From the best of Britain… to the worst: After a joyously patriotic four days, DOMINIC SANDBROOK on a Monday of militant misery in London
- Latest Platinum Jubilee news as the Queen celebrates 70 years of service
The street parties are done and the flags have been furled. The Platinum Jubilee is over. And after a four-day party many of us will remember all our lives, the cold rain of reality is falling once again.
As with all previous Jubilees, the Queen’s great celebration utterly defied the predictions of apathy and failure. Tens of millions of ordinary Britons came out to wave their flags and embrace the street party spirit, while millions more enjoyed the pageants and concerts on television.
At the centre of it all was the woman herself — a living embodiment of decency, duty and responsibility. That image of the 96-year-old monarch on the Palace balcony on Sunday, supporting herself on a stick, clearly tired but determined to acknowledge the crowds, was a reminder of the values that have defined her reign for the past 70 years.
In cheering the Queen, we were applauding not just the individual, but what she represents — the same selfless commitment to public service that animates so many Britons, from doctors and nurses to firemen and police officers.
‘Thank you — for everything,’ said Paddington Bear, and he spoke for us all.
But after the best of Britain, the worst of Britain.
While Sunday was a celebration of unity, optimism and patriotic self-sacrifice, Monday saw the triumph of sectarianism, divisiveness and ideological self-indulgence.
The street parties are done and the flags have been furled. The Platinum Jubilee is over. And after a four-day party many of us will remember all our lives, the cold rain of reality is falling once again
When the capital awoke yesterday, it was to find the London Underground shut down by a 24-hour strike, orchestrated by the hard-Left militants who run the RMT transport workers’ union.
Gone were the patriotism and pageantry of the previous four days. Instead, in place of the jubilant crowds of the weekend, BBC reporters found harassed commuters and exasperated travellers: an NHS receptionist desperate to get to Central Middlesex Hospital; a group of tourists whose morning had been ruined; an elderly gentleman, hoping to visit his goddaughter, whose plans had been thrown into total chaos.
And behind each of these stories were dozens, hundreds, thousands more. ‘So my dad can’t now get to the hospital for his life-saving radiotherapy treatment,’ one man wrote on Twitter. ‘And you want me to support those on strike?’
In a capital already struggling to recover from the pandemic, its residents beleaguered by surging food and petrol prices, this could hardly have been a worse start to the week. After all the jollity of the Jubilee, which gave us a rare chance to celebrate our country and feel good about ourselves, the timing could hardly have felt more crushingly depressing.
While Sunday was a celebration of unity, optimism and patriotic self-sacrifice, Monday saw the triumph of sectarianism, divisiveness and ideological self-indulgence
RMT bosses insist that they are simply defending their members from Transport for London’s plans to cut the workforce and review their pension contributions. But, as so often, the truth is very different.
In reality, the huge financial losses of the pandemic have left TfL with little choice but to make savings. Meanwhile, a more efficient automated system inevitably means fewer jobs.
But there aren’t going to be any compulsory redundancies, so every Tube worker who wants a job will still have one.
At first glance, therefore, this seems a classic story of short-sighted union pig-headedness in the face of financial pressure and technological change.
But there’s another side to the story, which is rather more sinister. The men who actually run the RMT, it turns out, could hardly be less representative of the ordinary people who actually drive the trains and man the stations — let alone the millions who poured into the streets to thank our Queen and celebrate our country. Indeed, they are not even representative of most people on the Left of our political spectrum. For, as an investigation by the Mail’s Guy Adams discovered last month, the RMT is led by men who would make the union barons of the 1970s look like the blandest, meekest moderates.
The RMT’s former senior assistant general secretary, Steve Hedley, has posed for photos wearing a Soviet-style fur hat and carrying an assault rifle, and proudly wears an orange and black Ribbon of St George, notorious across Eastern Europe as a symbol of extreme Russian nationalism and hatred of Ukraine.
When Hedley retired recently, he was succeeded by another hard-Left demagogue, Eddie Dempsey, who is cut from remarkably similar cloth.
When the capital awoke yesterday, it was to find the London Underground shut down by a 24-hour strike, orchestrated by the hard-Left militants who run the RMT transport workers’ union
Almost incredibly, Dempsey actually travelled to the war-torn Donbas in 2015 and posed there for pictures with the late pro-Russian paramilitary leader Aleksey Mozgovoy, who was accused of appalling terrorist atrocities against Ukrainians.
And as if this isn’t enough, there’s the RMT president, Alex Gordon, a senior figure in the Communist Party of Great Britain and chairman of the Marx Memorial Library. Not only has he led anti-Ukrainian demonstrations outside its London embassy, he has publicly described Stalin’s famine — when millions died in Ukraine in the 1930s — as a ‘myth’, and even claims that Ukraine is run by ‘neo-Nazis’.
In any normal, healthy and responsible trade union, these Putin puppets would be confined to the margins. At the RMT — so hardline it has long since disaffiliated from the Labour Party — they are running the show.
As I said, the worst of Britain.
The fact that, in 2022, such men have the power to bring London’s transport network to a halt is little short of a national disgrace. Sad to say, though, even grimmer news is probably coming.
Two weeks ago, RMT members voted in favour of a nationwide rail strike for higher pay and no compulsory redundancies, ignoring the fact that the industry has been under intense financial pressure since the pandemic.
So at some point in the next few weeks, we can expect the national rail network to be shut down, too.
And this despite the fact that over the past decade, train drivers’ pay has rocketed by a staggering 39 per cent — compared with a national average of just 23 per cent, and only 15 per cent for Britain’s nurses!
Gone were the patriotism and pageantry of the previous four days. Instead, in place of the jubilant crowds of the weekend, BBC reporters found harassed commuters and exasperated travellers
Whatever the outcome of this week’s Westminster blood-letting, the Government needs to stand firm. No responsible administration can be held hostage by union militants, and with the RMT in the hands of such extremists, the stakes are even higher than usual.
No doubt all this sounds pretty grim, especially given the context of soaring energy prices and household bills. After the ordeal of the past two years, the very last thing we need is a summer of discontent, defined by the kind of industrial unrest and ideological demagoguery that blighted British life back in 1977, when the Queen celebrated her Silver Jubilee.
The tragedy is that last week’s celebration reminded us of everything we have in common. It was a festival of unity and patriotism; an object lesson in the values of duty and dedication.
But the RMT leadership represent the direct opposite. Utterly indifferent to the national interest, they are using their own members as mere pawns in their political games.
At a time when our economy feels so fragile, with inflation rocketing and millions of people struggling to make ends meet, it beggars belief that they should treat the public with unashamed contempt.
But the Jubilee celebrations should remind us of one thing: there are far, far more of us than there are of them.
As the record of the last 70 years shows, we’ve beaten them in the past. We’ll just have to do it again.
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