Postal strike before election could hurt Tories

Post union’s election threat: Planned strike before election could hurt Tories by hitting postal votes as official boasts of ‘stealing Brexit’

  • Union bosses have been accused of timing the walk-out to hamper the Tories 
  • Postal voting is more common among elderly who make up half of Tory members
  • Thousands of Royal Mail workers have backed a strike, which threatens turmoil 

A postal strike will cause chaos during the General Election, a senior union official has vowed.

Gary Clark, from the Communication Workers Union, boasted that Royal Mail staff would be accused of ‘stealing Brexit’ through their industrial action.

His comments have raised fears that the strike could disrupt the delivery of election leaflets and postal votes. 

A postal strike will cause chaos during the General Election, a senior union official has vowed

Union bosses have also been accused of timing the walk-out to hamper the Tories, as postal voting is more common among the elderly who make up nearly half of the party’s members.

Thousands of Royal Mail workers have backed a strike, which threatens turmoil as Britons go to the polls next month.

The CWU accuses Royal Mail of breaking an agreement reached last year by forcing staff to cram more work into shorter hours.

It also claims managers are bullying staff, and has demanded that postal workers get paid more for delivering election ballots during the already-busy Christmas period.

Speaking at a Socialist Party rally on Saturday, Mr Clark said: ‘I make it clear we will take strike action during the General Election. They won’t only say we stole Christmas, which they will do, we’ll probably steal Brexit off them as well.’

He said the dates of the strikes would be confirmed next week, but suggested they would take place for five days over Black Friday on November 29 and Cyber Monday on December 2, when Royal Mail will be extremely busy trying to deliver items ordered by shoppers online. 

Conservative MPs have accused union chiefs of trying to thwart Mr Johnson’s pledge to ‘get Brexit done’

It is also during the key period when postal ballots for the December 12 election will be cast.

Audience members at the rally, which was held at University College London, gave Mr Clark a rapturous applause. Mr Clark claimed that Royal Mail bosses had refused to negotiate with the CWU until Tuesday last week, when they offered ‘urgent negotiations’ in exchange for a guarantee they would not strike until 2020.

He said this coincided with the General Election being called, adding: ‘I strongly believe Boris Johnson’s tapped them on the back and said… “I don’t want any strikes when the General Election’s on because that will lead to class action”.’

Mr Clark also hit out at the culture at Royal Mail and the ‘bullying’ from management. He said: ‘We’re now going into the biggest battle Royal Mail has seen since 1971. This is a fight of a lifetime.’

Mr Clark’s comments provoked outrage among Conservative MPs, who last night accused union chiefs of trying to thwart Mr Johnson’s pledge to ‘get Brexit done’. 

Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom condemned the proposed strike, saying: ‘CWU’s threat to ruin Christmas and disrupt the postal system during the General Election is just a preview of things to come if Jeremy Corbyn is ever allowed near the keys to No 10. The timing of this threat is clearly politically calculated.’

Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom condemned the proposed strike, saying it is a preview of thing to come if Jeremy Corbyn wins the election

Philip Hollobone, Tory MP for Kettering, said: ‘Anything that disrupts the election such as calling strikes puts democracy at risk.’ Andrew Percy, the Tory MP for Brigg and Goole, said: ‘It’s bad enough that their chums in the Labour Party have already blocked Brexit three times, but disrupting services just to try to overturn the biggest democratic vote in our history is disgusting.’

Labour has pledged to nationalise Royal Mail, and the CWU has given large amounts to the party. Between January and June this year, the union gave £242,530 to the central party and local branches.

The Electoral Commission yesterday warned that postal strikes had the ‘potential to impact on the election process’. A spokesman added: ‘In such an event, we would support local authorities to try to minimise the risks of disruption.’

In the 2017 election 8.4million people voted by post, nearly a fifth of all electors. Postal ballots are usually sent out about three weeks before the election, and must reach the voter’s local council by 5pm on polling day.

Yesterday a senior CWU source distanced the union from Mr Clark’s remarks, saying: ‘Gary Clark does not speak for the CWU nationally.’ A CWU spokesman insisted that the strikes were not politically motivated and said they would not affect any one party more than others.

Royal Mail vowed to prioritise election post, saying it would invest ‘significant’ cash to try to prevent disruption. Shane O’Riordain, Royal Mail’s managing director for regulation, said it was urgently seeking talks with the CWU. He added: ‘The recent ballot for industrial action does not necessarily mean that industrial action will take place.’

Election snaps

Boris ‘blocks’ Russia report

Boris Johnson was last night facing mounting pressure to publish a sensitive report into the threat posed by Russia to Britain’s elections.

The Prime Minister was accused of fuelling ‘suspicion’ by delaying the release of the 50-page dossier, which also looked at claims of a major Kremlin operation in 2016 in support of Brexit.

No 10 claimed the Intelligence and Security Committee’s report was only handed to him in mid-October and it takes six weeks to be cleared for publication. 

But security sources confirmed claims by ISC chairman Dominic Grieve that intelligence services and the Cabinet Office had already approved its release.

Huw to be the new Dimbleby 

Huw Edwards will replace David Dimbleby as the lead presenter of the BBC’s election coverage.

Yesterday, the broadcaster confirmed Mr Edwards will be joined by Reeta Chakrabarti, Andrew Neil, Tina Daheley and Jeremy Vine. Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis has been lined up to take over for the second day of the election.

Mr Dimbleby had been the face of the BBC’s election coverage since anchoring the 1979 election. Mr Edwards said: ‘I hope to put my 35 years of experience to good use and to offer our viewers a service they can trust.’

Let-off for Tory in benefits jibe

The Tories have refused to drop a candidate who said benefit claimants should be put to death.

Francesca O’Brien, 32, who is standing in the key marginal seat of Gower in South Wales, wrote on Facebook in January 2014 that people on reality television show Benefits Street needed ‘putting down’.

But a Tory source said it was unlikely that she would be deselected. Yesterday, Welsh Conservative Party chairman Lord Davies of Gower said: ‘The comments were inadvisable… but made in the heat of the moment.’  

Labour ban on private planes 

Labour is considering banning private jets from UK airports by 2025.

Transport spokesman Andy McDonald said the multi-millionaires and billionaires who use private aircraft powered by fossil fuels were doing ‘profound damage’ to the climate. He made his intervention after a report revealed yearly carbon emissions from private jets are equivalent to 450,000 cars.

Mr McDonald tweeted: ‘It’s the rest of us who’ll suffer the consequences. A phase-out date… is a sensible proposal.’ 

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