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Striking resemblances – the puppets with a surprisingly political side

24 June 2022

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

While Rakewell prefers to avoid Piers Morgan’s appearances on television or musings on twitter, your roving correspondent couldn’t help being drawn in by the presenter’s recent questioning of an unexpected media sensation. On Tuesday, members of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) took the first of three days of national strike action, in a dispute with Network Rail and the train-operating companies over a below-inflation pay offer and the lack of a guarantee regarding no compulsory redundancies. All through the day, RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch caused an unusual kerfuffle in the media (and attracted the attention of a national treasure) by answering questions in an unruffled manner and, most surprisingly of all, with information.

Morgan interviewed Lynch on 16 June, before the planned strike action. But interrogating the trade unionist about his Facebook profile picture being The Hood – a recurring villain in the ’60s television show Thunderbirds – was always going to be strange line of questioning. Lynch’s answer about his choice of avatar seemed to have the merit of being true: ‘That is a joke between me and my friends – and you can see the likeness, if you like.’ But Morgan’s repeated insistence on a more sinister interpretation – ‘I was a Thunderbirds fan and The Hood was the most dangerous, evil person in the world’ – verged on the desperate, inviting a suitably crisp response from his intervieweee: ‘He’s the most evil puppet made out of vinyl in the world; is that the level’s journalism’s at these days?’

Rakewell does not deny the resemblance, either, but we do know the difference between a man and a marionette. And Rakewell certainly does not believe that looking like a fictional baddie – or, for that matter, a fictional hero – says anything about a person’s character, let alone their fitness to lead an industrial dispute. Since we are on the subject of Thunderbirds, Rakewell can’t help thinking that there is a touch of Parker (Lady Penelope’s resourceful chauffeur) about former National Union of Miners leader Arthur Scargill, who, on the second day of strike action on Thursday, made an appearance for solidarity’s sake, it seems, at an RMT picket line in Sheffield. Perhaps a Lady Penelope is only waiting to be found. Sharon Graham of Unite, anyone?

Arthur Scargill, president of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), in 1984 (left); Aloysius ‘Nosey’ Parker from Thunderbirds (right).

Arthur Scargill, president of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), at the Orgreave Coking Plant during the 1984–85 miners’ strike (left); Aloysius ‘Nosey’ Parker from Thunderbirds (right).

Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via @Rakewelltweets.