Statistics can be used to prove anything, a wise man (Homer Simpson) once said. It looks like the RMT union are trying to do just that, with a new poll they've published with the claim the public supports the Tube strikes. According to a press release entitled 'Poll shows strike action against cuts justified and continued opposition to ticket office closures':
‘The survey carried out by the respected polling organisation Survation found that almost two thirds (65%) of tube users felt that lawful industrial action as a last resort was justified, with only 29% not sharing that view. A similar number (66%) were concerned at the Mayor's closure plans.’
Half of that may be true, but the polling doesn’t back up the notion that the public approve of the action. The first relevant question (skipping over the first two on the frequency of Underground use) in the polling is generally about TfL's plans for modernising the Tube:
‘Q3. To what extent would you or would you not be concerned if the tube stations on your journey had both an overall reduction in station staff and no longer had manned ticket offices'
Being concerned and supporting this strike are two different things. The high level of those either quite or very concerned — 66 per cent — is not surprising. Many Londoners will be ‘concerned’ at what the changes will do to the network but that doesn’t mean they support the RMT. Then in an attempt to make this a personal battle with the Mayor of London:
‘Q4. Do you think that the Mayor of London should speak directly with trade unions without preconditions if that meant strike action on the tube could be prevented?’
This falls into the ‘would you like a pony’ category — people will answer yes because they’d be silly not to. 87 per cent are in favour of unions speaking to Boris directly, but as the Mayor said yesterday, it would be appropriate for him to dive in when a strike is ongoing — especially when the talks are being held through the Acas mediating service. Finally, the polling includes another open-ended question not tied specifically to this strike:
'Q5. Do you think that lawful industrial action as a last resort is justified in these circumstances?'
All these questions together put together tell RMT's side of the Tube strike. There's no question on whether people support TfL's changes and some of the benefits they may bring, for example. It's unlikely the London commuters trying to battle their way into work this morning will agree with the RMT’s spin machine.