“the economic situation will not suddenly turn around with the Queen’s death”

The United Kingdom in mourning… but a little less paralyzed. Even the railway and postal workers, who have multiplied the days of wage strikes for months amid the economic crisis, have announced a suspension of their movements after the death of Queen Elizabeth II. However, the situation is critical: the British bear the brunt of the explosion in energy costs, combined with double-digit inflation (it was 10.1% over a year in July, and according to the end of the year could reach 13% by the end of the year. to Bank of England). An accumulation of negative signals that leads Goldman Sachs to predict a recession in the country’s economy before the end of the year. According to Marc Lenormand, a specialist in social movements and British trade union history, “it’s actually a suspension, not a cancellation”. After the period of mourning, the lecturer in English studies and British civilization at Paul Valéry University in Montpellier predicts a resumption of the social movement.

Marianne: The unions have called for the strike movement to be called off after the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Is this slowdown destined to last?

Marc Lenormand:A series of major strikes were due to begin this Friday, September 9, at the Post Office, then on September 15 and 17 in the railways. These movements have been suspended: the CWU, the postal workers’ union, and the RMT, the rail workers’ union, have published a notice of suspension of these strike days. But this pause is primarily for the 10-day national mourning period, which starts from today. This is a suspension and not a cancellation.

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Unions have a period of six months to call a one-day strike under UK labor law. Even if they canceled this one, they still have several months to ask for a new one. Moreover, the strike wave is not over. The economic situation, characterized by high inflation, will not suddenly reverse with the Queen’s death. At the moment we have heard mainly of the railway workers, the posts and the ports. However, more recently there has been further consultation among firefighters and higher education.

Why suspend the movement while the country is going through an economic crisis unprecedented since 1950?

It was the union’s choice: nothing obliged them to respect this national mourning. They want to be representative of the whole of British society. The trade unions especially include people who support the existing political regime and therefore take care not to take a position on constitutional issues or on the existence of a constitutional monarchy, but only on social and economic themes.

“The Queen’s death is above all a symbolic and cultural upheaval. »

If the organizations had maintained the strike, we could have expected hostile media coverage and, above all, a lack of understanding from the members with the risk of failure and union split.

Charles III will succeed Queen Elizabeth II. Good news for British protesters?

The queen’s death is above all a symbolic and cultural upheaval. King Charles is known to be a more interventionist monarch, causing concern among both opponents and supporters of the monarchy. The Queen wished to stay out of political matters, while Charles III has already written to ministers to communicate his opinion on many subjects.

Why is the interventionist side of the king troubling?

Theoretically, the sovereign has broad powers, particularly to dismiss the prime minister, but since the 19th century monarchs have chosen not to exercise them. Any involvement would bring down the monarchy in the political arena and would therefore be harmful. It would be surprising because it would probably provoke a constitutional crisis, with the king’s intervention in government policy.

At the same time, the arrival of Liz Truss as Prime Minister is not to appease the protesters…

The Conservative government has chosen to support businesses over unions and Liz Truss will continue to do so as she announced tougher anti-union laws.

Can we then imagine an increase in monarchical sentiment, especially within the trade unions?

Today, monarchical feeling is very strong and concerns more than 70% of Britons. This number does not only concern the upper class, it is widespread in society.

One can imagine that, because of this imminent position, the monarchy, on the other hand, benefited from the economic and institutional crises of the United Kingdom: Brexit, the desire for independence in Scotland… The sovereign’s constant was a point of stability in between. of these successive crises.

A question arises: With the new sovereign, will the monarchy continue to be perceived as a point of stability in the face of crises and economic difficulties?

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