploiting the quagmire for political purposes.

So for goodness sake, hit them with it. Hit them with it again and again. Tory strikes. Tory economy. Tory cost of living crisis. Bang, bang, bang.

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I did say Starmer could probably put it better than I did up there, but the leader of the opposition isn’t always good with snappy soundbites. The people around him aren’t either.

They’re too careful. Too cautious. If they don’t wake up, the Tories might get away with claiming to be “on the side of the travelling public” when they created this cesspool, a cesspool they are intent on tipping over Starmer’s head. It’s high time he found a bit of fire and put it right back under the noses of the people responsible for it. These are Tory strikes, created by Tory policies. They are the inevitable result of an economy which works for hedge fund managers and well off pensioners but just about no one else.

This is what Boris Johnson’s idea of “delivering for the British people” really looks like. Now for the love of god, hit them with it.

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