Monday, 1 November 2010

On Strikers and Own Goals

Strikers attract headlines. They are a focused and determined bunch. Nothing will deflect them from their goal – scoring in a cup final, smashing home that last minute equaliser, or moaning about one’s club to get one’s pay doubled.

The trouble is when you need them to help you defend your vulnerable position, their impetuosity could cost you a few serious own goals.

Public services are going to be drastically cut back. There will be reductions to the level of support for people, old and young, who would not otherwise be helped; to the number of jobs needed by families and communities; to the resources required for maintaining a basic decent quality of life.

For some, the time has come to bring on the strikers. This would get everyone’s attention, they say. They will score against the opposition, for sure. But how do they think they will actually achieve that. Have they really got a coherent strategy? Have they thought through their tactics?

It has to be said that in these kinds of clashes, the strikers don’t exactly have an enviable track record. They tend to come on and draw attention to the widespread inconvenience they will cause, and away from the problems heaped on society.
That’s 0-1 down.

Every strike from then on, far from raising awareness of the consequences of cuts to jobs and services, just strengthens the hand of those who present themselves as the true custodian of the public good, standing firm against reckless strike action.
That’s 0-2 down.

As the contest goes on, if the strikes continue, the public loses patience completely with what they see as purely self-interested actions, and throws its support behind the shrinking of public provisions, with little sympathy left for those who try to resist it.
That’s 0-3 and the final whistle.

Of course, under the right circumstances, strikes could deliver for social justice. They’ve even made a film - 'Made in Dagenham' – celebrating how strikes helped to further the cause of equal pay for women. But horses for courses, and blind deployment of strikers would just lose everyone the one match they desperately need to win.

Some may say that unless one has a better suggestion, striking is the only way forward. But we don’t always have to know the right solution to be sure what would be a very wrong answer. I have no idea how to carry out brain surgery to help someone regain consciousness, but I have no doubt that you’re not going to bring someone out of a coma by cutting off his head.

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