The Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival 2010 has been taking place this weekend. The Politics Show was there to take the temperature of the unions over the impending cuts. On the ground, the message was clear – a deep suspicion of the LibDem coalition and its plans to ‘reduce the deficit’, code for attack the living standards and amenities of those least able to afford it, and entirely blameless of ruin of the economy by the Labour Government and the banks.
“At least back in the eighties there was a state to dismantle. At the moment, we’ve only got the precious things left – the Post Office, the Health Service, the schools, the education service, and they’re coming for it.”
“Nobody should be under any illusion whatsoever – the 1980s were awful, and this government is far more right wing in our view. I tell you, the battle is coming very shortly and it’s going to be massive. The trade union movement has got to come together, and cannot rely, unfortunately, on our allies that we’ve had in the past.”
That last remark, in my view, is trade union code for “we cannot rely on the Labour Party ---“ and the interviewers comment, “maybe the Labour Party as well?” and the nod that followed it confirmed this.
Both these quote were from Communications Workers’ Union representatives. The interviewer moved on to a lady from the National Union of Teachers.
In response to a specific question about the Labour Party and the Trade Union leadership, Rachel Thomas replied -
“I don’t think we can put our hopes in any of the major parties – they’ve proved, time and time again, they’re the parties of big business – they’ve given billions and billions to the banks, and we want some of that for public services --- I think the trade union movement – the TUC – needs to get some rocket boosters – in order to fight back.“
(The comments on Lord Mandelson’s memoirs were wisely censored as “not really printable.”)
We then move back to Jon Sopel and his guests in the studio, Fraser Nelson and Jackie Ashley.
Jackie Ashley – Mrs. Andrew Marr - is a television newspaper reporter and New Statesman and Guardian columnist. She fought her way up from humble beginnings as the daughter of Jack Ashley – Baron Ashley of Stoke – and a grammar school and Oxbridge education.
Fraser Nelson, a Scot (born in Nairn) and educated at Nairn Academy, Dollar Academy, Glasgow University and City University, London. A historian and journalist, Fraser Nelson is also editor of The Spectator, and has a healthy media career as a panellist and commentator. He is a right-wing conservative, a board director of The Centre for Policy Studies. He is described as an economic libertarian, or neoliberal.
Before you try Wikipaedia on the term neoliberal , I should warn you that the definition there is ‘contested’. By whom and why, I leave you to judge for yourself.
The BBC and The Politics Show presumably selected these two guests as offering some kind of political balance in the great question of the moment, namely, who f****d up Great Britain and what should be done about it?
How qualified are these privileged, comfortable and possibly very rich people to consider the plight of the low-paid, the elderly and the sick people who will suffer the impact of the cuts, the bankers’ greed and recklessness and the Labour Party and Gordon Brown’s ineptitude in government?
One thing is for sure, they will both be totally insulated from the draconian cuts to come, indeed they may confidently anticipate even more lucrative media appearances as they survey the wreckage of our society and pontificate on it.
They have the task of trying to question Bob Crow of the RMT – introduced by Jon Sopel as “one of the most prominent, some would argue militant figures in the Trade Union movement.
Since the formidable RMT man understands what his role is very clearly, and is unafraid to cut through cant and the special pleading of the rich and powerful by concise and blunt statements of fundamentals, this is no easy ride for our privileged duo, not to mention Jon Sopel.
I leave to you watch and listen to Crow as the media trio trot out their feeble and predictable mantras. He makes them sound like Marie Therese, wife of Louis IV commenting on the plight of the starving poor - “Qu'ils mangent de la brioche …”
It all reminded me of a freezing February morning in the late 1970s, when my MD decided to address a large group of truculent draymen in Newcastle about the need for retrenchment. He jumped up on to the back of a lorry, and said “Gentlemen, we must all make sacrifices …”
There was a long, icy pause, then a voice from the throng shouted “What f*****g sacrifices are you going to make then?”
The MD hastily jumped off the lorry and handed the meeting over to me, but I had no answer either …
The English members of the trade union movement are at last realising the depths of Labour’s betrayal, and the horrors facing them from the LibCon government, and they intend to do something about it. They had no choice at the general election, but the Scottish electorate did have a real choice – the SNP, yet voted Labour again, in increased numbers.
Among that electorate were many trades unionists. When are you going to wake up, Scotland?