Saturday, 1 February 2014

Boris, Bob and commuters as human shields

Over the next two weeks, it is likely that London will be significantly disrupted by strikes on the Underground.  Leaving aside the malevolent dominance that the capital exerts upon the social, cultural and economic life of the country, this is a particularly interesting manifestation of Tory incompetence and diversionary tactics - clearly targeted at the internal politics of the post-Cameron party but using the lives and prosperity of all those who rely on London as collateral and with an amoral and idiotic overlay.  Who better than Boris to be at the centre of it all?

The dispute has been triggered by proposals to close all ticket offices on the Underground; this is the pretext on which Johnson is proposing to attempt to win over public opinion.  Closing ticket offices may be a sensible move in many stations where changed technology reduces the need for and indeed the job satisfaction of the staff involved, provided that this addresses the need expressed by the network's users for more visibility and the perception of security that this conveys.  Yet nearly 1,000 jobs are to go, and thousands of others downgraded, as a result of these proposals.  Disingenous, or a lie on the part of Boris?  Difficult to decide - but to lose four members of staff at every station is not exactly going to reassure people that security and support are at hand.

As there is a less-than-covert imminent assault on Tube and Transport for London workers' pensions (at all levels, from the grotesquely-rewarded Commissioner downwards), it's hardly surprising that staff are feeling aggrieved.  Despite the oligarch's toy, the London Evening Standard, portraying the dispute as a Boris-driven desire to crush the neanderthal Bob Crow, the strikes are being backed by the normally-moderate TSSA union members.  In both TSSA's and the RMT's ballots, a greater proportion of the electorate backed strike action than backed Boris's re-election in 2012.   It is always amusing to watch Tories writhe on the back of democratically-expressed decisions, taken under union laws introduced by the Thatcher oppression, that suggest that labour's relationship to capital is contractual rather than subservient.

Johnson is a preening idiot who is unfit to be in charge of a clockwork train-set, let alone a major world city.  This is not news.  Yet his naked political ambition to become the next Tory leader (a vacancy which may be imminent but requires him to put his mane forward in somewhere convenient such as the soon-to-be-vacated Thirsk and Malton constituency) means that he has to do something to appeal to the Tory faithful.  His egregious follies, such as the revisiting of the discreetly-buried Maplin airport to despoil the Thames estuary, and his embracing of the parasitic class who are making much of his city no-go areas for anyone earning less than four or five times the average wage, are not winning him many friends amongst the desiccated cretins who make up the Tory backwoods.

So what better than to wrap himself up in Thatcherite glory, casting Bob Crow as a slightly less hirsute Arthur Scargill?  Whatever view is held of Mr Crow he is equally legitimate in his role as RMT General Secretary as the bouffant idiot is as Mayor of London, and this dispute has been fired up for the single purpose of making Boris more like Thatcher.  In terms of a pissing-up-the-wall contest he is trying to outdo his mentor.

The key difference is that the miners' strike broadly affected Labour-voting areas outside London, and could be portrayed accordingly.  A public transport dispute in the centre of the capital, affecting residents and the wide-ranging commuters from the Tory hinterlands, will have a direct impact on millions of lives.  The unions are starting to be much more creative in their media handling - so it will appear to be much less clear-cut than the rightist name-callers anticipate.

Johnson also has the problem that he is seen to be going back on an election pledge in 2008 not to close ticket offices.  While there is a good argument that technology and needs change over time, this was nothing more than a piece of political sophistry designed to wrong-foot Ken Livingstone - who was actually planning to move, gradually and with consent, towards many of the changes that London Underground are now putting forward.  The correct term for this is a "lie".  Johnson, on the other hand, may be suffering from medium-term memory loss.

The blond hypocrite is also Chairman (his word) of Transport for London, and has done nothing since being elected to engage with the unions - preferring to strike poses on his cycle and carp from the sidelines.  On Friday he offered to meet with Crow, but only if the union called off its action and reballoted - in other words striking a political pose to make him appear reasonable when in fact he remains hell-bent on union-bashing.  A rank approach - based on his stunted and publicity-hungry agenda rather than on any desire to resolve a dispute which he desperately needs to win in order to build up his credibility in the secure wing.

As millions of people trudge to work, have their social, educational and cultural lives disrupted and are made to feel even more miserable in this most protracted of winters, let it be remembered that Johnson draws his political and strategic positioning as a bastard offspring of Thatcher and Saddam Hussein - using human shields for his own vanity.  It is to be hoped, fervently, that he loses - but for all the collateral victims of Johnson's megalomania there may be the consolation that they have all been part of the forward march of buffonish rightism.

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