Nicholas Jones - Blog and Archive Website

Once the go ahead was given for the 12 December poll, feature writers for the dominant Tory press began dusting down their vast library of horror stories about life under a future Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn.

Dire predictions have been the stock in trade for highly paid columnists whose anti-Corbyn tirades have been afforded regular full-page treatment ever since he was elected Labour leader in August 2015.

Their rants started re-appearing with a vengeance from the very first day of the 2019 election campaign:

“Corbyn and his cronies who’d turn the UK into Venezuela (Leo McKinstry, Daily Mail, 30.10.2019) harked back to a catalogue of scare stories from the summer of 2017 that linked Corbyn to rioting in Caracas.

Margaret Thatcher’s interventions to strengthen police tactics during the 1984-85 miners’ strike have been well documented, but her official papers reveal she put pressure on police forces in Scotland as well as in England and Wales.

Revisiting her cabinet papers is timely given the imminent publication of John Scott’s review into the impact of policing on community relations in the Scottish coalfield.

Scott’s review was established by the Scottish government in June 2018 to re-assess the “unprecedented strain” placed on policing and community relationships and the “extremely challenging situations” faced by individual officers.

My own re-examination of the Thatcher cabinet records underlined yet again how the government’s public stance – that “no instructions” were issued to chief constables during the strike – is contradicted by the content of secret and confidential documents.

Two months into the strike, at the height of picketing in Scotland, and after violent scenes outside the Ravenscraig steel works, the Prime Minister wanted some immediate answers.

Throughout the political chaos of Theresa May’s repeated failure to gain approval for her agreement to leave the European Union, Brexit-supporting newspapers never wavered in their underlying support for Boris Johnson’s hard-line approach.

He was the ever-present cheerleader, a backstop for the pro-Brexit press, waiting in the side-lines, ready to step into the breach to lead the final assault on Brussels to deliver the freedoms promised in the EU Referendum.

At least in the opinion of most Conservative Party members, Johnson became – like Margaret Thatcher or Tony Blair before him – an all-powerful Prime Minister, safe in the knowledge that he and his closest aides were starting out with every chance of being able to command the news agenda and manipulate friendly media outlets.

“Don’t panic” is the advice to car workers from Len McCluskey, the Unite union general secretary, as Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt step up their Brexit No Deal preparations, amid further evidence of the precarious nature of the British automotive industry.

In response to questioning on the Andrew Marr Show (30.6.2019) about warnings that jobs and investment in the car industry could take a 20 per cent hit in the event of the UK leaving the EU without an agreement on October 30, Mr McCluskey insisted six times that there was no need for car workers to panic.

But when Marr pointed to a YouGov opinion poll of trade union members that showed that 65 per cent of Unite members wanted to remain, Mr McCluskey denied that was the case.

While post-Brexit job losses continue to mount in the wake of the accelerating downsizing of the British car industry, the workforce lacks the support of a coherent or cohesive voice speaking up on their behalf.

Motor manufacturing is just one of many industrial sectors where employees are being let down by the failure of the labour and trade union movement to mount a vigorous campaign to safeguard future employment.

Instead of a jointly agreed strategy identifying where jobs are being lost – and then explaining how they might be protected – the largest unions seem to have coalesced around the fallback position of simply rejecting a no deal exit rather than facing head on the impact of Leave or Remain.

Uncertainty about the UK’s future relationship with the European Union is without doubt the greatest current threat to job prospects in the automotive sector and a wide range of other industries.