Mick Lynch today erupted at the “shocking stance” of the BBC in a live radio clash over rail strikes. The militant RMT union chief accused Radio 4 Today programme host Mishal Husain of “parroting” arguments “on behalf of the establishment”.
Mr Lynch also hit out at the presenter for not showing “admiration” for rail workers in the long-running pay dispute.
The row kicked off when Ms Husain asked the RMT general secretary the average amount of pay lost by the union’s members due to strikes
Mr Lynch said: “Well, that depends on what shifts they’re working, what rate of pay they earn, and how many occasions they have to go out.
“But our members are making a considerable sacrifice, and it shows their level of commitment that they’ve got towards the campaign.
“What I do find annoying though, Mishal, is that you put these lines that are directly taken from the propaganda from the other side.
“You never show any admiration for the fight that working people are putting up in this country for the rebalancing of our society.
“You never criticise the super-rich for what they’re doing and what they’re doing to nurses, what they’re doing for the postal workers.
“And you never seem to take an impartial view on the way that this society is balanced at the moment and the complete lack of distribution of wealth in our society.
“You always just seem to pump out anything that you receive from the employers and from the Government. And that’s what I’m hearing directly through the filter of the BBC this morning.”
Pressed on the question, Mr Lynch fumed: “Are you concerned about that, are you going to contribute to our hardship fund then? Why are you pursuing this line?”
Ms Husain replied: “Because you’ve said your members are making a sacrifice. What’s wrong with just saying on average our members have sacrificed x numbers of thousands of pounds. You’ve said they’re making a sacrifice, what’s wrong with putting a number on it?”
Mr Lynch asked: “Why do you need that number?”
The host said: “Because I’m interested in the level of sacrifice. What’s wrong with you actually putting a number on the sacrifice you say your members are making?”
Continuing to dodge the question, the RMT boss said: “Why does that interest you Mishal?”
Ms Husain responded: “Because we’re in a cost of living crisis, because it’s in the run-up to Christmas and because you say your members are making a sacrifice.”
Mr Lynch blasted: “Why are you pursuing an editorial line that I could read in The Sun or the Daily Mail, or any of the right-wing press in this country?
“And you’re not pursuing the fact that working people, millions of them, are being impoverished and some of them made destitute by the attitude of this Government and by their employers?
“I find this a shocking stance that the BBC will take. You are just parroting the most right-wing stuff that you can get hold of on behalf of the establishment.
“And it’s about time you showed some partiality towards your listeners and to working-class people in this country who are being screwed to the floor by the attitudes and policies of this Government.”
Ms Husain replied “they’re called questions” and ended the interview.
The tense exchange sparked a mixed reaction on Twitter.
Tory MP Anthony Browne said: “Everyone should listen to Mick Lynch’s interview on the Today programme. Just shows how totally unreasonable the RMT are. All support for the strikes would evaporate.”
But Labour MP Diane Abbott said: “On the BBC just now Mick Lynch nailing Mishal Husain for her endless repetition of government attack lines.”
Former deputy Labour leader Tom Watson added: “I found myself feeling sorry for Mick Lynch AND Mishal Husain in that BBC Radio 4 Today interview. Mick likes to put the dispute into a wider political context. Mishal, under time pressure, wants to get to the negotiation fault lines. Maybe he should have fewer but longer interviews!”