No disrespect to Suzanne Reid and Richard Madeley but I wouldn’t put either of them at the cutting edge of hard nosed political analysis. They are both excellent in other areas but I wouldn’t put that as their key strength.
Yet today, it was Richard and Suzanne, who on their breakfast programme on Sky today brought Mark Harper ( Transport Secretary ) and Mick Lynch ( Leader of the RMT) together if not in person then represented on a shared TV screen and asked them an interesting question . “ You both say you want to meet but you haven’t met – why ?”
Harper came out of it worse because he has to avoid at all costs the phrase “ I’m a Conservative and we don’t believe in negotiating with Unions .” Lynch’s reply was simple “ I’m 20 minutes from your office, what are you waiting for?”
Goodness knows we don’t have an aggressive and incisive TV press at any level and being Sky they doubtless had some form of brain rotting syrup to indulge us in and had to “ get on” so they left the question hanging. But at least they asked it.
For much of my adult life the Today programme of BBC Radio 4 was an almost religious devotion that I could not start the day without.
John Humphrys was and is someone I have immense admiration for. When I met him some years ago he kindly invited me into what I suppose was the Today “ Green Room. I was there with the “ Thought for the Day ” person, a very pleasant Rabbi, a Bishop who was there to make a particular point and a Minister who was there to refute it. The Rabbi and the Bishop ( no risqué jokes please ) exchanged pleasantries and looked rather chilled. The politician was sweating and fiddling with his notes and looked distinctly uncomfortable. A few minutes later Humphrys dissected him like an un-anaesthetised experiment in a laboratory and he emerged looking at the same time spent and calculating if indeed he had a ministerial career left. ( As it happens, a more insightful thought than what he said on the programme, because at the next reshuffle, he didn’t.)
Humphreys and I had breakfast together, we were discussing something totally different from the issues we had just heard but he launched into me with some tough questions and then sat back and apologised “ Sorry it takes me a few minutes to come down from the programme, I’ll ask that more civilly now .” Being slightly star stuck it was delightful to find the person for whom I had so much respect was actually the real deal. For me the “ afternoon John” was often Eddie Mair who I could listen to in the car on the way home.
Where are the John’s and the Eddie’s of the BBC now ? I have moved on from radio and now watch TV news instead.
We had Laura Keunssberg who struck me as too connected to the political establishment and too reliant upon it to be appropriately critical of it, Andrew Marr seemed to be closer to the Humphrey’s mould but is no longer in the same role. So what are we left with ?
For me we are left with a rather sycophantic platform where Government can showcase what it wants to say, safe in the knowledge that they will no longer face the; independent, excoriating critique that they might have in days gone by. I wouldn’t go so far as to say ( as some do ) that the BBC is a government platform but they are certainly not the first place I’d go to find a critique of Government policy.
Given its history I am kind of concerned that for me I am going more towards Sky and to a lesser extent Channel 4 news as well as increasingly to blogs and online newspapers.
But that brings me back to Mick Lynch and Mark Harper. By the way, if you see a political cartoon show entitled the “Mark and Mick” show, be it known you heard it first here and my royalties are quite reasonabl . It would certainly be entertaining. Perhaps a Board game ?
But the issues deserve more than humour, because frankly the situation is not funny. Not in terms of any of the Strikes because they drive home at and evidence what happens when you have 12 years of austerity.
Austerity has purpose as a financial mechanism unless you end up with no change, in fact are in a worse financial position from where you started and then need to have more ….austerity.
That is the point at which an astonishingly; acquiescent, respectful and passive public finally crack. It feels as if we are approaching that point. Keep Calm And Carry on is no longer an option .
It is no great surprise that in every interview we see , there are more people who are affected by the strikes supporting the strikers, than are not. Because in a capitalist society where we are encouraged to look at greed as a motivator, where the dynamic is “look at our own situation and devil take the hindmost,” the financial logjam that we find ourselves in has caused the majority to be the hindmost.
It relates to all of us, and in those circumstances the notion of “community” suddenly becomes more motivating. One strike is one strike, dozens of strikes in many industries, a large number of which would have been in public rather than private ownership in the past, begins to affect us all. When we are all affected by inflation then it is uncomfortable to see others being told to accept lower than inflation pay offers which mean a real life cut in income. That could be us. If I am a shopkeeper your inability to buy affects my income. This is what community means, mutual reliance, and when it goes wrong, mutual disruption.
Which begs a question, why are our politicians and media so coy about addressing the key questions that affect us all?
Brexit is a total failure. It isn’t insulting to those who voted for it to simply address reality.
We are far worse off as a result of Brexit and the much acclaimed opportunities to do things differently have proven to be the promises and mumblings of false messiahs. Even my most Brexit orientated friends see this, but this seems to be a shibboleth that neither the media nor politicians seem inclined to address. Even the Labour Party are shy of doing this because so many of their members voted for Brexit. You can’t do Brexit right and get back to where we were. You certainly can’t do Brexit right and surpass where we were. This is fundamental to our current position.
Privatisation of Utilities and Transport has failed, full stop. Show me anything that is working as we want it to, show me a publicly owned utility or transport company in an equivalent Western European democracy that is doing worse. There will always be people in companies private or public who are not doing their jobs but primarily this is not the fault of individuals either in management or in front line services. The privatised paradigm is broken. We have learned something very important since the Thatcherite experiment, if you put greed into public services, they break.
Suzanne Reid and Richard Madeley nearly got there this morning but stopped short of asking the incisive question.
Mick Lynch nearly got there in talking about a broken privatised railway.
Mark Harper nearly got there in saying that Government is no longer relevant to privatised Utility’s and Railways.
But none of them said the unsayable – our privatised transport, utility and indeed Health systems will not be made better by a pay rise. We need a fundamental re-think of how we do business as a country.
Because one thing seems clear, the present paradigm is not working and will not be sorted by tweaking it. More of what is broken does not mend. It seems a tough lesson for Parties who have their power base down south, the answer to Tory made problems, is not Tory- lite .