Harry and Meghan playing same 'dirty game' they have accused Royal Household of: David Behrens
Train crews, unlike nurses and other key workers, did not enjoy much in the way of public sympathy in the first place. Compared to nurses they are well paid. And they’re certainly not known for their unsparing devotion to duty. But this latest insult to overcharged and under-served travellers – especially when there’s a new and improved pay offer on the table – has made them veritable pariahs.
For Mick Lynch, the RMT’s tone deaf leader, it is a battle of brinkmanship; of squeezing the pips of a spineless and flaccid bunch of managers whom he knows will cave in eventually. And therein lies the real problem for the railways. A more dynamic management would cast Lynch adrift and cut a deal with another, more flexible union which would then attract the RMT’s members by offering them better terms. It sounds implausible but it’s exactly what happened in the print industry a generation ago when Rupert Murdoch handed members of the Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunications and Plumbing Union more cash in return for a no-strike clause and an agreement on less arcane working practices.
A comparable arrangement on the rails would open the way for the modernisation the industry desperately needs – especially here in the north, where fewer than half the trains run on time. And it’s not as though the train company bosses can’t be creative when they want to be – it was revealed this week that they’ve been exploiting regulatory loopholes by massaging the figures to conceal the true number of services they’ve cancelled.
But these managers are essentially weasels, working by deceit and subterfuge, not facing up to the issues.
All the same, if I were Mick Lynch, I’d be looking warily over my shoulder, not leading everyone down the same old garden path in the blind expectation that they will all follow.
He isn’t the only one who can’t see beyond the nose on his face, though. The week’s other big confrontation has been played out in the alternative reality of the first class compartment, where the latest televised instalment in the soap opera lives of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex has plumbed new depths of sanctimony.
Harry and Meghan would like us to see their plight – and they alone see it as such – in the context of institutional racism, a subject that chimes with the American liberals who on Tuesday bestowed on them a ‘Ripple of Hope’ award for taking a “heroic stand” on racial justice and mental health. But it’s hard to see two such privileged people as victims. The tiresome reality is that they are collateral damage in a battle of their own making between Hollywood royalty and the British aristocracy.
Meghan, who was briefly in both camps but is now not really in either, enjoyed a different kind of entitlement to Harry, and seems to have embroiled herself in a game of Top Trumps to determine who commanded the most deference from the courtiers. She is accused of bullying some of them but those allegations have been buried beneath her own claims of receiving unfair treatment – which are only relative in the circumstances. Of course, each side disputes the other’s assertions.
In their new Netflix documentary, which is a glorified trailer for Harry’s forthcoming book, he accuses the Royal household of playing a “dirty game” by planting stories in the press. Yet that’s exactly what he’s doing now. For a couple as famously publicity shy as these two, they have an extraordinary amount to say – chiefly about their own privacy. Not since Greta Garbo has an actress been so desperate to be left alone.
So, again, answer me this: how do their tactics help their cause? And what is their cause anyway, other than self-promotion in order to earn a living in the media circus they ran away from home to join?
The spectacle of a couple revelling in what they condemn stands in stark contrast to this week’s pictures of King Charles repudiating racism by wrapping himself in a Sikh headscarf and sitting cross-legged on the floor of a temple. Actions sometimes speak louder than words and in this case it was clear which branch of the family held the moral high ground.