I wholly support the public service workers in their grievance against the UK Government, and I support their decision to strike in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. I do not support their decision to strike in Scotland, for reasons already stated over the last few days.
But watching the strikers on television, my reaction was that maybe it had to happen, even if the rationale was deeply flawed. It was probably cathartic, and even a little bit enjoyable for hard-pressed public servants, and it did demonstrate to the critics of their dispute just how important, indeed vital, their roles are, and what an extended dispute, or a series of such disputes would mean.
The complacent and doing-very-nicely-thank-you professional couples in the private sector, with joint incomes in excess of £70-100k who suddenly found that mummy or daddy had to stay home – or find a child minder pronto – were jolted into an uncomfortable realisation of what further strikes could mean. Those on more stratospheric incomes of course would be utterly untouched by it, and probably have an arms-length relationships with their children anyway, safely tucked away in a fee-paying boarding school, or with a resident nanny to handle things.
Regrettably, there were also working couples on very low incomes and one-parent families who had to sacrifice a day’s pay, which I know from my own economically deprived Glasgow childhood could be disastrous to precariously balance finances. They are the real inevitable casualties of such disputes, as were the patients in hospitals or people in care homes who also suffered. But third parties, innocent and some not so innocent, are hurt by strikes, and that is a harsh reality. What must be remembered is that it takes two to tango, and both parties to a dispute are jointly responsible for the collateral damage, not just the strikers.
But what I know for certain is that the strikers of yesterday will be asking themselves just what did they achieve, other than their moment on the media and exercising their lungs with a good chant and a good blow at their vuvuzelas? Post-orgasm comes sober reflection.
Perhaps as they lie back with a post-strike fag, they can also reflect on the fact that the author of their miseries, paraded and repeatedly quoted by David Cameron and every one of his millionaire pals, was that ultimate contradiction, a Labour Lord – John Hutton, Baron of Furness.
The Bloody Red Baron has an interesting background for a Labour man. Educated at Magdalen College Oxford, where he was a member of Conservative, Labour and Liberal Associations, he became a legal adviser to the CBI before entering politics. He held various governmental posts, and was one of Tony Blair’s strongest supporters. He told Nick Robinson of the BBC that Gordon Brown would be a “fucking disaster” as Prime Minister. (He got that one right.) Nonetheless he survived and served under the “fucking disaster” as Secretary of State for Defence, the luxury coach of the Westminster gravy train.
He decided to stand down less than a year later, and said he would stand down as an MP at the next general election. Shortly after the general election of 2010, he was made a Labour peer. In the same month (June 2010) he joined the board of US nuclear power company Hyperion. He was told he couldn’t lobby his former department, the M.O.D. for 12 months. Thereafter, it would be fine to do so.
A year after that, he accepted the Tory/LibDem Coalition’s offer to head up a commission into public centre pensions, and dismissed speculation about his motives for doing so.
The Labour Baron has told the unions that they have been offered a good deal on pensions. Aye, right …
THE UK GRAVY TRAIN – a train the strikers will never be on …
Reflect also on this, strikers of yesterday, and perhaps tomorrow – none of the main UK parties have any answers to what lies ahead, because they are embedded in a corrupt structure – the UK – and they can’t step off the rotten wagon careering towards the edge of the cliff.
The Lords can’t step off because it would be the end for them.
The Scottish Labour Lords can’t step off, because in addition to losing their titles, there would be nowhere for them to go.
The Tories can’t step off because they are inherently undemocratic and wedded to greed.
Labour MPs can’t step off because they have deserted their people and become Tories Mark Two.
Scottish Labour MPs can’t step off because it would be the end of the Westminster gravy train and of their careers.
Scottish Labour MSPs can’t step off because they want to be MPs and join the gravy train to Westminster one day.
The LibDem MPs can’t step off because it would be electoral oblivion for them if they submitted themselves for re-election.
Scottish LibDems have already experienced electoral oblivion, they face the same problem as Scottish Labour, and anyway, nobody would notice if they stepped off.
Only one party stand outside and above this rotten structure – the Scottish National Party. And only one thing will allow Scotland and Scots to step outside of it.