The government tried its damnedest to get the public on their side on Thursday. The carefully constructed enemy within – the public sector workers – was little more than a strawman. Some ministers went on the charm offensive: Gove popped up at a school that was still open (and no doubt staffed by scabs) and Francis Maude, the son of a man known as “The Mekon” was horribly exposed by Evan Davis, who is himself a scab of some standing. Maude tried desperately and repeatedly to ram home the point that the government’s plans for public sector pension ‘reforms’ were “fair”. He reiterated the lie that public sector workers enjoy “gold-plated” pensions (the majority of public sector pensions are worth little more than £3000) and that is was “unfair” for the taxpayer to pick up the bill. First he claimed that the pensions were “unaffordable”, then he said they were “untenable”. Maude, not being in possession of a great deal of logic or intellect, managed to overlook the glaringly obvious: public sector workers are taxpayers too and none of them avoid tax…unlike many of Maude’s millionaire cabinet colleagues and Tory party donors. Incidentally, Maude’s personal wealth is estimated to be around £3m.
Yesterday, Telegraph blogger, Ed West produced an article with a title that looks as though he found a few words lying about; crammed them into a pestle and mortar, mashed them up and smeared them paste-like onto the blog. Here, he treats us to a glimpse of his childhood.
I bitterly remember that in one year in the 1980s my teacher was almost alone in our school in not being a member of the NUT, and so when strikes occurred, which they seemed to do every week, our class had to traipse in while everyone else went to the park. So I just hope the kids who get a day off today appreciate it, and enjoy their time drinking cider or sending pornographic text messages to each other, or whatever kids get up to these days.
The strikers in one sense have a point; teaching is, in many ways, an underpaid job, not just in the sense that most work very hard for not very good pay, but also because a good teacher can have a hugely disproportionate effect on society compared to, say, a good plumber. A good headmaster even more so.
In terms of sensible investment a society can’t do much better than education spending.
On the other hand there are a lot of bad teachers around and, thanks to the strength of teaching union, their influence on a community can also be significant. These two issues – bad pay and virtual unsackability – are not unrelated.
So the upshot of this is that teachers who happen to be in unions are bad teachers? Lazy thinking. As with the Hon Tobes and Katharine Burbling Thing, he attracts the usual spittle-laced rage of the Telegraph commenters, all of whom are unanimous in their condemnation of Thursday’s strike. This one is fairly typical,
7 peopleGive it 12 months and the left will hopefully be a spent force in this country and someone on the right will have the courage to step forward and bring this once great country back to normality.
This week the Tories tried to resurrect fears of the bad old 1970s – but it didn’t work. Cameron tried to paint Miliband as the creature of the unions that elected him: he sidestepped that trap and rightly castigated the government’s behaviour over the pensions issue. A bit of history may help: as far as I can discover, no Labour party has ever officially supported a strike, not the General Strike, nor any miners’ strike. Shirley Williams was pilloried for joining the Grunwick picket line which later turned violent, but it wasn’t Labour policy. Neil Kinnock was tormented for not backing the miners against Margaret Thatcher in 1984, or the six-month-long ambulance strike in 1989-90.
It’s both laughable and tragic that the Tories consider Ed Miliband to be a “creature of the unions” when it is quite clear that Milly Band did a “Kinnock” and declared the strike to be “wrong”. The Tories are so desperate to land a fatal blow on their opponents that they will come out with any old nonsense in the hope that someone is listening. But no one is….apart from the lunatic fringe that reads the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail.
In Britain, public support for strikes is split with many of those against strikes taking their views directly from the mouths of government ministers and the Tory-controlled press. In France and other countries (apart from the USA), there is much more solidarity; most people support striking workers. Why is this country so different?
Mekon Jnr has been quiet in the last 24 hours. Let’s hope it stays that way. Perhaps he’ll go the same way as Mekon Snr: he’ll resign and then be kicked upstairs to the Lords.
Finally, this picture from the Daily Mirror sums it up: Milly band is no friend of the unions, let alone a creature of them. The Tories are going to have to rethink their strategy of painting him “Red Ed”, bacause he looks more like a “Blue Ed” from where I’m standing.
From the Telegraph
- Francis Maude, the shadow minister for the cabinet office, attempted to claim the mortgage interest on his family home in Sussex. This arrangement was rejected by the Fees Office. Two years later, Mr Maude bought a flat in London a few minutes walk from a house he already owned. He then rented out the other property and began claiming on the new flat: the taxpayer has since covered nearly £35,000 in mortgage interest payments.