Strikes have shown how much power unions have but Corbyn wants to give them more

Chris Moncrieff
Chris Moncrieff

More power to their elbows, brothers! Jeremy Corbyn has vowed that if – and it is a very big “if” indeed – he becomes Prime Minister, he will strengthen the powers of the trade unions particularly in the area of bargaining.

But isn’t this a gamble too far, one that will surely backfire on him in his bid to cross the threshold of 10, Downing Street?

No doubt this pledge will play well with Labour voters in the Labour leadership contest, and boost his chances of success. But when it comes to the general election itself, it could easily lead to his downfall. Thousands of people, especially those who have suffered grievously almost daily by the present wave of strikes, believe that, despite legislation during the Margaret Thatcher premiership, designed to curb union power and bullying, the unions are already over-powerful.

Countless numbers of people who regularly use the railways, especially commuters, have been reduced to misery by the recent wave of industrial action.

And hospital patients have suffered delays and worse by the junior doctors’ strikes.

Are these people likely to vote for a policy that will make these nightmare conditions even worse?

And what worsens the situation is the suggestion that these strikes are being called as a means to bring about the downfall of the Conservative Government. That makes these strikes simply political and make meaningless the union bosses’ claims that they are, in many cases, related to safety.

Sir Bernard Ingham, who was Margaret Thatcher’s press secretary, says unions dealing with public service workers, like railways staff and doctors, should be banned by law from striking, and that other ways should be found to resolve their differences with employers, rather than inflict such misery on thousands of innocent people.

The so-called Traingate affair may turn out to be more serious than what it seemed: a silly political stunt of the kind more associated with David Cameron. In fact, it could reflect on Jeremy Corbyn’s integrity.

The facts – if that is what they are – are that the Labour leader claimed the Virgin train service from London to Newcastle, was “ram-packed” and there was no seat for him.

So he sat on the floor outside a lavatory in the vestibule of a coach and proceeded to say this was another good reason for the railways to be renationalised.

Surprise, surprise there was a photographer on hand to record this gloomy scene.

However, the rail company fiercely denied his allegations, saying Corbyn had actually walked past unoccupied and unreserved seats. So who are we to believe?

Later, Corbyn appeared at a press conference about the NHS and seemed quite cross when a reporter raised the issue of the train. What on earth did he expect?

But Corbyn could easily have avoided all this kerfuffle - had he wanted to - by doing what most common-sense people do if embarking on a longish train journey: reserve a seat in advance

Owen Smith, Corbyn’s challenger for the Labour Party leadership, has warned he will do all in his power to keep Britain in the European Union despite the Brexit victory in the referendum earlier in the summer.

Unless, he says, Theresa May does something about it, he will do what he can to revoke the Brexit victory.

Politicians are forever talking about democracy, yet when the entire electorate are invited to express a view on membership of the EU (I can’t think of anything more democratic than that), they suddenly want to reverse the decision because they don’t like it.

Well, I hope the will of the British people prevails.

Owen Smith seems to think he knows better than the British electorate. I would simply call him a bad loser.

Lord (William) Hague, the former Tory Foreign Secretary, and party leader, is a brilliant orator, compelling and amusing. Yet it still baffles me that many organisations are prepared to offer him a five-figure fee to deliver an after-dinner speech. Is it a way of spending money that might otherwise go to the taxman?

Tony Blair, whose own speeches are deadly dull by comparison, can command even more. And once I was told that an organisation hired Lord Tebbit at a pretty large fee to deliver an after-dinner speech, which, they complained, told them nothing new.

For my sins, I sometimes make what are laughingly called speeches to various groups and I am lucky if I get even a small fee. Sometimes, it is none at all.

But whenever I speak to women’s groups, like the Mothers’ Union or the Women’s Institute, they normally give me a pot of home-made jam. Usually it is too sweet, but I am sure it is made with loving care.

Funniest comment so far about Traingate comes from journalist Marcus Leroux: “All this fuss about a Virgin berth.”