Letwin’s Freudian Slip….
Oliver Letwin is such a charmer isn’t he? His widely reported prescription of ‘fear and discipline’ for public services and public sector workers is a major faux par because it basically shows how hostile this government in principle is to the very notion of public service. No, people will scream, you have misunderstood him, but given other, equally widerly reported remarks by Danny Alexander; Vince Cable and others, you half-wonder why the unions are continuing negotiations with people who clearly lack both the necessary tactile nature and willingness to empathise with the other position which are something of a prerequisite for negotiations to be anything other than endless posturing. Certainly they should exploit Letwin’s comments to hammer-home the point that the government is not serious about its side of negotiations.
Having said all that, in some regards the unions don’t help themselves. Whatever the truth of the Daily Mail’s report of Dave Prentis’s massive pension-hike it tells us a wider truth; that trade union leaders are simply remunerated too much for their pains. No trade union leader should earn more than the average salary of their membership and this might give them a suitable incentive to be robust in raising the incomes of their members.
I digress. The point about Letwin’s remarks is that they show the true intent of the governments agenda. It was therefore heartening to see Harriet Harman remark:
“Death rates in hospitals have been falling, satisfaction levels have been rising,” she said. “What hasn’t changed is the Tories’ antipathy to public services. And the idea that the way to improve public services is to put fear into those who provide them is absolutely grotesque.”
Heartening but not enough if it is not backed up with a serious opposition to the actual proposals themselves and Harman’s words will ring-hollow if, when the trade unions take legitimate action to halt these proposals in their tracks, the leadership of Labour has nothing but cold-counsel on continuous video loop to offer them. It’s all very well offering solidarity against the idiotic remarks made by Letwin; it’s quite another to offer it when needed, when/if workers walk out and the leadership has yet to fact that test again. Let’s hope that when it does, it does not fail as dismally as it did last time around.