On Thursday the Northern Line of London Underground was shut down, after drivers stopped work amid safety fears. The previous day saw a train run through a red light at Mill Hill East, and its emergency breaks failed – the fifth such incident on the Northern Line. By any objective criteria, such a deficiency constitutes a true and substantial safety risk to workers and commuters alike, justifying – indeed, necessitating – immediate suspension of the line in order to take steps to remedy the fault. This seems reasonable enough – except, that is, in the blinkered world-view of London’s biggest newspaper, the Evening Standard, which has once again sought to capitalise on the discomfort experienced by commuters to pursue its vendetta against all things Trade Union.
On the same day that Pakistani villagers excavated the bodies of their young children from the rubble of their schools, the evening edition of the Standard decried the “RAIL MISERY” imposed upon Londoners by the staff action. All suffering is, of course, relative; but even taken at its very worst the effect of the action can at most be considered a major inconvenience, and the use of the word “misery”, applied with tiresome regularity by the same handful of sub-editors, is an affront to decency. And it is the character of these journalists, and in particular the agendas that motivate them, which must be considered any time we set eyes on their doomful banner headlines and on the Evening Standard stands which punctuate the roads and high streets of London.
As far as their character is concerned, they are generally quite passive, in that they will readily accept the most crippling inconveniences imposed upon the population when they are imposed by the coercive arms of the state, or by corporate necessity. Their moral outrage does not extend to police blockades of demonstrators, indefinite detention or the overriding of community housing interests by corporate priorities. It does not extend, in other words, to taking on the powerful. Their righteous indignation will, however, be aroused if the inconveniencing has arisen from the actions of a body characterised by notions of collectivity, ballots and suchlike – in a word, democracy. Any decision-making by anyone outside of a state or corporate position is an affront to their ideals. So it becomes necessary to attempt to convince Londoners that, because for this one day they shall have to take a couple of buses to work instead of the usual Tube train, they are suffering some awful collective misery.
And this is, of course, a politically-motivated policy aimed at turning Londoners against the RMT, even though the action will have almost certainly helped prevent an awful disaster which the Standard would have solemnly branded a “tragedy” before heroically demanding answers. With a view to establishing the importance of dealing with safety faults on rail lines, the people at Associated Newspapers – the Nazi-supporting, crypto-racist cowards responsible for the Daily Mail and the Evening Standard – might like to consult the victims of Paddington and Hatfield on their definition of “rail misery”; they would do well to consider that “rail misery” is seeing a loved one pulled from the wreckage of a train carriage. Being an hour or so late for work is something rather substantially different.