Gove ramps up anti-strike rhetoric. But he didn't always feel this way

The Education Secretary condemns "industrial strife" -- but a photograph shows him on a picket line

The coalition is ramping up the anti-strike rhetoric today, with Michael Gove set to condemn union bosses as "militants, hardliners itching for a fight". The Education Secretary will deliver a speech in which he will say:

They want families to be inconvenienced. They want mothers to give up a day's work, or pay for expensive childcare, because schools will be closed. They want teachers and other public sector workers to lose a day's pay in the run-up to Christmas.

They want scenes of industrial strife on our TV screens; they want to make economic recovery harder; they want to provide a platform for confrontation just when we all need to pull together.

So far, so Tory -- but has Gove always felt this way? No, he hasn't, as a photograph published by the People last March demonstrated. It shows a young Gove on strike as a trainee reporter at a newspaper in Aberdeen, smiling widely as he holds up a sign saying "Official picket, don't cross":

gove strike

Gove, clearly aware that this picture could potentially undermine his anti-union stance, will address it in today's speech:

I'm speaking out today because I know what it's like to go on strike because some people at the top of a Union leadership wanted to prove a point.

I lost my job. So did more than one hundred others. I was lucky - young, unmarried, without a mortgage. I got another job soon enough. Many others didn't. They never worked again in the profession they loved. And the deal we were offered before the strike never improved.

The cynical among us might note that Gove doesn't exactly look like he's under duress in the photograph. On a serious note, he clearly hopes to use his own experience to underscore the different between the moderate majority and the militant leadership of the unions. However, given that this strike will include many traditionally non-militant professionals, like headteachers, this might not stick.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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RMT poised to rejoin the Labour Party

The transport union is set to vote on reaffiliation to the party, with RMT leaders backing the move.

Plans are being drawn up for the RMT (the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers) to reaffiliate to the Labour Party in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s significant gains in the general election, the New Statesman has learnt.

The union, which represents tube drivers and other workers across the transport sector, was expelled from the Labour Party under Tony Blair after some Scottish branches voted to support the Scottish Socialist Party instead.

But the RMT endorsed both of Corbyn’s bids for the Labour leadership and its ruling national executive committee backed a Labour vote on 8 June.

Corbyn addressed the RMT’s annual general meeting in Exeter yesterday, where he was “given a hero’s welcome”, in the words of one delegate. Mick Cash, the RMT’s general secretary, praised Corbyn as the union’s “long-term friend and comrade”.

After the meeting, Steve Hedley, assistant general secretary at the RMT, posted a picture to Facebook with John McDonnell. The caption read: “With the shadow chancellor John McDonnell arguing that we should affiliate to the Labour Party after consulting fully and democratically with our members”.

The return of the RMT to Labour would be welcomed by the party leadership with open arms. And although its comparably small size would mean that the RMT would have little effect on the internal workings of Labour Party conference or its ruling NEC, its wide spread across the country could make the union a power player in the life of local Labour parties.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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