Boris Johnson suggests he is digging in on rail strikes, telling cabinet they must ‘stay the course’ – live | Politics

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Johnson signals he will not give in to RMT rail demands, telling cabinet they must ‘stay the course’ and push through reforms

Boris Johnson opened cabinet this morning with a message saying reform in the rail industry was essential. In the past we normally only found out what the PM said at cabinet when No 10 (or other ministers) briefed it out, but for the last few weeks Johnson has been using cabinet as a photo opportunity and he has invited in a camera crew to record his opening spiel. Here are some of the points he made this morning, from what was broadcast by Sky News.

  • Johnson claimed the government was making bigger investments in railways than any previous government. The integrated rail plan alone was worth £96bn, he said. It was “truly transformational”, he claimed.
  • But he claimed that investment would not be possible without reform. He said:

But if we’re going to do these colossal investments, as we are and as we must, we’ve got to have reform … It cannot be right that some ticket offices, I think, are selling roughly one ticket per hour. We need to get those staff out from behind the plate glass onto the platforms interacting with passengers, with customers, in the way that they want to do.

And we need the union barons to sit down with Network Rail and the train companies and get on with it.

  • He said the country had to get ready to “stay the course” because reforms were essential. They would cut costs, he argued.

We need, I’m afraid, everybody – and I say this to the country as a whole – we need to get ready to stay the course. Because these reforms, these improvements in the way we run our railways, are in the interest of the travelling public. They will help to cut costs of fare payers up and down the country.

‘Stay the course’ sounded like a Thatcherite declaration that he was not going to give in to the union demands at any point. But whether the government retains the appetite for a no-compromise approach if disruption continues over the summer may be another matter.

  • Johnson said that if the modernisation programme did not go ahead, ticket prices would get more expensive. He told cabinet this morning:

If we don’t do this, these great companies, this great industry, will face further financial pressure, it will go bust and the result will be they have to hike up the cost of tickets still further.

And he was a bit more blunt on this point in a quote released by No 10 overnight in the press notice previewing what he would be saying. This quoted Johnson as saying:

I want to be clear – we are not loading higher fares on passengers to carry on paying for working practices that date back in some cases to the 19th century.

This line is interesting because until now the government has attacked the strike largely on the grounds that it will cause intense inconvenience to commuters. But this argument links the strike, and rail reform, to the government’s longterm plan to help people with the cost of living.

Boris Johnson addressing cabinet
Boris Johnson addressing cabinet Photograph: Sky News

Network Rail boss denies ministers urged it to cap pay offer

On the Today programme this morning Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail, argued that, if modernisation could be used to make the railways more effective, he would be able to offer railworkers a much more generous pay rise. But unions were opposed to modernisation, he claimed. Giving examples, he said:

We have people who won’t share the same van, so we send two vans to site … They block for nearly a year the introduction of an app so that we can communicate with our own staff, [they’re] blocking the introduction of new safety planning tools, restricting the use of new technology, not turning on a forward-facing camera in a car or a van that they’re driving, [we’re] having to roster people in whole teams regardless of the size of the task, not being able to move people from work that’s not necessary to work that is necessary.

When this was put to Mick Lynch, the RMT general secretary, he said all of those items were being discussed. He said the union was willing to negotiate change. But it wanted a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies, he said.

As my colleague Emily Dugan reports, in his Today interview Haines also denied being told by ministers to cap the pay increase being offered to rail workers at 3%. He said:

The government recognises there’s so much productivity available in the industry that for the right deal we could go above that. So 3% would be a constraint if we weren’t able to achieve any productivity.

Johnson signals he will not give in to RMT rail demands, telling cabinet they must ‘stay the course’ and push through reforms

Boris Johnson opened cabinet this morning with a message saying reform in the rail industry was essential. In the past we normally only found out what the PM said at cabinet when No 10 (or other ministers) briefed it out, but for the last few weeks Johnson has been using cabinet as a photo opportunity and he has invited in a camera crew to record his opening spiel. Here are some of the points he made this morning, from what was broadcast by Sky News.

  • Johnson claimed the government was making bigger investments in railways than any previous government. The integrated rail plan alone was worth £96bn, he said. It was “truly transformational”, he claimed.
  • But he claimed that investment would not be possible without reform. He said:

But if we’re going to do these colossal investments, as we are and as we must, we’ve got to have reform … It cannot be right that some ticket offices, I think, are selling roughly one ticket per hour. We need to get those staff out from behind the plate glass onto the platforms interacting with passengers, with customers, in the way that they want to do.

And we need the union barons to sit down with Network Rail and the train companies and get on with it.

  • He said the country had to get ready to “stay the course” because reforms were essential. They would cut costs, he argued.

We need, I’m afraid, everybody – and I say this to the country as a whole – we need to get ready to stay the course. Because these reforms, these improvements in the way we run our railways, are in the interest of the travelling public. They will help to cut costs of fare payers up and down the country.

‘Stay the course’ sounded like a Thatcherite declaration that he was not going to give in to the union demands at any point. But whether the government retains the appetite for a no-compromise approach if disruption continues over the summer may be another matter.

  • Johnson said that if the modernisation programme did not go ahead, ticket prices would get more expensive. He told cabinet this morning:

If we don’t do this, these great companies, this great industry, will face further financial pressure, it will go bust and the result will be they have to hike up the cost of tickets still further.

And he was a bit more blunt on this point in a quote released by No 10 overnight in the press notice previewing what he would be saying. This quoted Johnson as saying:

I want to be clear – we are not loading higher fares on passengers to carry on paying for working practices that date back in some cases to the 19th century.

This line is interesting because until now the government has attacked the strike largely on the grounds that it will cause intense inconvenience to commuters. But this argument links the strike, and rail reform, to the government’s longterm plan to help people with the cost of living.

Boris Johnson addressing cabinet
Boris Johnson addressing cabinet Photograph: Sky News

Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, arriving at Downing Street for cabinet today.
Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, arriving at Downing Street for cabinet today. Photograph: John Sibley/Reuters

The Labour MP Kate Osborne, who is parliamentary private secretary to the shadow Northern Ireland secretary Peter Kyle, has joined an RMT picket line, in defiance of the orders from Keir Starmer’s office. (See 9.31am.) Asked if she would face disciplinary action, Pat McFadden, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, told Sky News: “That’s a matter for the whips and for Keir Starmer.”

‘You don’t lead by hiding’, Unite leader tells Starmer as Labour orders frontbenchers not to join rail picket lines

Good morning. The rail strikes are set to be the dominant political story of the week and today – which sees the first day of a national strike by RMT members, as well as a strike on the London tube – may well see the worst disruption of the week.

My colleague Geneva Abdul is writing our stand-alone train strikes live blog, where there will be coverage of all aspects of the strikes – political interventions, but also what is happening on the transport network, and the experiences of commuters.

Inevitably there will be some overlap with this blog, where I will be covering the politics of the dispute, as well as other, non-rail Westminister stories.

For most people the main question generated by the strike is, ‘Will I be able to get to work?’ But for the political obsessive class what’s most interesting is , ‘Who’s going to get the blame?’ Boris Johnson is desperate to persuade the public that Keir Starmer is responsible. Seeking to revive folk memories of the 1978 winter of discontent, the PM has made a case based on three premises: 1) Labour won’t condemn the strike; 2) the party is linked to the trade union movement (although not the RMT, which disaffiliated from Labour almost 20 years ago); and 3) some Labour MPs have said they support the RMT walk-out.

But it is still quite hard to land this argument, as the Conservative MP Mark Jenkinson (a loyal Johnson supporter) demonstrated this morning when he posted this on Twitter.

Jenkinson was only elected in 2019, but even he must remember that Conservative or Conservative-led governments have been in power since 2010.

In truth, people normally blame the government when services go…



Read More:Boris Johnson suggests he is digging in on rail strikes, telling cabinet they must ‘stay the course’ – live | Politics

2022-06-21 08:31:00

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