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Mick Lynch’s PR war is key to determining if rail strikes will succeed

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As commuters struggled with strike-crippled railways this week, Mick Lynch, the general secretary of the RMT union, established himself as the central figure in a raucous public relations battle.Shuttling between picket lines and TV studios, the previously little-known union boss garnered a cult following online for his cool performances justifying his members’ claims on pay and conditions while Conservative opponents attacked the RMT in more heated terms.This PR war, with Lynch now the main figure in charge of those favouring strike action, could determine whether the government is able to resist a wave of public sector pay claims in the months to come.The Tory MP Tobias Ellwood claimed the strike action was playing into Russia’s hands and urged the unions: “Don’t be Putin’s friend.” “Class war” declared the Sun front page on Wednesday ,and when Labour MPs joined pickets, Boris Johnson accused the opposition of wanting to take Britain “back to the 1970s”.But Lynch did not argue back with the tub-thumping tone of Arthur Scargill, a union “baron” predecessor from the last century when inflation was last this high.

Instead he evinced calmness, stemming perhaps from confidence the biggest rail strikes in 30 years were not causing huge public anger.Clips of him disarming fulminating TV interviewers went viral.

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