• Sun. Jun 23rd, 2024

Fringe 2023: Iain Dale’s All Talk with Mick Lynch

ByLucy Jackson

Aug 7, 2023
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Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Iain Dale’s All Talk series is back for another year, providing audience members with one hour of in-depth conversation with today’s leaders, featuring guests from all sides of the political spectrum.

The second show – of thirteen total – saw Mick Lynch, General Secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), put to the test in front of a live audience.

Overall, Lynch came across exceptionally well as a man of integrity, decency and solidarity.

Led by Dale’s questioning, Lynch raised important questions about anti-trade union laws and the UK government’s approach to striking, calling those in government “chancers” who had never actually done anything in their lives but felt qualified enough to tell others what to do.

When suggesting how we should respond to the government’s anti-strike policies (particularly the introduction of minimum service levels), Lynch pointed out that it is actually illegal in the UK to strike on policy matters, making it very difficult for workers to protest pay and working conditions. 

I knew this fact, but hearing it uttered so passingly and bleakly still made me feel uneasy. How can it be fair or right that striking over policy is illegal?

Dale was acutely aware that his audience was mostly Scottish, which he used to his advantage. He focused on what Lynch had to say about recent turmoil surrounding the SNP’s finances and his opinion of Nicola Sturgeon (whom Dale will be interviewing on August 10).

Lynch, a man who appeared to align himself with people he believed were good and genuine, sympathised with Sturgeon and the way she had been treated by the media.

He said that it was “inappropriate” for the police to surround her house as she was under investigation and that “we need progressive people in politics”.

Yet he also emphasised a level of accountability regarding finances, referring to the level of scrutiny he faces as leader of the RMT.

Dale successfully painted an enlightening portrait of Lynch as a human – not just the figure we often see schooling journalists and ministers on live TV. 

Much of the interview was spent talking about Lynch’s upbringing and his Irish identity (his parents are both Irish, and he has always carried an Irish passport).

I found it particularly fascinating to learn that the only reason Lynch joined the railway industry was because he was blacklisted from the construction industry for being part of a union.

He told Dale he simply “could not” settle with the government over ticket office disputes, as it would put 2300 people in unemployment.

Such a demonstration of a moral compass made me think of Starmer – who he called “soulless” – and the Labour Party’s recent shift to the right. Seeing Lynch speak made me reflect on how glad I was to see someone with a genuine interest in working people not only have a platform but use it to help people.

Yet, I saw another side to Mick Lynch.  Dale’s questioning made me consider some more uncomfortable or surprising elements of his character, such as the fact that he voted for Brexit. Dale created a good environment for Lynch to explain his position, yet he perhaps could have dug a bit deeper.

Lynch took the “traditional left view” (in his words) that the EU would not help working people, as it was a capitalist system bent on making profits.

Although I agree with the notion that capitalism is bad, I could not justify Lynch’s view when looking at the dire state the country is in now or the rise in racism, a direct result of immigration policies which have emerged from Brexit. I would have liked to see Lynch consider the impact of Brexit in today’s context, where we see ourselves free from such ‘shackles’.

Dale positioned himself at the forefront of platforming trade unionists, arguing that he had interviewed more trade unionists than anyone else on the radio. Yet the platform he provides is not necessarily a positive one – I only need to refer back to when Dale called Mick Lynch a “national disgrace” on LBC radio to get a fuller picture (although it must be said that Dale apologised to Lynch during the show for saying this).

Some elements of his questioning felt pointed, such as when he asked why trade unionists didn’t make media appearances very often.

That felt like a very strange angle to take – surely we should be looking at why trade unionists are suddenly appearing on TV and radio when a few years ago they weren’t?

Isn’t it more important to consider how and why trade unions are becoming an important part of life again? Does that not say more about the state of this country than implying trade unionists are afraid of being questioned?

The fact is, even a year ago, Mick Lynch would not have been one of the most anticipated guests on Iain Dale’s All Talk at the Edinburgh Fringe. What does that tell us?

Yet, despite the fact that some areas of questioning felt intentionally biased, the discussion that took place was very interesting.

Although he held some views I did not agree with, Mick Lynch came across as a genuine force for good and for change, and I left the theatre contemplating my own notion of solidarity and activism.

Iain Dale’s “All Talk” is running from August 5-13 at Pleasance at EICC, Sidlaw Theatre.

Image provided to The Student as press material.

By Lucy Jackson

President of The Student.