“Mick Lynch, I think, has played a masterclass in how you deal with the media. He just tells the truth, sticks to his guns, and then when people ask him all these stupid questions, he just rejects the premise of it.”
By Simon Fletcher, Modern Left
Jamie Driscoll, the Mayor of the North of Tyne has praised the RMT’s general secretary for how he has pushed the union’s message, said that Labour should not let its policy on picket lines be set by the Daily Mail – and of the government, he has said: “they want a high wage economy for themselves, but not for everybody else.”
One of Labour’s metro mayors, Jamie Driscoll has led the authority since 2019. We spoke during the week of the national rail strike and so before discussing a range of issues facing devolved government in the North East, we discussed the dispute.
Driscoll is full of praise for the RMT’s general secretary, Mick Lynch, whose media appearances this week have attracted widespread attention. “Mick Lynch, I think, has played a masterclass in how you deal with the media. He just tells the truth, sticks to his guns, and then when people ask him all these stupid questions, he just rejects the premise of it.”
Major rail lines cross through the North of Tyne geographical area – and political leaders in the North East have long argued for significant rail improvements for the travelling public. It was inevitable therefore that he had words for the government and train companies over the strike.
For the government, his message was that it needs to make public transport a priority: “if you’re serious about a high-wage economy with world-class public services, then invest in the railways and all public transport. The railway workers are out at the moment but we’ve seen with buses, we’ve seen it with the airports, across the board.
“And, you know what, this shouldn’t be a political discussion, because it should be blindingly obvious to anyone of whichever school of economics you subscribe, that if you don’t have a functioning transport system, you’re not going to have a world-class economy.”
But as a Labour politician he also urged a change of approach from Labour’s leadership, which has banned front bench Members of Parliament from attending picket lines. Driscoll joined the Newcastle picket line this week.
“For God’s sake, stop deciding policy by worrying about what the Daily Mail is going to say,” he said. “You know what’s interesting is – people only ban something if they think it’s going to happen,” adding, “the fact that the leader of the Labour Party had to ban his front bench from going on the picket lines shows that people wanted to.”
“I was out there, I was talking to them, hearing the stories about people who were on twenty grand, twenty-two grand – it’s not inflated salaries, it’s certainly not the £588,000 Andrew Haines gets, the head of Network Rail. And I’ve met Andrew and we work productively on a lot of issues.”
The North of Tyne’s mayor points to problems of workload on the railways and the impact on railway workers: “you’re expected to come in and work on your day off. What does that do for your family life? Many of them haven’t had a pay rise for the last two years and inflation is running at 9.1% today. And at the same time, you’ve got a government that’s lifting the cap so that non-executive directors can get share bonuses.” What that means in effect is one rule for the Conservatives and another for the rest: “they want a high wage economy for themselves, but not for everybody else.”
- This article was originally published by Simon Fletcher’s Modern Left on June 24th, 2022.
- You can become a subscriber of Modern Left to receive exclusive content and support the platform here.
- You can follow Simon Fletcher on twitter here.