Chris Philp, the Tory MP for Croydon South, has been slapped down by No10 Downing Street today over what a spokesman for his own Conservative Prime Minister described as an “unhelpful” intervention in the Southern Railways industrial dispute, just as the parties have agreed to seek arbitration from ACAS.
Philp piped up yesterday with one of his wacky far-right notions (and he subscribes to several) to remove the right to strike from railway staff. Because that’s exactly the sort of thing he reckons will go down well with the Torygraph-reading commuters of Coulsdon.
Once upon a time, when he thought it would win him favour among his new constituents, Philp tried to claim that he was on their side over the terrible service provided by Southern Railways, and he was boasting that he was intervening personally with the transport minister and demanding that Govia Thameslink, the rail operators, should lose their franchise.
Philp’s gone a bit quiet on that lately, possibly because such a move might put the commuter lines from Surrey, Kent and south London into the hands of Transport for London, and Philp’s Tory colleague, Chris Grayling, has made it abundantly clear that he wouldn’t want to see a competent transport operator put in charge of rail services from Coulsdon, Purley and Croydon while his Department for Transport is pursuing its politically motivated attempt to “break the unions”.
It is a position which loyal party hacks, such as Philp and his similarly obsequious Conservative colleague in Croydon Central, Gavin Barwell, have happily supported in the past week, however much of a disservice it does for their commuter constituents. Meanwhile, Bob Neill, the Bromley MP, has said that Grayling is “not fit to hold office” and has misled the House of Commons, because his politically motivated stance ill-serves south London’s commuters.
Neill was at pains to remind the public that barely six months ago he, together with Barwell and Philp, were campaigning on London Tory policy for the rail franchise to be handed over to the London Mayor.
Having been thoroughly busted on that say-one-thing-do-another position, Philp yesterday chanced his arm for more broadcast airtime by blaming the unions for the current industrial dispute and calling for a ban on strikes.
“The Government should introduce emergency legislation to prevent unreasonable strike action by a small number of people…” Philp wrote yesterday, somewhat misleadingly.
The facts are that, before yesterday’s start of a 48-hour strike, rail union ASLEF held a ballot, as is required by law. There was a 77 per cent turnout for the vote, with a 87 per cent majority in favour of strike action. It would only be “unreasonable” for Philp to try to portray that as “a small number of people”. Philp himself was elected to parliament in 2015 on a lower voter turnout (70 per cent) and with a smaller majority (54 per cent) of his electorate.
In his posting yesterday, Phil advocated “preserving the right of workers to strike when faced with genuine injustice”. He seems to overlook the fact that the High Court of England has ruled that the rail workers do have a legitimate right to strike. Three senior judges ruled that their strike action is indeed legal. But then, Philp and other far-right Tories have started to have a bit of difficulty with lawyers and the rule of law lately…
Philp’s masterplan is to have rail, Tube, fire service and NHS and ambulance workers categorised as “Critical Public Infrastructure”, and as such required to ensure that at least a 50 per cent service is provided during strike action. As any Southern commuter would tell you, a 50 per cent reliable service would be an improvement on what the rail operator has been providing for the past 18 months.
Philp also wants mandatory mediation – something which Govia Thameslink and the people funding them, DafT, denied the rail unions before yesterday’s strike action.
“The Government should introduce these measures as emergency legislation to end the misery on Southern,” Philp grandstanded, before the disapproving intervention of No10.
Philp might be in for more disappointment today if he looks at the comments he has attracted on his Facebook page.
“Legislation should be brought in to stop ill-informed politicians and megalomaniac civil servants destroying the lives of the people they are supposed to be serving,” said one.
Another wrote: “I planned to vote for you at next election, as your points about the local area here in Purley are usually quite good, however with this statement, you have completely lost me.”
There was this: “I’m sorry Chris, you can’t fix the problem with Southernfail by punishing those who are striking. This is their last resort because your government has failed them.”
And this: “In return could we have a parliament that is honest, truthful, devoid of spin, treats constituents with respect and doesn’t hide behind the ridiculous rhetoric which has been on display throughout this dispute?”
And then there was this: “There are a lot of erudite and informed people who have skillfully dismantled the unthinking assumptions of your position. So I am merely going to add that you’re a fucking bellend.”
- Southern Failways: The train driver’s story
- Southern Failways: The Tories’ role in Croydon’s commuter chaos
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