Mick's Column


Here you can find archives of the monthly column from ASLEF's General Secretary, Mick Whelan.

2018 - 2017201620152014  - 2013 - 2012 - 2011

Other archived columns:  2011 - 2010 - 2009 - 2008 - 2007 - 2006 - 2005


The fight for rights


March 2018


It is right that we highlight in this edition of the Journal the centenary of votes for women and the often violent struggle that went with it. The irony of Magna Carta, and the associated freedoms achieved for the barons, is not lost when used in the context of Brexit and other debates. A world war, the growth of the Labour Party, and the immense fight by the Suffragettes led to the legislation that, in 1918, not only won the vote for women of property over the age of 30 but for 42% of men who had been up to then excluded. Those over 19 who had been in the armed forces also got the vote as you were not eligible if you had not been in the country for 12 months; odd, when we were engaged in a war abroad? At least in 1928 everyone over 21 got the right to vote; in 1969 it became 18, the next debate is votes at 16? it may have taken the best part of 2,000 years but, in Switzerland, women did not get the full vote until 1971! out of respect for all those who fought for universal suffrage we must use the voice they gave us.

There are days when I wonder if what happens on our railways was put into a script for yes Minister or House of Cards it would seem too far-fetched? We said East Coast, successful under DOR, should remain as a comparator but dogma dictated it had to be let out to fail for a third time. There was talk of some sort of public-private partnership so Virgin and Stagecoach did not have to pay the millions they committed? Then, more confusion, as Chris Grayling said they might renationalise it – and we had to point out the law would have to be changed as it is now illegal for the government to run our trains. Then they announced that the very people who have reneged on that contract are, without competition, to be given a direct award to run the West Coast for a few more years! No penalty for failure and, unlike the past, they are allowed to bid for other franchises.

Then Jo Johnson, the new Rail Minister in a government that lied about and then cancelled electrification, announced that diesel trains should be banned by 2040. Bi-mode was on the original trains for GWR, the diesel engines were removed for the promised electrification, and then retrofitted at great cost! if it wasn’t so sad it would be funny…



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