This is a character that Boris Johnson would have done without knowing. While the Prime Minister hoped to spend his last weeks at the head of the United Kingdom without a hitch or effort, he is faced with a strike movement which is paralyzing the country. Dockers, railway workers, postmen and many other employees in the transport sector are on strike this summer, they are demanding an increase in wages in order to face inflation which is rising to record levels. It reached 10.1% in July and could rise to 13%, the highest level for almost thirty years.
In this fragile economic context where the war in Ukraine plays a considerable part, the price of energy explodes. A movement of citizens is also calling for no longer paying electricity bills from October 1st. As the government has chosen not to set up either a price shield or a rebate on the liter of fuel, households are suffering. The social crisis is set to last. Since Thursday, the London Underground has been almost at a standstill, the postal services and the ports are facing massive walkouts. The strikers are calling for their income to be indexed to inflation. Demands relating to the sustainability of jobs, the pension scheme and working conditions are also rising in the ranks of union representatives of public transport heavily hit by the Covid-19 crisis.
A man has imposed himself as the mouthpiece of anger: Mick Lynch is the general secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport (RTM) union. In a few weeks, it went from the shadow of ministerial meetings and branch dialogues to the light of television sets; triggering a strong movement of sympathy on social networks. Live from the picket lines, he appeared on all the sets of the news channels, standing up to the editorialists and responding with bite to the journalists. He relays with abnegation the demands of his colleagues: better working conditions, better protection and above all the revaluation of wages.
His phrasing allows him to send presenters and political opponents back to the ropes. It even allowed him to attract the attention of the interpreter of the series "Doctor House", a real star across the Channel. "I don't know enough about the reasons for the strike, but I see that Mick Lynch has put a spell on all the journalists who tried their luck today," actor Hugh Laurie tweeted at the end of June. The man with a shaved head and a piquant speech has established himself as the figure of the trade union movement capable of mobilizing on a national scale. The conservative Daily Mail newspaper, rather committed to the cause of Boris Johnson's camp, called Lynch "the most hated man in the United Kingdom". The editorial reflects the nervousness in the conservative ranks, a few days before a political transition, upset by the social movement which drags on.
The figure of Lynch interferes in the battle between the two candidates for the succession of Boris Johnson. The favorite in the race for power, Liz Truss, has pulled out her Chatterian clothes. "As Prime Minister, I will not let our country be held to ransom by militant trade unionists," she said in a tweet vowing to crack down hard on strike action.
His opponent, Rishi Sunak, whose program is largely based on the promise of "putting money back into the pockets of British workers", was more discreet. Hesitant about how to approach the movement, he nevertheless distinguished himself by saying that he was in favor of banning the right to strike for employees of so-called essential public services. Not very inclined to social dialogue, the future Prime Minister will however have to rely on Mick Lynch, a character now essential in the British political and media landscape.