Misreading the Public Mood

Government rhetoric around the current wave of strikes is at odds with the way in many people, that I know at least, are seeing this. There is genuine sympathy with those who are disrupting our plans and causing daily problems in our lives. Because their struggles are our struggles.

Government response is to ” mitigate” impact, bring in the Army and to look at ways to make striking illegal in key services. This is a long way from encouraging us to be out on the streets to clap our, now striking, key workers and their families. That of course was easy and is it too cynical to say of government, cheap?

It doesn’t help that this government’s gut reaction is to protect business and capital at every opportunity at the cost of those who are on low pay.

But it would be wrong to point the finger at Sunak’s government alone. Where we are is the product of 12 years of “compassionate” Tory austerity. Workers pay has been artificially kept low, especially, but not exclusively, in the public sector in the name of one Tory financial philosophy. The intention of that philosophy, which they palpably failed to achieve, was trashed in the space of a week by Trussonomics. Sure they can point towards the pandemic and the cost of that. But then they need to take responsibility for the lack of financial control and scrutiny that saw far too much wasted in that period .

Having tried most of them the Tories are now finding that you can’t have it every which way. They have reached the point where they are seeing themselves in the rear mirror, like a nightmarish truck that just keeps on coming.

We have at last for the vast majority of the population got to the point where it is accepted that Brexit was not the best move that we have made, yet there are still a few diehards chewing their carpets and whingeing about Johnny Foreigner when our ills are home made.

The problem is if you artificially hold down wages for a decade and then hit a financial crisis with soaring inflation public toleration is frayed and then broken. Strikers are not where they are because this year is tough, it is because the base upon which they are struggling was kept low for so long. It is not a 20-23 winter of discontent that is the problem it is more than a decade of ” compassionate conservationism” that has protected the rich, exploited the poor and trashed the economy. And now seeing the writing on the wall, Tory after Tory takes the cowards route and chooses not to face the music in the court of public opinion that is democracy.

Here is the thing, it isn’t really about money. Didn’t we learn, oh so recently in the pandemic, that when Government wants to find money, it can. It is about choices. Do we need excruciatingly expensive and immoral nuclear weapons when keeping them has made diddly squat difference to Russian aggression? France has them the USA has them – do we need them, especially when we need Washington’s permission to fire them? Do we need to continually protect the defence contractors we have when their prices do not reflect international competition? Do we need to protect indefensible excess profits in the energy industry? Do we really need to allow this country to be a tax haven for expats? Do we need to allow the ultra rich to avoid tax through dubious international loop holes ?

Perhaps it is us who are misreading this? They never said after all, who Compassionate Conservatism was pointed towards.

There is a logical conclusion to Sunak’s, I sense unintended, throwing down of the gauntlet to the Unions. It could be that he was posturing and would never do it but Conservatives have a track record on attempting to bust the unions. What is an “unjustified strike” in critical services ? Who decides? It is unacceptable to put the armed forces into a position where they a strike breakers, and dangerous too, for two reasons. They aren’t trained to do the jobs . Secondly, putting the armed forces into a possible position of confrontation with their brothers and sisters on the picket line is exceptionally worrying and morally indefensible.

We are heading towards a General Strike, and I guess that the Government believe that the public will not tolerate the Unions going that far. It is a gamble, but like the eponymous advert that says “always gamble responsibly” that is a message suited to those who are innately responsible. Not a trait that can be tied to conservative thinking recently.

Inflation, fuel and absolute poverty has eroded the position of not just the poorest but also of the middle classes in the UK and I get the sense that Government is slow to realise the extent to which people have sympathy with the strikers.

We know it is going to be a cold winter but for the Government it could be like the Siberian winds as they blow across the Steppes.

woman in black shirt in car
Photo by Ron Lach on Pexels.com

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4 replies »

  1. I recently wrote this….

    “British Society as a whole is becoming retrogressive instead of progressive. A General Election is needed – a whole different set of people in charge is needed who hopefully will work towards that fairer society again. Instead we have the same old, same olds – who won’t allow an election because they know that they’ll be out. That’s what Democracy has come to in Britain today.
    I’m reading ‘Surprised by Joy ‘ – the autobiography of C. S Lewis – in which he describes life in English boarding schools and how that training produces a certain attitude and approach to life. He points out that these people often end up being in charge. It makes interesting reading. Particularly chapter 6 – ‘Bloodery’ as in – young ‘bloods‘ lording it over their ‘inferiors’ – and getting away with it.”

    …in this….. http://www.spanglefish.com/berniesblog/blog.asp?blogid=15991

    I’ll stop now – for now. GGGGRRRRRR

  2. I do sense that the status quo is going to get a serious rattling this winter and into the next election