Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair! Photo: Getty Images
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If you think Tube drivers are overpaid, you don't understand how capitalism works

If I could bring the New Statesman grinding to a halt with no fear of being rapidly replaced, you better believe I'd be paid over £50,000 too.

There are some questions that are difficult to answer: most of the lyrics to Bob Dylan's Blowin' in the Wind fall into this category. 

Then there are other questions where the clue is in the title. "Why are people who can bring London to a halt so well-paid?" is one. 

But London's imminent Tube strike means that the question is once again on everyone's lips.  The starting salary - close to £50k - is a particular bone of contention as are the 48 days of paid leave. 

Now there are plenty of good left-wing arguments for why Tube drivers are worth the whack - and the dispiriting one that if you are the family's sole earner, £50k in London is not exactly gold toilet money - and it's worth pointing out that most Tube drivers start working as station staff - a starting salary of £20k. 

But there's a much better right-wing one, and it's this: there's no such thing as an overpaid worker in a capitalist society. There's just what the market decides people are worth. Tube drivers have something almost everybody in London wants, are difficult to replace and are well-organised. If I could bring the New Statesman to a standstill by not turning up for work and wasn't eminently replaceable, you better believe I'd hold out for a great deal more than £50k. 

So, fine, if you think the future of human society is a commune where everyone shares everything, or support a cap in executive pay, then it's perfectly respectable to say that Tube drivers are overpaid. But I notice that most of the commentators who think Tube drivers are overpaid don't think bankers are overpaid. Or that taxes on the globally-mobile super-rich are too low. (It's almost like there's another motive at work, huh?) 

And of course increasing the cost of humans on the Tube will hasten the development of robots on trains, but bluntly, almost all of us will be replaced by robots sooner rather than later. (I hear a machine capable of writing news stories about open letters in support of one candidate or another for the Labour leadership is just months away from completion.) The only difference is that Tube drivers will have been better-paid before the inevitable happens.

But, frankly? If you think Tube drivers are "overpaid", you don't understand how capitalism works.

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

Arsène Wenger. Credit: Getty
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My biggest regret of the Wenger era? How we, the fans, treated him at the end

Arsenal’s greatest coach deserved better treatment from the Club’s supporters. 

I have no coherent memories of Arsenal before Arsène Wenger, who will leave the Club at the end of the season. I am aware of the Club having a new manager, but my continuous memories of my team are of Wenger at the helm.

They were good years to remember: three league titles, seven FA Cups, the most of any single manager in English football. He leaves the Club as the most successful manager in its history.

I think one of the reasons why in recent years he has taken a pasting from Arsenal fans is that the world before him now seems unimaginable, and not just for those of us who can't really remember it. As he himself once said, it is hard to go back to sausages when you are used to caviar, and while the last few years cannot be seen as below par as far as the great sweep of Arsenal’s history goes, they were below par by the standards he himself had set. Not quite sausages, but not caviar either.

There was the period of financial restraint from 2005 onwards, in which the struggle to repay the cost of a new stadium meant missing out on top player. A team that combined promising young talent with the simply bang-average went nine years without a trophy. Those years had plenty of excitement: a 2-1 victory over Manchester United with late, late goals from Robin van Persie and Thierry Henry, a delicious 5-2 thumping of Tottenham Hotspur, and races for the Champions League that went to the last day. It was a time that seemed to hold the promise a second great age of Wenger once the debt was cleared. But instead of a return to the league triumphs of the past, Wenger’s second spree of trophy-winning was confined to the FA Cup. The club went from always being challenging for the league, to always finishing in the Champions League places, to struggling to finish in the top six. Again, nothing to be sniffed at, but short of his earlier triumphs.

If, as feels likely, Arsenal’s dire away form means the hunt for a Uefa Cup victory ends at Atletico Madrid, many will feel that Wenger missed a trick in not stepping down after his FA Cup triumph over Chelsea last year, in one of the most thrilling FA Cup Finals in years. (I particularly enjoyed this one as I watched it with my best man, a Chelsea fan.) 

No one could claim that this season was a good one, but the saddest thing for me was not the turgid performances away from home nor the limp exit from the FA Cup, nor even finishing below Tottenham again. It was hearing Arsenal fans, in the world-class stadium that Wenger built for us, booing and criticising him.

And I think, that, when we look back on Wenger’s transformation both of Arsenal and of English football in general, more than whether he should have called it a day a little earlier, we will wonder how Arsenal fans could have forgotten the achievements of a man who did so much for us.

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