Rail strike mayhem for com­muters

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - By Tom Payne

HUN­DREDS of thou­sands of com­muters face a month of chaos as union barons today launch the long­est strike in the his­tory of Bri­tish rail­ways.

The un­prece­dented 7-day ac­tion will see 850 ser­vices can­celled ev­ery day on South West­ern Rail­way (SWR), one of Eng­land’s busiest op­er­a­tors. The ac­tion by the Rail, Mar­itime and Trans­port union (RMT) will cause mis­ery for an es­ti­mated 16mil­lion pas­sen­gers at one of the busiest times of the year. The walk­out is be­ing held be­cause of the threat of driver-only trains.

A spokesman for SWR – who has warned com­muters to be pre­pared for mayhem – said: ‘We have done ev­ery­thing we can and more to meet the RMT’s out­dated de­mands with our prom­ise of a guard on ev­ery train and a safety crit­i­cal role for that guard.’

Rail min­is­ter Chris HeatonHar­ris said: ‘This strike from the mil­i­tant RMT is a taste of things to come if Cor­byn takes power.’

You’RE not go­ing to like this but I’m go­ing to say it any­way: it’s time to start think­ing about the next elec­tion. No, not the one next week. Not even the spring 2020 con­test we’ll be hav­ing if there’s an­other hung par­lia­ment. In­stead, the elec­tion to keep an eye on is the poll for the Scot­tish par­lia­ment in 2021.

A Panel­base poll for a Sun­day news­pa­per sug­gests the SNP may have peaked. Ac­cord­ing to Pro­fes­sor John Cur­tice, this poll would trans­late to a Scot­tish par­lia­ment in which the na­tion­al­ist bloc (the SNP and the Greens) lost its over­all ma­jor­ity, with 64 seats rather than the 65 re­quired to con­trol Holy­rood. The union­ist par­ties would both make gains, with the Tories and the Lib Dems pick­ing up four seats apiece, but Labour would fall back, this time to 21 seats.

If na­tion­al­ism is stalled, can the Tories pull out in front? We must start by ac­cept­ing that the SNP will likely win a ma­jor­ity of seats once again next week. How­ever, if YouGov’s MRP polling is ac­cu­rate, the Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tives could hold all but two of their West­min­ster seats two weeks from now. Party strate­gists will also be look­ing to see if the Tories make fur­ther gains out­with their tra­di­tional heart­lands.

Pre­car­i­ous

East Loth­ian was once a Labour strong­hold, though the Con­ser­va­tives pulled off a dis­tant se­cond in 2010 and the seat fell to the SNP in 2015. Labour’s Martin Whitfield, who took it back in 2017, teeters on a pre­car­i­ous ma­jor­ity of 3,000. Former jus­tice sec­re­tary Kenny MacAskill is con­test­ing it for the SNP this time and YouGov’s MRP polling puts him in the lead. That same poll has Whitfield only three points ahead of the Tory can­di­date. on a bad night for Labour, the Tories could come se­cond again.

The SNP is pro­jected to re­tain La­nark and Hamil­ton East. The 2017 re­sult, which saw the Tories leapfrog Labour into se­cond place, raised eye­brows when Ruth David­son’s party cut the Na­tion­al­ist ma­jor­ity from 10,000 to less than 300. YouGov’s pre­dic­tion is for Labour to fin­ish 16 points be­hind the Con­ser­va­tives. In Cen­tral Ayr­shire, the SNP’s Philippa

Whit­ford is pre­dicted to hold on but YouGov finds the Tories 22 points ahead of Labour in once solid Labour ter­ri­tory.

If there are signs of con­tin­ued progress in the Cen­tral Belt, the Tories will start to shift re­sources there in prepa­ra­tion for 2021. But they still have to con­vert grad­ual growth into vic­to­ries, and that is where things get chal­leng­ing.

David­son’s res­ig­na­tion set the party back at the very time it needed to re­build mo­men­tum, but what hap­pens next will have a lot to do with her legacy. The Ruth revo­lu­tion was not sim­ply about restor­ing the elec­toral for­tunes of a po­lit­i­cal party. It was about forc­ing a cul­tural re­align­ment and fash­ion­ing a new model of Scot­tish Tory voter – ex-Labour, non­grad­u­ate, and Cen­tral Belt.

These are vot­ers whose so­cial views (par­tic­u­larly on crim­i­nal jus­tice and welfare) make them nat­u­ral con­ser­va­tives but who, for rea­sons of eco­nomics and his­tory, have never voted Con­ser­va­tive.

What David­son saw be­fore any­one else was that the 2015 Gen­eral Elec­tion re­sult, in which the Na­tion­al­ists took 56 of Scot­land’s 59 seats, would come to ben­e­fit the Tories in the long term. By fi­nally smash­ing the Labour mo­nop­oly on Scot­land, the SNP freed hun­dreds of thou­sands of vot­ers from a life­time of elec­toral be­hav­iour pre­des­tined by class and habit. For now, the SNP wins most of these votes but it can­not claim the near-fa­mil­ial loy­alty the Labour Party once did. It will be eas­ier for these elec­tors to break from the SNP than it was to split from Labour.

This is why Ni­cola Stur­geon’s 2015 vic­tory was dou­bly his­toric: she didn’t just se­cure a land­slide for the SNP, she cre­ated a new elec­torate for Scot­land. Thus far, the Tories have lim­ited their in­ter­ac­tions with these vot­ers to op­pos­ing in­de­pen­dence and call­ing for tougher sen­tences. But they will have to go be­yond these ba­sics and of­fer a holis­tic con­ser­vatism that speaks to the lives and con­cerns of or­di­nary vot­ers. Be­ing against con­sti­tu­tional up­heaval is all very well but the pub­lic is more con­cerned about school stan­dards, hos­pi­tal wait­ing times and the cost of liv­ing, and the Tories need to make those their pri­or­i­ties too.

The hard part will be sub­stan­tive change: re­struc­tur­ing con­ser­vatism for de­mo­graph­ics who have con­sid­ered ‘Tory’ the ul­ti­mate four-let­ter word.

Pop­u­lar

Win­ning enough of them over to put the Tories in with a chance of be­com­ing the largest party at Holy­rood will re­quire a new pop­u­lar con­ser­vatism. The Tories should not aban­don free-mar­ket eco­nomics but they should recog­nise that some­times the mar­ket needs a lit­tle nudge here and there, whether from the Gov­ern­ment or unions. Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tives should be­come cham­pi­ons of the Liv­ing Wage and de­mand stricter en­force­ment of the Na­tional Min­i­mum Wage.

They ought to recog­nise the unions’ suc­cess in rein­ing in shoddy man­age­ment and rais­ing pay. They should grasp the value of pub­lic ex­pen­di­ture in build­ing up the in­fra­struc­ture and ser­vices that poorer com­mu­ni­ties rely on. Ev­ery party fights for rail com­muters’ votes; some­one should be the party of bus pas­sen­gers.

Blue-col­lar con­ser­vatism isn’t just about bring­ing con­ser­vatism to workingand lower-mid­dle-class vot­ers; it’s also about bring­ing their in­nately con­ser­va­tive val­ues to a Tory Party that has be­come fixed on eco­nomic lib­er­tar­i­an­ism at the ex­pense of fam­ily, cus­tom, tra­di­tion and val­ues. What more pointed sym­bol of this than a Tory Prime Min­is­ter cam­paign­ing to hire 20,000 new po­lice of­fi­cers in Eng­land af­ter his Tory pre­de­ces­sors cut 20,000 cops to make ef­fi­cien­cies? There is such a thing as so­ci­ety and a strong so­ci­ety makes it eas­ier to live the Good Life.

In the wee small hours of Fri­day, December 13, we will find out whether Ruth David­son was a flash in the pan or whether she sparked a revo­lu­tion that is just get­ting started.

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