It is billed as the largest strike since strikes were invented, or something like that. Public sector workers by the million will today withhold their labour, imperiling the education of millions of children; prolonging the suffering of the sick; endangering national security...
Brendan Barber, very important man at the TUC, said the public sector was ‘absolutely under attack’ by the Government. Not just ‘under attack’, but ‘absolutely under attack’. So he explains: “There comes a time when people really have to stand up and make a stand. With the scale of change the Government are trying to force through, making people work much, much longer and get much, much less, that's the call people have made.”
What is so difficult to understand about the state of the nation’s finances?
WE CAN’T AFFORD TO GO ON SPENDING MORE THAN WE EARN.
Unless we are to bequeath to our children (and their children, and their children’s children) not merely entrenched structural deficit but perpetual levels of impossible debt. We are all living longer, the economy is stagnant, and the balance sheet isn’t too healthy. You’d think teachers at least might understand these simple facts.
But this is not merely about economics or politics: it is about morality. Look at Ireland, Greece and Italy (which Spain and Portugal are likely to follow). If you bankrupt your nation, you increase poverty, hardship, suffering, and so the likelihood of civil strife. It is incumbent upon this coalition government to keep the country solvent – it is its foundational raison d’être. We simply cannot afford to go on paying living beyond our means.
Austerity measures are never easy, but the failure to act now will simply prolong the misery. The lifestyle to which we have become accustomed is illusory: we have created an economic model that was built on sand. It may have been 3-D, surround-sound, all-singing, all-dancing sand. But sand is sand. As the eurozone is discovering, the foundations need to be rather more robust.
Today’s strikes aren’t about privileges or pensions: they are about union revenge. Having endured 13 years of ‘New Labour’ – during which period the unreformed Socialists were frustrated but essentially compliant – they at last have another Tory government against which they can vent a decade of pent-up grievances. And so, like the 70s, it’s back to ‘everybody out’. It is profligate, unthinking, and selfish.
The joke, of course, is that George Osborne and David Cameron are not cutting as deep as is necessary: yesterday’s Autumn Statement actually confirmed £111bn of increased borrowing. As ConHome observed, it was a Brownite budget; not a Thatcherite one. The perilous state of affairs demands the blood, sweat and tears of Churchill; not the media-friendly strokes of the PR-pro Blair. There is no point trying to please all of the people all of the time: you end up pleasing no-one, and going down in history as a Heath or a Brown.
Unpopularity is the price you pay in politics for courage, conviction and truth. The perpetual pursuit of popularity brings nothing but paralysis.