Red Len and the Olympic Torch of Doom….
Wicked Red Len McCluskey is threatening to snuff out our valiant Olympic Torch. Allegedly. Firstly, I have to say that I didn’t see the ‘s’ word once in McCluskey’s interview – so, the media is guilty of some false framing. What McCluskey did suggest is that Unite may engage in direct action and protests in the style of UK Uncut. This is a deliberate slight of hand, its easier to get the public riled up against strikes which they see as a different thing to protesting than it is against what basically is the right to free expression. I don’t accept the argument that democratic rights, to protests, dissent etc are somehow restricted to when we feel it is culturally acceptable to exercise them and I will point out that the Olympics are frequently targeted for political protest, for precisely the reasons McCluskey noted.
The timing of this media storm is also highly convenient for the government which is in major difficulties with major planks of its agenda. It’s almost as if the press, seeing Cameron’s current plight, has decided it should lend a hand by writing his set of Prime Minister’s Questions rebuttals for him. Coverage of this in particular seems to have squashed the Backbench Business Committee vetoing a debate on the NHS Bill despite it smashing the required 100,000 signatures barrier.
What I find particularly objectionable about the political outcry over McCluskey’s comments is the high tide of sheer hypocrisy that grandstanding politicians are coming out with. It’s as if they have never deliberately exploited sporting events and sporting issues for their own gain. Sport is a popular spectating and participatory past-time so all the leading politicians can always be found with something to say when a big issue arises. It’s part of their desperate battle to convince us that they are just like us. No, really, they are.
Speaking personally, I have had enough of the Olympics already. I passed the point of being annoyed with them when I was shivering and shaking at a ramshackle outside bus stop because the inside one was being repaired in the middle winter on the spurious pretext this had to be done before the Olympic Torch celebrations. This is not to mention the stupid amount of money that our fiscally illiterate council is spending on said events.
However, I understand that some people enjoy them; therefore Len’s comments probably said alot about the trade unions so-chronic-its-painful lack of media savvy. He does this deliberately because that’s the kind of figure he is – whether this helps or hinders the causes he fights for is, however, another question. Contrary to what a defender of McCluskey said on Radio 5 Live, trade unions really do need public support for their actions because they are so organisationally powerless. They need to understand this and think creatively about how they can win that; apparently, McCluskey’s comments stemmed from a dispute involving London Bus Drivers. You wouldn’t know this from his comments and in that sense he has to be rebuked for a huge communications fail.
If Len McCluskey is guilty of anything it is this, grandstanding of his own and obscuring the real issues. No doubt Labour’s leaders will no indulge in the same, both Harriet Harman and Ed Miliband have stuck their oar in already. They are wrong to do so and play the media and Conservative Party game but Len McCluskey was wrong to put his own ego before the immediate issue which is the well-being of his members.