Minister and television companies have this week tried to portray RMT boss Mick Lynch as a hard-left union bogeyman. He has been accused of causing misery to the traveling public and even inciting revolution.
But Lynch has had none of that. His quick, agile and often witty answers to a flurry of hostile questions and clichéd typecasting have won Lynch reluctant praise even from right-wing commentators.
The spectator said he was doing “mince from both politicians and posted interviewers”. Actor Hugh Laurie, who is not known for political interference, Lynch said “cleaned up every media picador”.
The first of three one-day railroad strikes began Tuesday with a round of media interviews for Lynch. One by one, Lynch mocked the pantomime series of questions he faced.
It started with Good morning Britain’s Richard Madeley, who immediately suggested that Lynch was a communist. He asked, “Are you, or are you not a Marxist? For if you are a Marxist, then you are for revolution and for bringing down capitalism.”
Lynch smiled and replied, “You come up with the most remarkable nonsense, I must say. Opening an interview with that is nonsense.”
Burley next to be shipped
Similarly, Sky’s Kay Burley suggested that the strike would lead to violent confrontations. She repeatedly asked Lynch what would happen if government-appointed temps tried to cross the strike.
Lynch, who was facing a benign series of RMT strikes at Euston station, laughed and said, “We will ask them not to go to work.” He turned to his colleagues, adding: “You can see what the strike involves.”
Now it’s Morgan’s turn
Next up was TalkTV’s Piers Morgan who wanted to know why Lynch had used a Thunderbirds villain as his profile picture on Facebook. Morgan asked, “I wonder where the comparison goes, because he was obviously an evil, criminal, terrorist brain, described as the world’s most dangerous man, triggering a total carnage and chaos in public?”
Lynch replied, “Is that the level we are at? You do not want to talk about the problems rather than a little vinyl doll.”
When he had broadcast TV stations, Lynch turned next to politicians.
On BBC Politics Live, Lady Chapman, a shadow minister in the Cabinet Office, had been lined up to defend Keir Starmer’s instruction to frontbenchers not to join the RMT strike. When Lynch accused Labor politicians of not identifying with working-class people, Chapman took it personally. Lynch replied, “I do not even know who you are.”
In the same show, Lynch was accused by Tory MP Jonathan Gullis of undermining the rail network by opposing modernization and demanding that Lynch apologize to passengers. Lynch demanded that Gullis apologize for “talking nonsense” and throwing out things written by the Conservative headquarters.
And on Newsnight, it was Junior Minister Chris Philp’s turn to shake his eyes at a Lynch attack. Lynch accused Philp 15 times of lying about the negotiations.
On Wednesday night, Lynch brought what was arguably his best TV performance to date, on ITV’s Peston program. He was widely praised for rejecting a number of government lines of attack on the strike when he encountered Tory MP Robert Jenrick.
The former cabinet minister appeared to be accusing the RMT of losing 20% of the railway passengers. Lynch said, “I did not lose them, Covid did. We ran trains all that time.”
Undeterred, Jenrick said: “We need to encourage these people back. The worst way to do that is by alienating people, going on strike and making their lives a lot harder.”
Lynch’s rip-off summed up his case for the strike and his combative approach:
The worst way you can do this is by insisting that prices rise by RPI tearing the commuters off, but you will not give the workers RPI.
Prices rise by RPI every year. These are government rules.
Last year, the train operators made a profit – £ 500 million out of the subsidy you gave went to these companies.
First Group and Go Ahead, with whom we negotiate, are both subject to acquisitions by private equity firms.
They will be worth billions because they know you will continue to suck money from public money into private operators. Just like you do health, education and care.