WINTER AND SPRING OF DISCONTENT
The government seem to be counting on lower inflation later in the year sapping the case for 10% public sector pay rises. It is a big gamble. There is little evidence that the public is rallying to Rishi Sunak’s approach of a tough line on pay and more legislation to provide minimum service guarantees. It is more likely that the narrative that this tired government has run out of ideas and that nothing works in their Britain will lead them to be chucked out of office by a slim overall margin in the autumn of next year.
It is no surprise to see this upsurge in strikes. Public sector pay has fallen behind during years of austerity. The tight labour market has emboldened employees and the surge in inflation was the final straw. That said public support varies from union to union. The nurses are widely backed. Teachers causing inconvenience to working parents at very short notice, a bit less. Train drivers not being prepared to accept that they are a seven day service, less again. However overall there is no appetite for a Thatcher style attack on the unions, the mood is more like 1974 which saw Labour come to power after a wave of miners strikes.
NO BREXIT CHOICE FOR THE VOTERS
Industrial relations are not the only area where there is an absence of activity. The third anniversary of our disastrous exit from the European Union has been met with denial from the Tories and cowardice by Labour and the Lib Dems.
While all the main political parties refuse to offer the voters the opportunity to even consider applying to re-join the Single Market or Customs Union, the evidence of the damage being caused by Brexit piles up.
All countries were affected by Covid and Ukraine and yet Britain is the only one of the top seven to see its economy shrinking. The ending of free movement has led to a shortage of labour in care services, hospitality and agriculture, not to mention the effect on musicians performing in Europe and school visits. The Brexit deal in Northern Ireland remains a running sore, and a recent Chamber of Commerce survey found 77% of businesses saying Brexit was hindering their ability to trade with Europe. Trade deals with countries like the USA show no sign of materialising.
Politicians fear of reopening old wounds and telling people they were wrong is a way of admitting that the strident voice of the Tory European Research Group can bully us for ever. Let’s have the debate again. The public are ready. A recent poll found 54% of people thought it was wrong to leave the EU with 34% still thinking it was right.
WEST LANCASHIRE BY ELECTION
Yet another parliamentary by election in the North West. Next week voters in the communities of Skelmersdale, Ormskirk and Burscough will be electing a successor to Rosie Cooper who has left parliament to take up a job in the health service.
The more Conservative areas outside Skem won’t be enough to prevent Labour from holding this seat easily. It had a Tory MP in the eightees but has been under Labour control since 1992.
The Labour candidate, Ashley Dalton, was born in Lancashire but has spent 25 years in the South East. Despite that she surprisingly beat two more local candidates. The Conservative contender, Mike Prendergast, is the leader of the Conservative Group on Sefton Council.