Rail union boss Mick Lynch yesterday (23 September) appeared as a panellist on BBC One’s popular comedy show, Have I Got News For You.
The general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) has recently made a series of TV and radio appearances, often invited on to shows to explain why rail strikes are being held.
His appearance last night comes just one day after the RMT announced that 40,000 Network Rail Staff and 15 train operating companies will stage another walkout on 8 October. This is the latest strike in a long-running row over pay, pensions and working conditions, which has seen UK travel services grind to a halt over the past few months.
Unsurprisingly, the ongoing strikes were a key point of conversation in the latest episode of Have I Got News For You - with the union leader both being the butt of the joke on the topic, and cracking a few of his own ones. We’ve put together a few of the top moments.
Did anything happen?
Opening the show, host Richard Ayoade asked the panel if “anything happened” while the show was on its two-week hiatus after Queen Elizabeth II died at the age of 96. Mr Lynch quickly quipped that he had “called off a few strikes” - referencing the fact that industrial action was paused during the period of national mourning.
The Queen lying in-state
Conversation quickly turned to focus on the queue to see the late monarch lying in state, with Mr Ayoade joking that if Holly Willoughby and Phillip Shofield had joined the queue - it might have “upped the numbers a bit”.
Although the precise figure has not yet been confirmed, Michelle Donelan said earlier this week that more than 250,000 lined up to see Queen Elizabeth II. Although the number of people who queued for hours for the chance to see the Queen’s coffin was only 50,000 more than the number who saw the Queen Mother’s lying in state in 2002, Ms Donelan said the figures were “remarkable”.
The panel debated why the figures were not higher, with Ms Conaty blaming “the internet” and Mr Merton saying “a live feed, ironically.” Mr Ayoade however then took aim at Mr Lynch, commenting, “on previous occasions people have travelled to London from all parts of the country, but it’s much harder to travel these days, isn’t it?”
The blatant reference to the train strikes prompted laughs from the audience, but the union boss, who was wearing a RMT pin, did not respond - and looked a little uncomfortable. On a similar note, when talking about why US President Joe Biden was late to the Queen’s state funeral, Mr Hislop quipped that it was because he had to come “by car.”
The panel then discussed the Labour Party’s plans to sing the national anthem at their annual conference, as a mark of respect to the late Queen Elizabeth II and new monarch King Charles III. Mr Lynch joked that it was because they “can’t think of anything else to do.”
Leader of the Labour Party Sir Keir Starmer previously clashed with unions when he said those in Government should not attend picket lines. At the time, a spokesperson for ASLEF told NationalWorld: “The Labour Party was forged in the labour movement.
“It’s a really odd suggestion for any Labour Party leader to suggest that a Labour MP should not attend a picket line or support industrial action by hard-pressed working people… during a cost of living crisis.”
Mr Lynch also took the opportunity to criticise Liz Truss’ and Kwasi Kwarteng’s new mini-budget announcements while on the show. He said that instead of sending “£100 billion directly to the energy companies”, they could “just nationalise them for about a tenth of the price”.
“I reckon that would lower inflation, wouldn’t it?” He argued in an exchange which prompted a few claps from the audience.
Asked about whether, “as a Brexit voter,” he was happy that the UK has left the European Union, Mr Lynch said he was “thrilled that the mandate of the people had been carried out.” Comedian Ms Conaty feigned surprise in response, exclaiming, “but it’s a union!” Mr Lynch replied more seriously, remarking, “you’re free to leave a union whenever you want to.”
Why do you hate people?
Turning discussion back to strikes, Mr Lynch was asked “why do you hate people who raise money?” in relation to RMT’s decision to hold strikes on the day of the London Marathon. But the union leader clarified that the strikes were actually, as he “understands it”, the day before the marathon.
Disruption is expected to continue into the following day.
Living south of the river
There was still more conversation about trains. Host Mr Ayoade asked why he has to travel to Peckham Rye station in order to get to Denmark Hill in London.
Mr Lynch’s quick response was “there’s a lesson there - don’t live south of the river.” Mr Ayoade subsequently joked that he had “started a war”.