This Weak Conservative Government Refuses To Get Tough With The Unions

Southern Rail Isnt Working

When even staunch New Labour grandee and columnist John McTernan thinks the Tories are behaving like a weaker version of the Labour Party, British conservatism is in real trouble

As the RMT union’s strike on Southern Rail enters its third consecutive day, inconveniencing hundreds of thousands of commuters while a dithering Tory-lite government watches on, wringing its hands, former New Labour political adviser John McTernan uses his Telegraph column to tear into the Conservative Party.

McTernan writes:

We are in the middle of a five-day rail strike on Southern Rail. Commuters are being massively disrupted. And this is just the latest stage in a dispute in which the Luddite RMT union has made it clear that it is fully committed to fighting against the future.

What about the Government? Where are they in this dispute. It is a crystallisation if all their key themes: investment, modernisation, innovation and productivity. But they are silent.

Well not quite. What we have actually seen is the resignation of the then rail minister Claire Perry, who said:  “I am often ashamed to be the Rail Minister.” And so she should have been – just for her pathetic capitulation to the RMT. This, of course, is just what you would have expected from a Miliband government; but this is a Tory government, with a majority.

There is a famous scene in The West Wing episode about President Bartlet appointing a member of the Supreme Court. He meets Justice Joseph Crouch, whose retirement creates the vacancy, and is angrily addressed by Crouch: “I wanted to retire five years ago. Five years. But I waited for a Democrat. Instead I got you.” The Southern Rail dispute is just like that. Commuters in the Home Counties could be forgiven for thinking: “I waited 23 years for a majority Tory government. Instead I got you.” Where are the core Tory values? Where is the support for management’s right to manage?

This is utterly stunning criticism – shocking not only because it is self-evidently true (the Conservatives in government are a shadow of their glorious best under Margaret Thatcher) but because they are now so bad at governing in a conservative fashion that it has fallen to a former New Labour apparatchik to set them straight.

Why on earth has it fallen to a Labour Party grandee to inveigh against the more militant trades union? Where is the useless europhile Greg Clark, supposedly Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy during this whole dispute? Where is Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary? Have they all taken lessons from their new boss in the art of disappearing and avoiding the media during scandals affecting their ministerial briefs?

This criticism is particularly damning:

Where are the core Tory values? Where is the support for management’s right to manage?

Where indeed. This blog has wondered the same thing, as the Tories in government behaved like centralising statists, presided over an unprecedented weakening of our national defence, dithered over the housing crisisfailed to get to grips with the nation’s finances, alienated principled conservatives, and as the leader of a supposedly eurosceptic party did all he could to cheat his way to victory for the Remain camp in the EU referendum. Where are the core Tory values?

A Thatcherite government would have stood boldly on the side of consumers over producers, and thus would have been unafraid to plant its flag squarely in the same corner as Southern Rail’s unfortunate commuters. And unlike the Cameron approach to industrial disputes (seemingly applying maximum pressure on businesses to capitulate to union demands, as seen with the London Tube strikes) a Thatcherite government would have recognised the offensive absurdity of the union demands and unashamedly sided against them.

Needless to say, we do not have a Thatcherite government – despite all of the ingredients being in place for another properly ideological right wing government to flourish. The left-wing opposition is hopelessly divided. The Conservatives are under new leadership for the first time in a decade. Boundary review looks set to help the Tories by correcting decades-old biases in favour of Labour, potentially gifting the Tories tens of additional seats. All of these factors stand ready and waiting to be exploited by a radical Conservative government which understands that it has a duty to do more than hold power for the sake of it.

And yet at every turn, the Tories triangulate and tack to the centre. They did so under coalition government (when they had a modicum of an excuse) and they continue to do so now, when they have none. Right now, there is effectively no opposition. A conservative government right now could make a fair stab at privatising pensions and the NHS, and still not be forced out of office so long as the Corbynite and centrist wings of the Labour Party continue their childish tussle for power. The political landscape is ripe for a radical conservative reduction and reshaping of the state, yet there is almost zero evidence that Theresa May’s government intends to attempt any such bold enterprise.

And for what? Will being a centrist clone of New Labour win the Tories any new fans? Of course not. The swivel-eyed Left have long ago convinced themselves that all Tories are “evil” and “vermin”, no matter what they actually do in government.

We shall win no new fans by trying to adopt the cuddly persona of a young Tony Blair. We will never be liked. Therefore we should focus on being effective, without giving a second thought to winning over the admiration and votes of people who have been raised since birth to despise us. That’s what Margaret Thatcher taught us. And that is the lesson which we seem determined to cast aside in our feverish pursuit of the focus group’s favour.

John McTernan’s quote from The West Wing is very apt. Many conservatives have indeed been waiting for years – since Margaret Thatcher was forced from office, in fact – for another strong Tory leader; somebody committed to conservative, small government principles and willing to fight for them.

Conservatives waited thirteen long years of New Labour government only to get David Cameron. We then endured six years of Cameronism before being presented with the authoritarian Theresa May, foisted on the party in the confused wake of the EU referendum. And whatever electoral success Theresa May enjoys, she may well end up being every bit as much of an ideological disappointment as her predecessor.

But maybe this criticism is premature. Maybe the autumn Conservative Party conference will give birth to a conservative policy platform actually worth voting for. And to be fair to the new prime minister, even Margaret Thatcher bottled her first confrontation with the National Union of Mineworkers, staging a tactical retreat before coming back to finish the job in 1984-85.

But right now, British conservatives are in the ludicrous and humiliating position of being upbraided by a Labour Party grandee – someone from the party of Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith, for heaven’s sake – for being insufficiently dedicated to conservative principles.

And when it falls to Tony Blair’s right hand man to tell the Tories how to get tough with the unions, something is clearly rotten with the state of British conservatism.


David Cameron - Coke Zero Conservative - I Cant Believe Its Not Miliband

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The Immaturity And Cynicism Of The NHS Junior Doctors’ Dispute

Junior Doctors Strike - NHS - National Health Service - Vigil

The junior doctors lost the moral high ground when they decided to portray a debate about pay and conditions as a high-minded effort to “save the NHS”

James Kirkup has a great piece in the Telegraph in which he charges that the junior doctors’ dispute has reached an impasse not because of government intransigence but because many junior doctors are arguing an inherently political case from a position of naivety and political inexperience, and so will not concede the validity of any opinions other than their own.

Read the whole thing. But it is worth noting these excerpts in particular:

Some of this is about basic competence. The doctors and their leaders have done a very poor job of explaining why they are striking, offering a range of confused and changing justifications. Many doctors seem unaware of the position taken in negotiations on their behalf by their trade union (short summary: if the Government had agreed to pay more for Saturday working, the BMA would have settled and there’d be no strikes) and believe their strike is not about money.

This in itself is quite damning. All the high-minded talk about patient safety and “tired doctors making mistakes” suddenly begins to look a wee bit cynical when it turns out that the BMA would have taken the deal if only there was more money on offer. Was the extra pay all going to be spent on Pro Plus and Red Bull? Unlikely.

But this is the really interesting point:

Yet the doctors’ failure of understanding goes beyond tactics into something more fundamental, an unwillingness or perhaps just an inability to appreciate that politics is about reconciling the diverse interests and desires, that no one gets things all their own way.

Simply they don’t understand the conflict they’re in. Many, engaged in politics for the first time, cannot understand why the Government will not do exactly as they want; for them it’s unthinkable that others would not accept the doctors’ word on how to fund and structure the NHS as final. Any course of action but theirs is not just unacceptable but immoral.

As for those on the other side of this dispute, there is apparently no possibility that their motives could be honourable. Throughout this dispute I’ve not yet seen a junior doctor admit even the possibility that Jeremy Hunt, NHS Employers, David Dalton, Bruce Keogh or any of the main players on the employer side might also be acting in good faith, doing things they believe necessary and in the public interest.

Instead, Mr Hunt and his officials are routinely accused of venality and self-interest, and worse. I keep a little file of choice emails and tweets from doctors. It contains evidence of members of the profession making statements in public forums that Mr Hunt is psychopathic or suffering from various other clinical conditions. (There were also a number of homophobic slurs aimed at Mr Hunt, but that was a senior consultant, not a junior.) I can only conclude that the doctors concerned are so convinced of their own righteousness that they cannot admit that those who take a contrary view are anything but immoral.

Here we have Labour’s self-righteousness syndrome all over again, but this time the patient is not a political party but a large and vocal special interest group within the public sector. Just as was the case with those convinced that the Tories are evil vampires and that Ed Miliband was heading for victory in last year’s general election, so the junior doctors and their supporters seem convinced that the government is motivated purely out of malice, and that they are unambiguously in the right. And we all know what happened on May 7th.

Kirkup continues:

Other doctors display an almost touching lack of insight into how some aspects of their own working lives (a job for life, steep pay progression, huge pensions) are simply unobtainable dreams for most workers, even those who also got good A-levels and spent years studying at good universities.  One junior doctor (again, I won’t name him) last week reprimanded me for writing about doctors’ £1 million pension pots on the grounds that the retirement such funds deliver is “comfortable” but “not extravagant”.

Likewise the tendency to overlook (or simply not know) the fact that many of their problems (antisocial hours, weekend working, growing workloads and static or falling workforces) are common to many other professions and trades, many of whom do not enjoy the same benefits as doctors.

What the junior doctors (and those who support them) fail to understand is that nearly every public sector industrial action is fought on the grounds of public safety while really being about something else. Relatively well paid people (compared to the average wage) walking off the job in a dispute about money and working hours does not elicit as much public sympathy as casting themselves as the only people willing to take on the government on a grave matter of public safety, so simple self-interest dictates that any union (including the BMA and junior doctors) will emphasise the latter over the former.

Consider: how many striking junior doctors living in London would have tutted with frustration during the last tube strike called by the RMT, and fumed to their friends that tube drivers are incredibly well paid, should be grateful for what they have and get back to work, Night Tube be damned? The RMT’s dispute was based in large part on safety concerns, just like the junior doctors. Are the tube drivers lying while the junior doctors are telling the truth? Is there something inherently more virtuous in a doctor than a train driver?

This, too, is worrying:

Spare a thought here for the impact this outlook has on the doctors themselves.  Having become so utterly convinced of the rightness of their cause, many suffer genuine distress when their cause meets resistance or challenge.  Some, sadly, are not robust enough to encounter such pressures without experiencing genuine harm. That harm should weigh heavily on the consciences of the BMA leaders who have encouraged young and politically-inexperienced people to seek out confrontation in the harsh arena of public debate.

This rings alarm bells, because it is the same way that we now speak of Safe Space-dwelling students, grown adults who by adopting a toxic ideology have come to see themselves as perpetually vulnerable victims in constant need of protection from higher authorities. One could take this sentence – “some, sadly, are not robust enough to encounter such pressures without experiencing genuine harm” – and apply it equally to those wobbly-lipped students who are now killing academic freedom and free speech on our university campuses.

In fact, we may now be witnessing the first major conflict between the Safe Space generation (many junior doctors have only recently graduated university) and the realities of the labour market and public sector wage restraint – only everything is made doubly toxic because the dispute involves the one subject about which almost no Briton is capable of thinking rationally: the NHS.

This blog contends that the mere fact that national collective bargaining is still making headlines in 2016 rather than 1976 shows that Thatcher’s work is far from finished, and that if we were not still lumbered with a national health service we would not be facing the prospect of an all-out national walkout by healthcare professionals. After all, nothing about public healthcare mandates that it must be provided through a monolithic state-owned organisation, despite the best efforts of NHS apologists to pretend that our options are the status quo or the American system.

Maybe the doctors holding candles in an overwrought silent vigil for the NHS (see cover picture) are entirely genuine. Maybe they have convinced themselves that this dispute really is purely about patient safety and “saving the NHS”, and nothing more. But the junior doctors can no longer plausibly claim that this is about patient safety, or “saving the NHS”, because we now know that these are side issues brought cynically into the debate by the BMA and credulous activists in a well worn attempt to drum up public support.

This does not mean that each one of the Conservative government’s intended reforms are sensible. The idea of a 24-hour NHS is more slogan than policy, while statistics about weekend deaths have been cynically misrepresented – that much we can concede to the BMA. But when your pay dispute is with one of the largest organisations in the world, and by far the largest employer in Britain, then everyone who pays for that service gets to have a say, including (or even especially) a government elected partly on a manifesto to make changes to that health service, whether or not those changes happen to be smart. By taking the public coin the NHS is inherently political, and those working for it cannot complain when those outside the organisation seek to wield their own influence.

And from a purely tactical standpoint, James Kirkup is right – the junior doctors and their representatives in the BMA have bungled this dispute badly. With their overwrought, hysterical claims that a new national contract will somehow be the end of the NHS when it turned out that the final sticking point in the negotiations was over nothing more noble than Saturday pay, their credibility is squandered. And neither they nor their supporters should not escape censure for their part in what is to come.


Save Our NHS

Top Image: Guardian

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Is This The Beginning Of The End Of Britain’s NHS Idolatry?

NHS Logo - Cross - National Religion - Worship - Idolatry

Are we witnessing the high water mark of mindless NHS-worship?

Regular readers will know that this blog is a constant critic of the British cult of NHS-worship. Not of the NHS specifically, but of the fawning, servile and uncritical way in which the National Health Service is viewed and debated in the public discourse.

Whether one prefers state-provided everything and harbours intense suspicion of privatisation, or yearns for the innovation and competition that the private sector (at its best) can bring, any reasonable person should be sickened by the stultifying atmosphere which has surrounded the NHS debate for decades. And yet we tolerate it, even demand it from our leaders.

It is not healthy that in this one specific area of our national life, politicians cannot make important criticisms without feeling obligated to counterbalance the truth with obsequious words of praise. And our stubborn refusal to look around the world for guiding examples of best practice in healthcare delivery has all the arrogance of American exceptionalism, in blinkered defence of something which is very far from exceptional.

At times, this blog has felt like a very lonely voice in the wilderness on the subject of our true national religion. The NHS being the supercharged third rail of British politics that it is, few mainstream commentators (and almost no serious politicians) have traditionally shown any willingness to touch the issue.

But there may now be a few encouraging signs that we have reached the high-water mark of our NHS adulation; that even the NHS’s most ardent supporters are coming to realise that making every arcane debate about healthcare policy or junior doctors’ pay a screeching matter of “Saving Our NHS” is not in their interests or those of British healthcare in general.

Simon Jenkins has a piece in the Guardian in which – shockingly, for that publication – he admits that “our adoration is killing the NHS”:

People may dislike other public services. They see the police as dodgy, train drivers as bolshy, utilities as run by crooks. But the NHS “saved my mum’s life”. So leave the doctors and nurses alone. Just give them money. Give everyone money.

Nothing dents this love. Day after day, the headlines scream of NHS woe. Last month half of all doctors said they offered a worsening service. Eleven thousand heart patients “die because of poor care”. The NHS wastes £12bn on a computer system that “does not work”. One in four hospital staff feels “harassed and bullied”. Three-quarters of them tell care quality commissioners that “patient safety is now at risk”. If the NHS is to the British, as former chancellor Lord Lawson said, “not a service but a religion”, the religion must be juju.

These are the words of someone who is frustrated (as well he should be) by the fact that our blind, unthinking adulation of the NHS – the healthcare equivalent of an ingratiating politician naming Nelson Mandela as his hero – prevents us from recognising the real and intractable flaws in the system.

Jenkins continues:

The NHS’s carapace of love has to be its biggest danger. On Wednesday it was revealed that, despite last year’s Francis report on whistleblowing, not a single sacked NHS whistleblower has been re-employed or manager reprimanded. Instead doctors are eulogised for the “daily miracle of saving lives”. This is despite the OECD reporting that they save fewer lives per head than insurance-based health services in Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Britain’s record on tracing cancer is dreadful.

Doctors are in the business of saving lives. It is their job. Firefighters are not “miracle workers” for putting out fires, or teachers for getting pupils through exams. Healthcare may benefit from fear of death and disease, and we are rightly appreciative of those who relieve it. But when other professionals such as social workers or carers of the elderly fail, they are publicly excoriated. Why is the NHS immune?

Jenkins goes on to talk about the strange sense of security which comes from the “familiar NHS surgery”, with its “wartime air” and feeling of national solidarity. This is something that even I, a heathen free marketeer, have experienced and can relate to. Walk into a large NHS hospital in any of Britain’s big cities and you feel as though you have entered the belly of the beast – a vast, thrumming, living organisation of buildings, computers, machines and human beings, which functions according to its own time zone and alien protocols.

When you are sick, being enveloped in the warm embrace of this organisation – knowing that you will experience the same colour schemes, uniforms, routines and brisk bedside manner anywhere in the country – can feel quite reassuring. And because we tend to be at our most vulnerable when we encounter the NHS – when something is wrong with us, or with a loved one – we crave that reassurance.

But with the power dynamic thus skewed in favour of the state (providing healthcare) and against us (unwell, and receiving it), we have a natural tendency to be uncritically grateful for whatever service we are given, rather than subjecting it to the proper scrutiny of a consumer. Something usually has to go very, very wrong in order for us to complain.

If the NHS delivered your baby, set your broken arm, diagnosed and effectively treated your cancer or gave you a heart and lung transplant, you are likely to be well-disposed toward the NHS. You may even find yourself cheering along when populist politicians shoot for cheap applause by lavishly praising and vowing to defend it from mysterious external threats (usually in the form of the Evil Tories).

Never mind the fact that healthcare systems in developed countries around the world deliver babies, set broken limbs, treat cancer and transplant organs every day, to rich and poor people alike. The NHS Industrial Complex has been very effective in conflating “healthcare” and “the NHS” in the public mind, so that many people genuinely seem to believe that if they experienced the same medical condition as a citizen of another country, they would now be either bankrupt or dead. It is masterful propaganda, but it is most certainly not conducive to measured public debate about healthcare policy.

NHS - National Religion - Cartoon

This is why it is good to see the first cracks starting to appear in the massive metaphorical golden idol of St. Aneurin Bevan of Tredegar, which the British people now worship like those before us worshipped Baʿal. Most encouraging of all comes this recognition from Simon Jenkins that “free at the point of delivery” has become more of a quasi-religious chant than unquestionably wise healthcare policy:

I have never understood why so many self-inflicted “health needs”, such as sports injuries, drunkenness and overeating, should be charged to the state. Some fire brigades are charging for careless callouts. Mountain and lifeboat rescues often request “contributions”. Free at the point of delivery has long been a proud boast of the NHS. But that is policy, not papal doctrine.

The drug companies always made sure “free” did not apply to NHS prescriptions. With demand rising exponentially, supply of care must be rationed by something: if not by some form of payment and insurance, it will be by queueing and quality.Last year it emerged that more than 300,000 patients waited in ambulances for more than half an hour just to get into A&E.

It is ironic that Jenkins’ questioning article is published in the Guardian, the newspaper which has arguably done the most harm in terms of inculcating a blindly and aggressively worshipful attitude toward the health service, to the total exclusion of any of the radical thinking for which that paper claims to stand. Only last week, the Guardian concluded a month-long “celebration” of the NHS in which journalistic scepticism and intellectual curiosity were suspended and replaced with a barrage of articles telling the NHS-supporting Left everything that they want to hear. I critiqued their “This Is The NHS” series here and here.

But here we have – from an NHS supporter, and one who says “there is nothing wrong with loving the NHS” – an admission that rationing by price in some certain situations can actually be preferable to our current settlement of rationing by time and quality. This is a breakthrough indeed. If only we could also break the Left’s demand for uniformity at all costs (mediocrity for all rather than excellence for any) then we would really be getting somewhere.

I must admit that I thought things would have to get a lot worse before we finally turned a corner in our misplaced reverence for the NHS – more scandals, more falling metrics, much longer waiting times. But the current level of bipartisan NHS fervour (partly whipped up by the BMA and junior NHS doctors, who are cynically pretending that their current dispute with the government over pay and conditions is actually about patient safety or, laughably, the very survival of the NHS) is clearly proving to be too schmaltzy and blindly uncritical even for some stalwart NHS defenders.

Perhaps the shrieking of the NHS priests and priestesses is most like the closed-minded rhetoric of the Biblical creationists, who shout ever louder and demand ever more concessions to their peculiar sensibilities the more their fundamentalist beliefs are debunked and discredited, eventually pushing the embarrassed moderates away.

Perhaps we are witnessing all of this sound and fury – the constant and strictly enforced praising of the NHS model, on pain of political death – because the NHS Clerisy know that theirs is ultimately a losing fight; that the British people will not long persevere in their belief that the only possible choice is between the NHS and dying in the street of untreated TB.

Perhaps, then, there is real (if still very limited) hope for genuine healthcare reform in Britain, after all.

Save Our NHS

Middle image: Cartoon by Dave Simonds, published in The Economist

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After Bob Crow, What Next?



Thus the Bob Crow era came to an abrupt and unexpected end, with the death of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union’s general secretary at the tragically early age of 52.

Bob Crow inspired strong feelings in many people, this blog included, but today is not the day to revisit those battles – Crow leaves behind a wife and four children, as well as countless devastated friends and admirers.

Indeed, regardless of what one may think of Crow’s ideology and tactics, the fact that he did good by his members (at least in the short-medium term) is indisputable. Tube drivers earn more than twice the starting salary of a new teacher, a remarkable if somewhat galling fact. RMT members’ loyalty to and trust in Bob Crow was well earned.

But what is likely to happen now that the gates have closed on the era of Bob Crow? Despite the efforts of a few other pretenders here and there, there does not seem to be the same appetite for the repeating, predictable, militant industrial action strategy that he rigorously followed.

And so as the RMT head office staff return to work tomorrow, the burning question will be whether the union chooses another leader willing to exploit the fact that he has London commuters gripped by the unmentionables to continue showering their members with terms and concessions that others can only dream of, or if they will decide to quit while they are ahead?

There is a compelling argument that Bob Crow’s tenure will come to be viewed as the high watermark of what activist, militant unionism can achieve for semi-skilled workers. The RMT’s most recent victory over Transport for London in the recent tube strikes was just as much a result of the abysmal strategy and negotiating tactics of TfL, and London mayor Boris Johnson’s dithering, than it was a Bob Crow triumph. A less hapless guardian of the public purse might have not allowed the RMT to get away with so many concessions.

This, ultimately, was the paradox that Bob Crow created for his members: with each passing victory, each benchmark-busting pay increase or working practices concession flaunted in the face of other workers and the general British public, the RMT only served to make the case for altering the people-to-technology ratio even further against employing real human beings.

Many lines on the London Underground are already highly automated. Indeed, the Docklands Light Railway is entirely driverless. As purchasing decisions for new rolling stock and signalling technology come around, a climate of industrial unrest – or the weary “what will they demand of us this time” mentality that it has created – can only make the case for maximum automation more compelling.

The cost of all of the RMT’s industrial relations victories – and they are short and medium term triumphs only – has been to make labour so expensive in relation to capital that the simple solution of exchanging the unreliable (labour) for the reliable (capital) has become a no-brainer. Boris Johnson, exasperated at the impact of unpredictable strikes on his mayoralty, is known to be interested. And contrary to what the RMT might say, or however they seek to misuse the memory of 7/7, most Londoners will be much happier to be whisked from A to Z under the streets of London at the hands of a computerised train than by an excessively remunerated humanoid with a tendency to go AWOL around Christmas or major international football tournaments.

Another side note of interest is the fact that Ed Miliband was so cautious in his praise of the RMT’s late leader, as the Guardian reports:

The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, said: “Bob Crow was a major figure in the labour movement and was loved and deeply respected by his members.

“I didn’t always agree with him politically but I always respected his tireless commitment to fighting for the men and women in his union. He did what he was elected to do, was not afraid of controversy and was always out supporting his members across the country.”

How far Ed Miliband has seemingly come since the days when he willingly leaped on stage with anti-austerity protesters and a cast of characters from all over the left wing political spectrum.

Could it be that so soon after Bob Crow’s latest triumph over the hapless Transport for London negotiating team and reconfirmation that public sector workers are being paid more than their private sector counterparts – at the height of his power – Crow had become somewhat politically toxic?

And so, when Robert Crow of Woodford Green is buried, dead at the height of his influence, his legacy is far from being set in stone. Mourned by his trades union colleagues, and his RMT members most of all, Crow’s ambition and determination helped them to prosper in recent years, while many other workers did not.

But, when we are all zipping around London in efficient driverless trains at 3AM on a bank holiday, will they still be so grateful to his memory?

Tribute to RMT leader Bob Crow, who died on 11th March 2014, written on the Service Information board at Covent Garden Underground Station


The text of the impromptu memorial to Bob Crow at Covent Garden Underground station, written on the Service Information board:

“Fear of death follows fear of life. A man who lives life fully is prepared to die at any time” – Mark Twain

R.I.P. Robert Crow RMT

13/06/1961 – 11/03/2014

The Real Austerity Games


To the leadership of the Public and Commercial Services Union, and their leader, Mark Serwotka:

They called the 1948 Olympics the “Austerity Games”.

Britain in 1948 and during the preceding war was the closest that this country has come to real austerity in living memory. Milk, meat, butter, sugar, tea, and sweets were still rationed – as, I believe, were bread and clothing. Many British cities still bore very visible scars from bombing during the Second World War. Thirty years later, some of those scars would still be there.

We couldn’t afford to build a single new sporting venue, or an Olympic Village to house the visiting athletes – they had to avail themselves of pre-existing accommodation.

We were such a weary and depleted nation at the time, that we seriously considered giving the Games to our friends and allies, the United States, to host.

THAT was austerity.

And yet we pulled together as a nation, and opened our doors to the world for the 1948 games of the XIVth Olympiad.

Based on a membership turnout of 20%, you decided to threaten and then lead a strike of UK Border Force customs and immigration officials in an attempt to blackmail better pay and conditions out of the British government, and to further your anti-privatisation, ideological agenda. Creating havoc at UK airports and other points of entry in the immediate run-up to our country playing host to the Olympic Games for the third time.

Go to hell.