Striking Times

Back in 2009, oh so many moons ago, I remember being dragged to a social event for someone’s birthday that I didn’t really like. I’d just been on the G20 protest that day and wasn’t really in the mood to hang out and make polite conversation but I went anyway. I got caught up talking to someone who was being fairly insulting about that days protests saying that everyone involved was a ‘crusty’ who clearly had ‘nothing better to do’. She was unable to understand what they were making a stand about. I told her I had been on that demonstration and explained that I was there in protest of the banking system that had caused the economic crash and it was a movement towards fairer economic policies to stop regular people being made redundant and punished for a mistake that wasn’t ours. She adamantly stated that it was all nonsense and after arguing enough I gave up, and asked boring questions instead, such as what she did for a job. She had, as it turned out, just been made redundant due to cut backs at work thanks to the recession.

I’ve never understood how she was able to disassociate what was happening to her with the economic climate at the time, aside from jumping to the easy conclusion that she was an idiot. But it’s not just that. Lots of people have exactly the same ability. This week, in London, there is a tube strike. It is amongst all the tube strikes that have happened over the last few years, one of the far more valid ones. Boris Johnson vowed in 2010 that he wouldn’t close London Underground ticket offices. Ken Livingstone had previously said 40 of them would close and to oppose him, Boris had promised that wouldn’t happen. Now, in 2014, he is planning to close all of them. Tons of jobs will be lost, lost of tourists will be even more confused about our transport system, safety and security will be lowered and generally all in all, it seems like another ridiculous idea that will only end in an inferior service for everyone who uses it. The Clown Mayor of London has promised that staff will be away from behind the booth and instead on hand to help, but with staff cuts it can’t be that many of them. And in busy travel times it certainly won’t be enough. This follows Boris closing many busy firestations ensuring that response time to fires will stay the same, despite that being an actual impossibility with less staff and further distances to travel. He is, single handedly, making the capital a less safe and convenient place to be.

So rightly so, the tube workers are on strike. They would like to keep their jobs, and they can also foresee how messy things will get without them. Yet my Twitter timeline is full of people calling them lazy, complaining about how inconsiderate it is and generally being hugely upset that it is taking them slightly longer to get to work or, woe is me, they have to work from home for a day. Now, I am in a very lucky position where I rarely have to commute. I work from home and drive to gigs so ultimately, this hasn’t really affected me, and I understand that. I’ve checked that privilege. What I don’t understand is animosity towards people wanting to not be made redundant? When did standing up for yourself and your work become something to be ashamed of? Sure, there have been a lot of tube strikes over the years, not always for brilliant reasons and so perhaps people feel it’s a ‘boy who cried wolf’ scenario. But if other workplaces and workers stood up against conditions they weren’t happy with, would we ever feel disgruntled by TFL’s union decisions?

I was discussing with another comedian last night, as is an ever increasing conversation topic amongst us comic types, about the need for comedy union. It’s a very hard industry to create one for, though the comic in question had some brilliant ideas. If we had someone to regulate promoters and wages, it would limit how many times shows have been cancelled and there is no cancellation fee on offer. Having wages you planned to get suddenly disappear is never easy. We don’t get sick pay or holiday pay, and yes, it is our choice to do this line of work, but it would be made easier with certain guidance in place. Yet the idea of a union, someone to protect workers rights, has become more and more demonised. Labour are now changing their rules so unions have less say in the choice of Labour leader, after having been shamed into doing so by the Falkirk incident. I’d still choose someone who is backed by workers unions over someone who is sponsored by banks any day and can’t understand why you wouldn’t. And now the Conservatives are discussing changing strike laws so TFL and others can’t stand against losing their jobs.

If you think that’s the correct way to go, then you are for workers having no ability to stand-up for their rights at all. Along with tenant’s rights being reduced, and legal aid too, it’s becoming very clear that the general populace is heading towards a very undemocratic society. That is a very dangerous place to be, and one that I’m sure seems of no consequence to many, until they themselves have their job threatened. When that happens, I hope they realise what a mistake they made.


I’m currently on my first ever UK tour! All dates and ticket links are up at my website: Please spread the word and come along as if you’re not there it’ll be rubbish. It’ll just be me in a room & if I can’t get 3G I’ll be really bored. So far the shows have been a lot of fun. The very funny Chris Coltrane is supporting me on some dates and the brilliant Keith Farnan is doing a double header with me on others.