Train strikes: Sophie Raworth grills Lisa Nandy on plans
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The Shadow Leveling Up Secretary was live in Coventry on Sunday Morning, joining BBC’s Raworth via video link. Inevitably, the planned rail and tube strikes were high on the agenda after the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) revealed discussions over pay, jobs and conditions had broken down with Network Rail and other operators. But Labour’s Nandy failed to give a yes or no answer to whether the party agreed with the strikes which will have drastic repercussions for millions up and down the country.
Moments after she appeared on-screen, BBC’s Raworth quizzed Nandy: “If you worked on the railways, would you have voted to go on strike over pay and safety this week?”
Refusing to be drawn into a hypothetical, Nandy tried to avoid the line of questioning: “Well, I don’t work on the railways, I work in parliament.
“And my job is to make sure we actually resolve this which is what politicians are meant to be doing.”
Nandy continued: “I don’t want strikes to have to go ahead, none of us want strikes to have to go ahead, and I live in the north of England, Sophie, I know what it means when the railways grind to a halt because we’ve had a decade of underfunding and bad management and broken promises.
“But that’s why the government has got to get around the table with train station staff, the ticket office staff, the cleaners who, just a few years ago, Grant Shapps was calling heroes, and sort this out because they’re the only ones who can.
“They took the negotiating mandate away from train operating companies in the pandemic, they haven’t given it back.
“And it’s no use saying to people to get around the table if you’ve taken away the table.
“The biggest problem that this country faces right now is not militant workers, it’s a militant government,” Nandy said but Raworth wasn’t going to let the MP get away with not answering the actual question.
The BBC presenter repeated: “But I want to know though is whether you think the strikes are reasonable?
“I’m asking you if you would’ve voted to go on strike this week over pay and safety.
“Your colleague Wes Streeting was able to answer that, why can’t you?” Raworth asked as frustrations grew.
Nandy explained: “Because I think it’s unreasonable to put working people, whether they’re trying to use the railways to go to work or they’re trying to keep the railways running – especially those who came out day after day in a pandemic – against one another when the reality is everyone is losing.
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“The problem isn’t threatened action on the railways, the problem is a government is on strike and not doing its job.”
Nandy then went on to suggest the reasons there are no strikes in Wales is because of the local Labour government – claiming England is seeing strikes as a result of a Conservative one.
The Labour MP also blasted Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, specifically, for having “the brass neck” to tell the public it’s “somebody else’s fault”.
Raworth cut in once more to remind Nandy she’d be speaking to Shapps later in the show and to ask for a third time if Labour were in favour of the strikes: “Are they reasonable?”
Nandy again avoided a yes or no response, replying: “I am on the side of people who are asking to be listened to and for the government to come to the table and negotiate seriously with them.
“Those true heroes that Grant Shapps talked about and the people they serve who use the railways to get to work.
“I was down at Wigan North Western a few days ago, they’re not clamouring for strike action.
“They’re asking for safety and security on the railways, they’re asking not to be replaced by agency staff, they’re asking for their jobs, and they’re asking for a government to take a request for a pay settlement seriously at a time when inflation is soaring and every single working person, every business, is struggling.”
Sunday Morning airs Sundays at 9am on BBC One.
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