He is the shaven-head militant trade unionist responsible for bringing Britain to a standstill and is now making his name poking fun at some of the country’s top TV broadcasters. But who is Mick Lynch, the man behind the biggest railway strike in 30 years?
Lynch was born in 1962 to Irish Catholic parents – who moved to England during the Blitz in search of work – and grew up as the youngest of five siblings on a council estate in Paddington.
His interest in the Labour movement was sparked when he left school at 16 to become an electrician. He left the trade to move into construction and began attending demonstrations against Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives.
His social activism, however, led Lynch from being illegally blacklisted from work. But even then, Lynch was on the attack, taking his former employer to court and won an undisclosed, yet reportedly large, settlement.
In 1993, Lynch left construction to work for Eurostar. It was the moment Lynch first became active in the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT).
Having worked his way up the union ranks, Lynch made it to Assistant General Secretary, serving two terms. In 2020, Lynch became the union’s Acting General Secretary after Mick Cash resigned due to stress and ill health.
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Lynch’s first stint would last just a few months. He stood down in September 2020, accusing members of the national executive committee of bullying and harassment. Eight months later, Lynch would be back in the RMT’s driving seat, this time as permanent General-Secretary.
Despite his humble upbringing, Lynch does not appear to have much in common with the working classes he claims to represent. He earns over £124,000 – more than double the salary of an average RMT member – and lives in a four-bedroom Victorian terrace in Ealing.
Now a veteran of the labour movement, Lynch has gone on-record describing Arthur Scargill – a leading figure during the 1980s miners’ strike – as a role model, and has previously supported Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. Some have compared him to the late Bob “Comrade” Crow, whose most notable achievement was disaffiliating the RMT from the Labour Party.
Under Lynch’s leadership, the RMT has balloted for industrial action on more than 200 occasions. The Evening Standard once described him as “The Most Hated Man in London” for spearheading strikes across the London Underground.
His political outlook is staunchly Old Labour. Lynch recently told the Daily Telegraph that he is “in favour of working-class people to redistribute the wealth in the economy” and a “constitutional monarch”.
Above all else, Lynch wants to nationalise the railways and is calling on the rail companies to increase workers’ wages by 8 per cent amid the cost-of-living crisis – a demand they are unwilling to accept.
For years now, the unions have taken a back seat as employers appeared to have the upper hand. Union membership has collapsed among the public- there were 6.6 million members in 2020 compared to more than 13 million during the 1980s heyday.
But Lynch hopes to change all that, hoping to turn himself into a leading figure on the far-Left. Over the last few days his media appearances have gone viral as he has taken to the airwaves defending the union’s position. He has come to verbal blows with Tory junior minister, Chris Philp, calling him a liar 16 times on TV while he ridiculed Sky News presenter Kay Burley for her silly questions. Lynch even had a go at Sir Keir Starmer’s shadow cabinet minister Baroness Chapman, claiming that he doesn’t even know who she is. As yet, he has not commented on Starmer’s reluctance to express a view on the strike. Watch this space.
Lynch is expected to remain as Secretary-General until 2026 when his current term expires. Expect plenty more from the rabble-rouser for years to come.