Renationalising Our Railways

You don’t need to settle for the future the Tories are creating” ran the headline of Jeremy Corbyn’s recent article in the Daily Telegraph (August 6).

“If there is one example of how the intransigent ideology of this Government outweighs the public interest it’s Southern Rail.”

“Long before Southern Rail cut over 300 services it is legally contracted to deliver, its passengers were facing a woefully inadequate service: delays, overcrowding, cancellations, late running trains were the norm. Yet instead of recognising the plight of millions of passengers and telling Southern Rail where to get off, the Government continues to support them with our money.”

“That’s why Labour’s pledge to return the railways into public ownership is the right one. It would deliver the two crucial elements a public service needs, investment and a good deal for those using it.”

This is an important pledge that has the full support of the rail workers union, the RMT.

But Tory ideologues working at Rupert Murdoch’s militantly politicised newspaper, The Times, while agreeing that travelling on Southern Rail “has been a nightmare”, place the blame for these problems squarely on the shoulders of the rail workers — or more specifically, the democratic union within which they are organised. As their “Southern Discomfort” (August 8) report began:

“The strike beginning today… underlines the selfish Luddite aims of the RMT union.”

The RMT’s decision to strike apparently embodies “selfish” “guerrilla tactics,” and is a “campaign of disruption and harassment”. On the other hand, Southern Rail’s decision to “cut 341 trains a day from its timetable” is merely a “public relations disaster.”

The crux of The Times’ problems with the proudly “militant” and “politicised” RMT is not really that the union is striking, but that they look likely to win their strike.

Murdoch’s Tory mouthpiece seems particularly concerned that Mick Cash, the RMT’s General Secretary, might turn out to be as “maddeningly effective” as his predecessor the late Bob Crow, who is famous in the labour movement for his ability to fight to improve the pay and conditions of his members.

The Times, of course, prefers to cloak their praise for Cash’s “notorious predecessor” in more spiteful invective, referring to Crow as a man “who revelled in his role as the Marxist scourge of the bosses and basked in the adulation of his richly rewarded members.”

Ever keen to spread lies about unions, the BBC joined in the attacks on railworkers earlier today. Mick Cash RMT General Secretary said:

“We are appalled that the BBC’s flagship radio news programme is recycling the lies and smears about our [strike] ballot. The turnout was over 80% and 77% of our total membership voted yes. That is a mandate the politicians could only dream of and to try and pretend that only a minority back the action as the BBC have this morning is disgraceful and shoddy journalism.

“A complaint has been lodged. It’s interesting that no one ever challenges the mandate of the unelected and unaccountable GTR bosses who have unleashed havoc on their passengers for months.”

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