Wise up politicians – we’re not back in the 1980s

COMMENT: It feels at times as if the news agenda is created by a series of failing bots and algorithms yet to be updated for the 2020s

Thursday, 23rd June

TUC demo - Members of Camden NEU

Members of Camden NEU march through Piccadilly Circus at the weekend

THEY were for some halcyon days – of the Hollywood blockbuster, yuppies and spivs, rock music, mullets and mohawks, cherry Coke, adversarial politics and, yes, waves and waves of strike action.

But who exactly was taking us back to the 1980s this week? Was it the RMT union’s picket lines and tube station closures?

Or was it the Conservatives and national media with their decades-old discourse about commuter chaos and miners’ strike misery?

It does, to us, feel at times as if the news agenda is created by a series of failing bots and algorithms yet to be updated for the 2020s.

There is certainly a new and welcome public perception, post-Covid, about the importance of supporting frontline workers. Not just in their pay, but in their mental health and general quality of life.

The people who drive our buses and trains, educate and look after our children, collect our bins, represent us in the courts, as well as patch us up in hospital – among others – all deserve more than a ragged life on the edge of exhaustion.

The pandemic has made many employers more accustomed to allowing working from home. But perhaps more significantly it may have nurtured a less individualistic society.

This paper has been railing about low public sector pay and food poverty for years – but right now it feels like it is really hitting home.

Everyone will have noticed the price rises and shrinking portions in the supermarkets. Gas and electricity bills are set for another massive hike in October.

And yet it feels like there is more genuine concern for one another than anytime since, well, since before the 1980s.

That’s why the TUC march at the weekend was such a lively affair, with many different groups coming out to protest together under the same banner.

And that’s why the RMT’s Mick Lynch certainly appeared to “win the internet” with his calm responses to Sky News’ Kay Burley on Tuesday.

Equally, minister and former Hampstead and Kilburn candidate Chris Philp was swatted away by Mr Lynch in another equally revealing TV exchange this week.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party has in its all consuming quest for power perhaps missed a trick with its response to the industrial action. The decision to ban front-bench MPs from attending pickets is frankly extraordinary.

They, and the government, will surely learn to read the room better before the summer is out.

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