Well, at least the weather’s looking alright. That’s about the best that can be said for the rest of the week, with rail strikes, flight cancellations and the strong possibility of further industrial action to come. Those who have been asked to work from home may well come back with a healthier tan next week.
The common theme running through all elements of our summer of discontent is a failure to take responsibility. That charge can be laid at unions – who rather than acting like grown-ups during an economic squeeze are determined to extract every possible pip – and at businesses, some of whom have failed to see both industrial action on the rails and staff shortages at airports and in the air.
But most of all it can be laid squarely at the door of the government.
Later today Boris Johnson will tell his Cabinet that strikes are A Very Bad Idea. Good for him. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem that either he or anybody in his government has said so directly to the unions or the railway companies, preferring to let negotiations take place without the ‘interference’ of politicians. In normal companies and in normal times, that’s a reasonable and indeed welcome position – but rail companies (half-nationalised arms of the state) are not normal companies, and we certainly aren’t in normal times either. Get the unions and the rail companies around a table, asap. At airports, the blame game that has served only to frustrate passengers continues.
The government, which moved semi-quickly to install a temporary visa scheme when we had a HGV-driver shortage, has refused to do similar at airports. It can have a pop at airlines all it wants but right now the staff shortage needs everything thrown at it, and everything is not currently being thrown.
The government, stung by criticism from all sides, may fancy sitting these industrial disputes out. They shouldn’t be as tempted as they clearly are.