AUDIO Coming soon

IN CONVERSATION :

Dave Welsh, NOR4NOR (In Street. Norwich, the East of England)


Dave Welsh is a retired railway worker and guard, campaigns for the Norfolk for the Nationalisation of Rail Campaign, and is a member of the Momentum movement and delegate of the Norwich Trades Council. I met him on the Greater Anglia picket line at Norwich railway station where he was lending his support to the RMT industrial action.

TRANSCRIPT

JO: So, I’m stood with Dave who is a retired guard …

D: I’m a retired guard .. yes

JO: Did you work out of Norwich?

D: No. I worked out of Stratford Depot, which used to be just on the outskirts of London.

JO: yes.

D: where Westfield is now .. the depot disappeared under that development.

JO: and what brought you up here? Was it your retirement?

D: I think it was partly retirement … yes .. we wanted .. we left London … we finally got to leave London … and we had .. we had lots of friends here

JO: yes

D: and family …

JO: and I was just saying … you’ve offered me this NorforNor newsletter …

D: yes .. ok… which is ..

JO: you said things are bubbling up a bit …

D: well, I’m maybe overreaching myself but I do get the impression at the moment that in Norwich there is a bit more politically …

JO: yes

D: there’s a bit more happening now .. October is going to be a busy month …

JO: what’s going on ? I’m going to miss it obviously …

D: well … you’re going to miss it but there is … so there’s this particular action here … the RMT action at the station

JO: yes

D: there’s a big demonstration in the centre of Norwich about the pay cap …

JO: which … which paycap?

D: to smash the current government pay cap on public sector pay … 1%

JO: public sector pay … yes

D: organised by the Trades Council of which I am a delegate …

JO: that’s Norwich

D: Norwich

JO: Norwich Trades Council

D: Norwich Trades Council …

JO: and there are hundreds of those … they’re all over the country

D: all over the country … so, we’re the local one ..

JO: yes

D: and there’s … the Trades Council is also organising a film commemorating … showing a film commemorating the Grunwick dispute … in London, in 1976 ..

JO: what’s the significance of that?

D: the significance of that is that was one of the first strikes which involved Asian women .. South Asian women who worked in a photographic laboratory …

JO: ok … yes … I think I saw something of this is Edinburgh …

D: [ ] that’s right .. there’s a new … yes … it gets around … they’ve just opened a mural outside where the factory was … commemorating the dispute .. Jayaben Desai .. who was the leader of the dispute … they walked out …

JO: yes … it was this …

D: the women walked out .. mainly women … there were some men … they .. it went on for a long time … over a year … and they lost … but … the long term significance was … it sent out a message ….

JO: and people need to understand that, don’t they, a little bit …

D: yes … rather like this dispute on the railways … you are not going to push people around .. you just can’t expect people to just run away .. when you issue so called orders .. so, you’ve got to negotiate … so there’s the commemoration of Grunwick … here in Norwich .. and, actually, NorforNor … we have a meeting here as well … in October … which is .. we’ve got John McDonnell coming up from … our Shadow Chancellor … Chancellor to be, we hope … and we’ve got Mick Cash … who is the General Secretary of the RMT .. who is coming

JO: yes … so some fairly big names, yes …

D: some big names … and we’ve got … you know … in other words, the NorforNor campaign has … is a complement to or running alongside the RMT’s campaign to keep the guards on the train …

JO: but it’s independent

D: it is .. we’re independent … we’re a mainly passenger group …

JO: yes

D: but obviously, if you had these kind of … one of the things we hope will happen is we will see these kind of campaigns growing up all over the country …

JO: yes

D: where you’ve got people who are prepared to support disputes …

JO: yes

D: but .. our aim ..

JO: more than that …

D: in the long term is .. well, what we want to do is … we want to encourage people to talk about what public ownership would be in the long run …

JO: yes

D: were there to be a government that brings in public ownership …

JO: and it says … it says here under the NorforNor standard … it says Norfolk for Nationalisation of Rail

D: yes .. of Rail … and that … and also it says … you know … bring railways back to the community … so what we are saying is … I mean I’m an ex-British Rail worker and I mean British Rail .. although it was a nationalised industry … was not really run by the workers themselves … or the passengers …

JO: it was .. it was the old British model

D: it was the old British model …. from top down … the Board does things … is appointed by the government … blah blah …

JO: yes

D: the great and the good as they say and over those years … you can’t say that working on there … certainly in my experience … it was low pay … for Guards and Conductors … long hours … and not great conditions either … and, I mean, that was the legacy of British Rail … we don’t want to go back to that … what we want is to encourage people to talk about … well exactly who do you want to run it … do you want local authorities to run it? Do you want regional authorities based on the current company structure? Do you … how much do you want workers cooperatives? All of these things are possible ..

JO: yes .. and that really is important because … I think it’s a tactic used to sort of stop people from listening to voices calling for change … to say “you’re just trying to turn the clock back to”

D: that’s right … exactly … that’s what …

JO: emphatically not ..

D: that’s often hurled at us .. “well, you want to go back to British Rail … curled up sandwiches” … which is largely a myth anyway … but .. you know, that’s the problem but we… you know, as far as we are concerned locally here in Norwich …

JO: that’s a strawman, yes?

D: it’s a strawman … and what you want to do, as I say to people .. well you could have a bit more control over how our railways are run and how they are actually integrated with bus services … you know, trams .. all these things are currently …

JO: I like trams …

D: well … they are all separate … they are all run by different companies or authorities … and we’re saying well in the long run you want to bring them together, don’t you ?

JO: yes … an integrated system

D: an integrated system … which we are so far from now …. when you have … what … 30 odd companies [ ]

JO: yes .. I mean … it kind of tells the story in a way … I’ve … the choice really for me in doing this project … because of budgetary constraints … and the nature of what I needed to do .. I had to use either a car or a motorbike …

D: yes

JO: financially … it was just not possible

D: yes .. you just couldn’t …

JO: to use the public transport system …

D: no … well I mean, that’s what …

JO: that kind of says it all really …

D: well it does … I mean .. and passengers are not happy with the standard of … well the fares … value for money …

JO: anything

D: anything … if you think about disabled passengers … you’ve got a situation where …

JO: so who is happy with it? Someone must be …

D: well, clearly, somebody is … but I mean, I think possibly some of the people who are fairly well off .. who are plugged in now to all the systems now where .. yes you can book a train six months in advance on your app

JO: yes

D: but if you want to get on a train the same day … it’s going to cost … I think London to Norwich is about £100

JO: I used to go down to Bath occasionally … yes … it’s the same thing … Bath to London on the same day is £89 or something …

D: it’s appalling …

JO: I.e you can’t travel, mate …

D: that’s …well, I mean … when you think of people who are unemployed or who are on low pay ..

JO: it’s not for you …

D: they can’t travel anywhere …

JO: it’s not for you … is what it says, basically …

D: yes … it is an apartheid system … you’re pushing people out of using public transport … travelling

JO: yes … it’s interesting you use that word because that is the sort of language think is fitting

D: yes

JO: that’s what I feel I am walking around in … every place I have been to there have been people begging … every place …

D: that’s right … well, Norwich has got its fair share

JO: yes, I saw last night … this poor old lady ….

D: there are more of them now … there are more people in corners … huddled in corners [ ]

JO: is that in the last 5, 10 years?

D: I would say in the last 2 years …

JO: right … so it’s really accelerating …

D: it’s more noticeable now … it’s more noticeable now

JO: what … part of what I want to do is uncover gems like this … I don’t .. .as much as I get moved by public expressions of support … like people tooting as they go past … I don’t think that’s enough … I think the public can do a lot more, yes? And I think they are a lot more powerful than maybe they see

D: I agree … I think to be realistic … even this organisation, NorforNor is a relatively small group of people … but you can punch above your weight … and you do find you bring people in who have different interests … different concerns … but, I mean, to have a framework … through which people can come in and be part of something on their own terms is very important

JO: yes

D: I mean … not everyone can work on the railways or be in a union …

JO: well, that’s kind of what I am trying to do … I’m trying to find a small list, of manageable size, of things that people can do where they are

D: yes

JO: you know … not get on a train to go to London to do an A-B march …

D: I agree

JO: what are ten things I can do where I live and work …

D: I mean that is the danger … for example, there was a big demonstration in London not long ago … the People’s Assembly had a big demo … and you’re right .. I mean … people go up for the demo … they get on their coach … they go up to London … they have a nice day .. and then they come back … nothing happens … so it’s … it is… but it is one of those long term problems shall we say of the left … in that we are not very good at building organisations which have a lasting value … or which are open enough and not sectarian … I mean I’m sure you know on the left …

JO: that’s a famous problem, isn’t it?

D: there’s a lot of this …

JO: as Monty Python observed …

D: that’s right, that’s right … you know … 57 different varieties and if you don’t say the right thing … toe the right line … you’re treated as a pariah … you’re [ ]

JO: you’re a splitter etc

D: you’re a splitter … and that is still a problem … it’s still one we have to overcome … but then again … you know … if you have a general raising of the … of consciousness … if you like … the temperature raises … some of that is being challenged … and people say, “I just want to be able to work with people”

JO: Yes … I’ve detected that a bit … I think

D: well, I am glad … I agree … I think it’s happening but I’m [ ]

JO: needs to speed up a bit …

D: well … we do .. we need to be conscious that there can be setbacks .. you know … ’cause we … in my experience … we’ve seen some of this before .. and it can easily be dissipated and lost ..

JO: yes

D: … but now I guess with possibly a Corbyn government … certainly with a Labour leadership that is really … you know … on the same page …

JO: people don’t really understand how much .. I think .. the Labour Party [ ] you know .. the large structure … it’s not the same thing as Corbyn and McDonnell is it?

D: it’s not … it’s true .. there’s still a lot within the party .. you know, for example … let’s take local councillors … I mean local county councillors and others … who are Labour councillors … they don’t [ ] … I mean there’s this thing … Corbyn’s housing policy … they don’t want a challenge to their fairly cosy life as a councillor … you get paid quite a lot now … you’re on all your committees … when somebody comes along and challenges that you’re not going to be very happy … so one of the problems the Labour Party has is that many of its … you know some of its members want to keep things as they are

JO: yes … they are conservative small ‘c’ …

D: yes … you know … and this is a threat … so you’re quite right …

JO: this is what Momentum is designed to address

D: yes … I mean I’m a member of Momentum in Norwich

JO: is that Momentum Norwich, yes?

D: yes … and ..

JO: well, I’ve hit the jackpot with you then!

D: you’ve ticked all the boxes, haven’t you?

JO: I might even ask you for your email address to correspond with you …

D: yes … that would be fine … but … I think … you know, as you say, you are quite right the Labour leadership doesn’t necessarily represent the entire party but what it certainlyhas done is … particularly through Momentum … it has galvanised a huge number of people …

JO: yes

D: and it has kind of changed … raised the temperature … people feel more confident .. I mean … like, for example, this dispute … this RMT dispute … people hear about it … and they think the RMT is standing up for its members … well maybe we should do that .. look at this CWU .. the postal ballot … massively, massively in favour of strike action

JO: CWU .. Communication

D: Communication Workers Union … they’ve just had a big postal ballot … massive majority in favour of strike action at [ ] Royal Mail over pay … so, in a sense, there is a kind of domino effect … where people begin to think … they’re doing it [ ]

JO: and we can learn from each other

D: they feel more confident [ ]

JO: I think this is how it works … so I guess what I am trying to do is … I am trying to work things out for myself … before I pour my own energies into something

D: I understand

JO: but I am also hopefully helping a conversation to take place between people in different locations ..

D: I think that’s really important … one of the things we are interested in … we’ve got NorforNor in East Anglia .. but we’re … what we want to see is other regions in the country … whether it be Yorkshire or Somerset … doing a similar thing …

JO: YorforYor

D: yes, exactly … so … if we can spread the word …

JO: Come on Yorkshire …

D: you can do it … and when a dispute like this comes along … we can come here and talk about public ownership as well … the longer term …

JO: yes

D: but it’s … it’s quite hard … it’s quite hard to …

JO: I like the way you put it in terms of frameworks … I think we need to erect whatever is necessary … the necessary number … and it might differ from place to place

D: yes

JO: but erect frameworks which we have learned work and adapt them to local conditions …

D: yes and it can be done … it only takes a small number of people

JO: that’s another thing I think people need to remember … you don’t need to convert 50% of the population

D: no you don’t … and also, what’s important about what we do .. we’ve been going about a year and a half … and we’ve been at this station … whether or not there’s been a dispute … we’ve been out here with leaflets for a year and a half … every month or so … so, in other words, if you are consistent … you need to … even on … even if it’s pouring with rain … you’re out here … you’re doing it .. and people begin to see [ ]

JO: I have to tell you … that’s one of my bugbears … is the fall off when it rains …

D: yes

JO: you know, you just think … how serious are you about this? “It’s raining, I’m not …”

D: but it’s when … you know … when you think about … if there is such a thing as a political cycle … we’ll get to the point when there’s possibly a Labour government coming into power … possibly in the next few months … we don’t know … but then it means what we are doing as NorforNor … calling for public ownership … becomes synchronised with that … that process … because then we can go to John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn and say “look, this is what people here …” We’re having a rail summit in the New Year, for example

JO: a rail summit …

D: summit … like a conference …

JO: yes

D: which, I hope, maybe you’ll come to … [ ] maybe in March or April … and that will be a conference about what kind of public ownership people want … so then we can go to John McDonnell and say this is what people here …

JO: we’ve been working on this actually …

D: we’ve been working on this … so don’t .. please don’t ignore us … take it into account

JO: don’t tell us what we want …

D: put it into the policy … of course, the problem with previous Labour governments is that they have precisely done … they have ignored [ ]

JO: yes … the old British thing again ..

D: they’ve just ploughed on and done … the policies are written by civil servants …

JO: yes

D: and you do need to change the way people think about .. you know … [ ] people .. it’s very old fashioned … but people can have a part in decision making … they can have an input … everybody … you don’t have to be a so-called ‘expert’ … experts are important …

JO: yes

D: but you don’t have to be …

JO: yes … I’m … I put this to someone once … I said at a dinner party … I heard him saying a few things that I was getting a bit uncomfortable about and I said “look … how comfortable are you the jury … trial by jury system?” … and actually that was probably not a good question to ask him

D: no

JO: he said “not very” .. but I am

D: well who would he like to do it then? You know.

JO: yes … I don’t think he was aware of .. in my view … the risks of … you know

D: well that’s what the jury system does …

JO: we’ll leave it to our people … we’ll …

D: it says so-called ‘ordinary people’ can make decisions …

JO: … but I do … you’ll see when you listen to some of the other voices

D: yes

JO: there’s plenty of nous throughout society …

D: yes … well I mean I remember when I first joined the railway … you know … all my political education came from the people I worked with … it didn’t come from a party although I was in one …

JO: yes

D: but basically I learned on the job … and I am eternally grateful for that ’cause they taught me how to do things … how to talk to people … which, unfortunately many people on the left don’t get that … they have some ready made formula and …

JO: Now hear this!

D: and they think everybody out there is a bit dull … they think we’ve all been corrupted by capitalism .. well, yes … people have a fridge and an MP3 player … so? That doesn’t mean they’re thick … you know … so I mean if the left was more prepared to listen and not believe somehow that people are just empty vessels into which you give them the right consciousness …

JO: yes

D: you know …

JO: in a way, it’s quite disrespectful … which is an irony, isn’t it?

D: it is .. and patronising … it’s extremely patronising … but you know … I … many, many people in political parties … left parties … continue to believe that, well … you know .. they are told that Lenin, Trotsky, whoever had the answer and all I’ve got to do is relay that to everybody and everything will be fine …

JO: yes

D: well it hasn’t worked so far …

JO: yes … guess what … and you kind of wonder actually … I often … I was saying this to someone this morning … to a really larger than life character .. over breakfast … that I met a bench-joiner he described himself as … from Bolsover … That’s a very military sounding thing, isn’t it?

D: yes … the aircraft …

JO: is that Lakenheath?

D: yes …

JO: not too far from here …

D: they do their little manoeuvres …

JO: not so little …

D: not so little, no … noisy …

JO: yes … what was I saying to him? I’ve just deflected myself from what I was saying … what was I talking about? It doesn’t matter …

D: yes … well you will meet a lot .. hopefully you will meet a lot of people who …

JO: it doesn’t matter … it’s gone …

D: have a lot of experience and [ ] .. you know, the Trades Council here is quite lively compared to some …

JO: yes … some of them are a bit tired .. Bath was a bit moribund

D: they are a bit [ ] … right … yes

JO: that’s where I’ve been based … thanks .. I’m conscious that I’ve been pretty greedy ..

D: that’s alright

JO: it’s been terrific stuff …

D: I’m just stood here with …

JO: how long do you think we’ll be here?

D: well, these guys will be here all day … [ ] the next shift will come on ..

JO: working hours .. yes ..

D: they’ll do the entire … [ ] until ten

JO: so, effectively it’s a job of work … people don’t necessarily realise this, do they?

D: yes …

JO: they don’t go home, have a cup of tea and watch the TV …

D: no …

JO: actually your job now is to communicate your message to … people …

D: well, in that way … I think the RMT have got better … I mean in my experience … going back many years … there was a time when the RMT and the rail unions did not think that passengers were .. important to communicate … you went on strike … people groaned and groused at you but …

JO: it wasn’t a priority …

D: they didn’t think it was necessary to communicate and talk about the issues … now, I think that has changed … that’s why we are here today .. the RMT has got a good leaflet …

JO: yes …. I’ll take one of those too if I may ..

D: so there is a …

JO: thanks

D: change, I think ..

JO: and … they wouldn’t talk to me …

D: wouldn’t they? What a shame .. that’s [ ]

JO: ’cause they’d be told not to .. . they are … one or two did ..

D: to be honest they’re a bit … they get very suspicious these days [ ] I mean ..

JO: but I think that also indicates they do not recognise of communication [ ]

D: yes … if you look at this … if you look at the local paper … which I happen to be in .. it says here … the kind of wording they use … look … ‘good service’ … this is after Tuesday … and it says something like … I can’t remember quite where it is .. it says the RMT ‘reportedly’ had a majority … now to use the word ‘reportedly’

JO: yes … implies it didn’t happen

D: suggests that it’s not true … now they wouldn’t say that for Greater … with Greater Anglia it …

JO: they’d just state it as fact …

D: Greater Anglia .. it doesn’t say ‘reportedly’ a good service … so there’s an in-built … still an in-built bias … even in the local press …

JO: yes

D: which, by the way, isn’t bad … the local press usually … because they want a story .. young reporters want a story …

JO: a lot of the views that I have heard expressed … see how careful I am being there … are that actually passengers do appreciate what conductors and guards do

D: they do … everybody who’s coming through … you can see them .. people coming through saying “I support you!”

JO: well you can probably hear toots and things as I’ve been talking …

D: yes … massive passenger support ..

JO: great …. thanks very much …

END