We marched through the streets of London today. Hundreds of thousands of us. Trade unionists of all kinds. Some alone. Some with friends. A huge number with their families and children. As the marches began across the country, David Cameron was busy lambasting millions when he attacked Ed Miliband as “irresponsible, left wing and weak”.
Cameron’s rhetoric today and in recent weeks couldn’t be more out of tune with the dozens of public sector workers I spoke to today. Cameron talks about a fair and reasonable deal, but public sector workers don’t see a 3% tax on their earnings directed straight to the treasury as either fair or reasonable. Cameron talks about “union bosses”, but today I saw working families losing a day’s pay to stand up for themselves, people who had never been on strike before moved to oppose the obvious unfairness of plans that will penalise those who teach our children, keep our streets clean and provide our local services.
It’s also clear that Cameron is revelling in his attacks. He claims the negotiations are still ongoing, but at the same time argues that the deal on the table is the best he’s willing to offer. Providing no leeway for genuine negotiation, he’s goaded people into a strike. By hitting pay packets as well as pensions, and by going even further than his 1980s idols, he’s launched a war on public sector workers, and yet feigns surprise when they fight back.
It’s obvious that Cameron’s goal is no different to Thatcher’s in the 1980s. He wants to break the unions. He threatens the stick of harsher union laws without the carrot of real negotiation.
As Brendan Barber rightly noted on Left Foot Forward this morning, lollipop ladies are paying to cancel the bankers’ bonus tax. Rather than make those who caused the financial crisis pay their fair share, Cameron prefers to bash the low paid – as if too many teachers or nurses caused the collapse of Lehman Brothers. The Prime Minister has shown who’s side he’s on – he shouldn’t be surprised to see further action from those he’d prefer to penalise in response.