There’s labor trouble on the rails in Great Britain. Again. And on the Tube and among British Airways cabin crew and baggage handlers at Heathrow. In December, Steve Hedley, assistant general secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union, not-so-affectionately known as RMT, told Russia Today, that, "It’s very clear in our rule book. We’re in an antagonistic relationship with the managers and with the bosses. We want to overthrow capitalism and create a socialist form of society." Mr Hedley, also known as Red Heds, would have been no more than four years old and so won’t remember, as I do, the dark days and darker nights of the three-day week in 1974 when the Conservative government led by Edward Heath took on the National Union of Mineworkers and lost, but he obviously has something similar in mind.
Back in 1974, the central issue in the February general election campaign was said to be "Who governs Britain?" — the implied alternative answers being the elected government or the trades unions. Though Mr Heath’s Conservative party won the popular vote (as we in America would say), it won fewer Parliamentary seats than Harold Wilson’s Labour party, which therefore formed a new government and gave the miners all they were asking for — though, in the end, neither the overthrow of capitalism nor a quite satisfyingly socialist government. A decade later, after the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher had returned to power, there was a rematch with the miners which, this time, the Government won. But, to the extreme left apparently, the question of "Who governs Britain" still has not been decided — nor will it be until they can answer: "We do."
It now seems a lot less likely than it did in 1974 that that day will ever come in a country long accustomed to boasting that "Britons never never never shall be slaves." Yet even as some of the unions continue to act as if they expected the nation to rally to their cause, they must be dimly aware of how much they are hated by their fellow countrymen. I wish the same could be said of the unofficial power center on this side of the Atlantic with an implicit belief in its own entitlement to rule — by which, as readers will readily apprehend, I refer to the media. Accordingly, in the wake of the election of Donald J. Trump to the presidency, no day has been allowed to pass without our being asked, albeit in subtler fashion than the British were in 1974, who governs the country? This, I take it, is what the presidential adviser Steve Bannon meant when he said that the media, not the Democrats, were now the opposition party.