Rarely can there have been such an abject surrender of the responsibility placed on an elected official than that declared today by London’s occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. A 48-hour strike of workers on the Underground is looming, and all that Bozza can manage is to use his “chicken feed” generating column in the Maily Telegraph to bluster about how jolly unfair it is.
While Bozza claims that he doesn’t begrudge RMT head man Bob Crow his Brazil holiday, and that he’d like to talk things over with him over a mutually agreeable drinkie, the propaganda is shovelled out like so much horseshit. Both the RMT and TSSA balloted their members; both ballots secured a majority in favour of strike action over matters such as the ticket office closure programme.
Bozza doesn’t like this one bit, and with good reason: he’s the Mayor, the buck stops with him, and if the Underground doesn’t run, moving significant numbers of people around the capital is something you can forget. When there’s a strike, if you can walk, you might as well. The bus network has no chance of absorbing the loads, and neither do taxis or private hire vehicles.
Even where services like the DLR run into underground stations – I’m thinking first of all of Bank – and their staff are not on strike, the stations would need staffing for safety reasons. Thameslink services may have the same problem at Farringdon. So what does Bozza do? Once again, he tries to pretend that the turnout for both ballots means they shouldn’t count.
This is not a very clever idea on which to stand. The RMT secured a 76% vote for strike action on a 40% turnout (London Underground dispute this, but do not put forward any credible evidence). The TSSA secured a 58% vote for strike action on a 49% turnout. Under the current rules, both unions are thus entitled to call for the industrial action described in the ballot proposition.
Bozza says that at least 50% of those members should vote in order for the ballot to be legitimate. And that is where he falls flat on his face: neither of his two victories in Mayoral contests has reached that threshold (in 2008, turnout was 45.33%, and in 2012 it was just 38.1%). And the Mayor can “hold London to ransom” just as effectively as any Trades Union.
Quite apart from spraying money up the wall on vanity bikes, vanity buses and a vanity cable car, Bozza turned tail on extending Tramlink to Crystal Palace, promised a “no strike deal” that he never bothered to even attempt to secure, vacillated over extending the Bakerloo Line into South East London, did stuff all to tackle declining air quality, and was rightly pilloried by cyclists for his non-existent superhighways.
He should take this one on the chin and show some leadership for once.