How Tube strikes have increased under Boris

He promised a “no-strike deal” but Tube strikes have risen since Johnson become mayor.

News that Tube drivers are threatening to walk out on the day of the royal wedding offers a good opportunity to examine the fate of Boris Johnson's long-promised "no-strike deal".

In his 2008 manifesto, the Mayor of London pledged:

I will look to reduce the disruption caused by strikes on the Tube by negotiating a no-strike deal, in good faith, with the Tube unions. In return for agreeing not to strike, the unions will get the security provided by having the pay negotiations conducted by an independent arbiter, whose final decision will be binding on both parties. I believe this is the fairest way to ensure that London is not brought to a stand-still every time there is a pay negotiation, and to ensure union members get a secure deal.

But since then, as the graphic below shows, Tube strikes have reached a level never seen under Ken Livingstone. Not that this should surprise anyone. There is little evidence that Boris has made any serious attempt to negotiate a no-strike deal with the trade unions. Asked in September if he had sat down with union leaders and had his "promised beer" with Bob Crow, the mayor replied: "I have not spoken directly with union leaders but with plenty of people in government."

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In a memorable 2008 election leaflet, Johnson complained that "there have been 16 Tube strikes since Ken Livingstone became mayor, two for every year". But since Boris became mayor, there have been no fewer than 20, nearly seven for every year (the next scheduled strike is on Friday).

The grim conclusion is that Boris's "no-strike deal" was a shallow election pledge that he never had any intention of living up to in power.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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PMQs review: Theresa May shows how her confidence has grown

After her Brexit speech, the PM declared of Jeremy Corbyn: "I've got a plan - he doesn't have a clue". 

The woman derided as “Theresa Maybe” believes she has neutralised that charge. Following her Brexit speech, Theresa May cut a far more confident figure at today's PMQs. Jeremy Corbyn inevitably devoted all six of his questions to Europe but failed to land a definitive blow.

He began by denouncing May for “sidelining parliament” at the very moment the UK was supposedly reclaiming sovereignty (though he yesterday praised her for guaranteeing MPs would get a vote). “It’s not so much the Iron Lady as the irony lady,” he quipped. But May, who has sometimes faltered against Corbyn, had a ready retort. The Labour leader, she noted, had denounced the government for planning to leave the single market while simultaneously seeking “access” to it. Yet “access”, she went on, was precisely what Corbyn had demanded (seemingly having confused it with full membership). "I've got a plan - he doesn't have a clue,” she declared.

When Corbyn recalled May’s economic warnings during the referendum (“Does she now disagree with herself?”), the PM was able to reply: “I said if we voted to leave the EU the sky would not fall in and look at what has happened to our economic situation since we voted to leave the EU”.

Corbyn’s subsequent question on whether May would pay for single market access was less wounding than it might have been because she has consistently refused to rule out budget contributions (though yesterday emphasised that the days of “vast” payments were over).

When the Labour leader ended by rightly hailing the contribution immigrants made to public services (“The real pressure on public services comes from a government that slashed billions”), May took full opportunity of the chance to have the last word, launching a full-frontal attack on his leadership and a defence of hers. “There is indeed a difference - when I look at the issue of Brexit or any other issues like the NHS or social care, I consider the issue, I set out my plan and I stick to it. It's called leadership, he should try it some time.”

For May, life will soon get harder. Once Article 50 is triggered, it is the EU 27, not the UK, that will take back control (the withdrawal agreement must be approved by at least 72 per cent of member states). With MPs now guaranteed a vote on the final outcome, parliament will also reassert itself. But for now, May can reflect with satisfaction on her strengthened position.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.