A commuter's rant about the (unsurprisingly) anti-worker coverage of the tube strike by the Evening Standard.
Like many Londoners who make their way home from work in the late afternoon, I am daily bombarded with the ill-thought out opinions masquerading as common sense, bashed haphazardly out of a thousand typewriters by a thousand Tory chimps, printed in the Evening Standard and stuffed into my hands after each punishing stint of employment.
Obviously today’s tube strike would be no different and journalists Dick Murray and Pippa Crerar have to be congratulated on their reworking of the classic story of greedy tube workers holding ‘ordinary Londoners’ to ransom. However, rarely has the media narrative been so paper-thin that it contradicts its own claims on the same page it originally made them.
Who knows, maybe Dick and Pippa are actually secret union-sympathisers, leaving clues in their article so as to tip off the reader as to the reality behind the headline. Or maybe they’re just fucking idiots. Regardless, it’s worth looking at some of the article in more detail.
It’s basically all about pay, apparently
“The strike is over both annual pay and pay and conditions for operating the night Tube”
Except not exactly. There’s no mention of the fact that the night Tube was just announced, with no consultation about how it would implemented or staffed. Now while, as a Londoner, I’m obviously excited at the prospect of the tube system running all night, if Boris Johnson came into my work and told us our job now involved working night-shifts I imagine we’d not be best pleased.
The article also doesn’t mention the 800-odd jobs London Underground are looking to cut nor the fact that the night Tube will mean longer hours for the remaining staff (nor the anti-social nature of night-shift work generally and the effects on workers’ health). Apparently the complexity of these issues are adequately covered by the use of the simple phrase “and conditions”.
Funnily enough, there is a passing mention of “ticket office closures” but not in relation to job losses and how that might affect the staffing of an all-night Underground service. Rather, it’s only mentioned as one of the “difficult changes” which Boris Johnson has had “the guts and the balls” to make.
Strikes are ineffective
The article also involves the most auto-critical inset I remember seeing for a long time, which again makes me think there is a secret socialist cell among the Evening Standard editorial team who like taking the piss on the sly. For one thing, under the title “Your Say: ‘Ridiculously Ineffective’” there is a photo of a packed tube station, seemingly suggesting the action is anything but.
Then, in the true spirit of industrial journalism, the inset itself is made up of quotes from people who know fuck all about industrial disputes: one person says, “Striking just pisses off commuters and does nothing.” Yes, mate, nothing except secure London Underground workers with probably the best pay and conditions of any working-class people in London.
Even dafter is Catherine Forrest, a communications manager, who says, “Strikes are ridiculously ineffective and hit commuters and the London economy.” No sooner does Catherine’s ill-informed comment leave her mouth than it seems to have already contradicted itself. Indeed, tube strikes do affect the London economy; that’s exactly why they’re effective. On the same page, the main article states government estimates put the daily cost of a tube strike at £50 million a day, the price of four and a half Petr Cech’s or one Raheem Sterling (though the latter’s market value seems grossly inflated, in my opinion). It is exactly that damage which makes tube strikes, and to greater and lesser extents, all strikes effective.
Defending conditions is silly
The barista, Claudio Priore, however, was the top ‘common sense commentator’ in my book: “I’m unhappy with some of my working conditions but I don’t go on strike. I think it’s silly.”
This comment stands up there with ‘Well, it might not be fair but then life’s not fair, is it?’ in the Champion’s League of idiotic ‘common sense’ opinions; had there been such a competition, these two comments would have been finalists, having both won a clean sweep of their own domestic idiotic opinion competitions.
Indeed, Claudio Priore, sounds like someone who, having had his lunch money stolen by the school bully, complains that other people’s lunch money doesn’t get stolen as well. ‘I don’t defend myself, so no one should defend themselves’. His utopia is a world where everyone is stolen from equally, and an increase in theft from one is matched by an increase in theft from everyone else in the name of ‘fairness’. Any attempt to improve this situation is greeted by Claudio with a shrug, saying only, ‘I think it’s silly’. Well done, Claudio, your children will thank you for your stoicism by not being able to look after your pension-less arse because they don’t earn enough from their zero-hours job.
Striking against London?
That’s how the Evening Standard’s editorial on the tube strike puts it; a slap in the face for ‘ordinary Londoners’ who have to deal with the ‘inconvenience’ of strike action. But they fail to mention the inconvenience of London Underground’s plan itself: imagine being the wheelchair user or mother with a pram in a station with a dodgy lift (or no lift at all), where staffing has been cut to a minimum and the ticket office closed. Imagine having any issue with your Oyster with no one at the station to help you out or even just the vulnerability of being at a quiet station in the middle of the night on your own (for staff as well as passengers).
Looked at like that, it’s obvious the inconvenience that London Underground has in store for its workers and its passengers is far more serious than the one on which the Evening Standard would have us concentrate our frustrations.