December 3, 2019
Rail union leaders and the Labour Party have boasted that they are "working together" to "bring down" the government at this month's election through a campaign of political strikes disrupting millions of passengers' lives.
In previously unpublicised footage, Jeremy Corbyn tells the RMT he wants to "work as closely as possible together [to] take the fight to the Tories and win a Labour government... Together, we can deliver that better future [and] remove this Conservative government."
And Labour's shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, tells them: "We need RMT alongside Labour in government....You'll be in government with us. You'll be key advisers on the development of our transport policies and the way in which we will transform our country."
The promises were made after one RMT leader said the strikes are "not about money" or jobs but are instead about taking a "political stance" to "bring down the working class-hating Tory government."
In a "special circular" to RMT members on November 1, days after the election was called, the union states: "It is clearly in the interests of RMT members for Labour to maximise its vote, for the Tories to be defeated and for there to be a Labour Government led by Jeremy Corbyn.”
The RMT this week began a month-long strike on South Western Railway (SWR), the longest in British history. It claims it is doing so in order to "keep the guard on the train."
However, a document published on the union's own website admits SWR has "agreed...that there will be a safety critical guard on every train in service," that the guards "will retain relevant safety critical competencies" and that "SWR will guarantee the role of the guard until the end of the franchise."
Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, said: "This is plainly a strike for politics and no other reason. Plunging millions of working people into chaos to try to manipulate a democratic election is a new low, even for Jeremy Corbyn.
A majority Conservative government will, if elected, introduce legally-binding minimum service requirements for railways during strikes to reduce the disruption that union wreckers can cause."
SWR is one of 11 rail operators hit by strikes over the role of the guard in a campaign which has caused more than 160 days of strikes since 2016. West Midlands Trains, which operates most commuter services out of Birmingham and Euston, is also currently suffering strike action.
In 2017, as the union was balloting for the SWR dispute, the RMT's then president, Sean Hoyle, told a hard-left group that the guard strikes are "not about money" and "they've told us they aren't going to make any of our members redundant, and then they said, so why are you doing it?"
His answer was: "Any trade unionist with any sense should want to bring down the working class-hating Tory government." McDonnell spoke alongside Hoyle on the same platform.
Hoyle said similar things in 2016, adding that the strikes were about taking a "political stance" and “co-ordinating to bring the government down."
The RMT has given the Labour Party or Labour MPs £303,000 in funding in the last five years, including £50,000 to Corbyn himself and a further £9,125 to his constituency party. The rail unions in total have given Labour more than £1.3 million over the period.
In his remarks, made to the RMT's 2017 conference after that year's election, Corbyn said he "looked forward" to a "close working relationship...over the next few years when we hope to be in a position to totally change legislation in this country...
"I hope in the future we can work as closely as possible together, and take the fight to the Tories... Together we can deliver that better future, remove this Conservative government and elect a Labour government that delivers."
In a message to the RMT recorded last year, McDonnell said: "Labour at the next election, I believe, will be going into government... We need the RMT alongside Labour in government introducing the policies that we need for RMT members... You'll be in government with us. You'll be key advisers on the development of our transport policies."
Shapps said: “The depths of Jeremy Corbyn’s desperation to win this election and hold onto power of the Labour party has been revealed. To plunge millions of people, just trying to get to work or home to the kids, into chaos in an attempt to manipulate the outcome of the election is an appalling new low.
“This strike is a taste of things to come if Corbyn takes power. Strikes will become common place across the economy and ordinary workers will be unable to go about their daily lives.
“Corybn has no clear plan for Brexit. He has no plan of how to run the country. He would mire us in the chaos of two more divisive and costly referendums on Brexit and breaking up the union.
“Only a majority Conservative government can break the deadlock in Parliament, get Brexit done and focus on the people’s priorities – improving our national infrastructure, boosting the NHS and tackling crime.”
Commenting, Therese Coffey, Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions, said:
“Corbyn’s Pension Tax will see ten million savers facing a huge bill forcing them to delay their retirement for almost three and a half years.
“This is just one of the ways a Corbyn government would hammer hardworking people on top of his plans to hike up taxes by £2,400 a year, as well as the cost of his plan for unlimited immigration and the chaos of 2020 being dominated by two more referendums – one on Brexit and another on Scottish independence.
“Only Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party can get Brexit done with a deal, get parliament working again and turbocharge our economy to unleash Britain’s potential.”