This morning, we were greeted with the news that members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) intend to shut down the South-Western Rail network for 27 days next month, calling a series of week-long strikes. The reason, a dispute over the protection of the role of train guards, despite new rolling stock technology that provides greater control to train drivers and increases productivity while lowering prices for passengers.
If they go ahead, the misery accompanying these strikes will be widespread and prolonged. At a time of year when commuting is at best challenging and when visiting friends and family brings cheer and joy to many, the rail unions look set to hold parts of the country hostage. For those worst affected, Labour’s election mantra of ‘for the many, not the few, will sound painfully hollow. It seems the rail unions have found a way to hold working people to ransom and are about to abuse their position of power and influence once again.
Born around the start of the sixties, I remember the dark days of union power. Four-day weeks, rubbish in the streets, manufacturing on its knees and Britain an economic laughing stock. In 1978 Britain was being held hostage, finding itself in the grip of union power. They were dark days and one to which we thought we were never to return. Yet as an electorate, we have shown ourselves to have surprisingly short memories. Corbyn may be an unlikely candidate for the UK premiership, but the unexpected or forgotten, can sometimes creep up and surprise us decades later in the guise of an unexpected election result.
Returning power to the trade unions, and rekindling their ability to wield strike ballots that can bring companies to their knees, offers a hypnotic cocktail to Corbyn and McDonnell. Their brand of socialism portrays the evil arm of capitalism as the cause of almost every modern-day ill facing Britain. Their answer is to offer the electorate a version of socialism that encompasses nationalisation, crippling taxes for the wicked rich and a lowest common denominator educational system served up as a post-capitalism utopia. Furthermore, Labour has announced half a trillion pounds of additional spending that will heap a new and unsustainable debt mountain on the UK economy. All of this in the name of a brand of socialism that has been shown to be disastrous for Britain’s economy
In these challenging times of fake news and micro-sized memories, sound bites dominate the media. In search of inspiration for my own soundbite for the coming elections, I have returned to the school classroom. As you place your vote at the ballot box, remember the dark days of 78/79 and think about your ABC. Not as a shorthand for the alphabet, but as an easy to remember acronym for retaining election common sense. Anyone But Corbyn.
In this coming election, the economic future of this country is at stake. Brexit is destined to have a negative impact on our prosperity. However, compared to Labour’s planned economic model, a sensible planned Brexit may still represent a more palatable future.