Strikes won’t defeat this government

THIS week’s TUC conference has heard a great deal about “fighting the cuts” and I can understand the frustration felt by union members who fear for their jobs.

But I can’t help feeling that all this talk of a winter of strikes is totally self-defeating. If the Labour movement really did endorse the kind of action proposed by the likes of Bob Crow of the RMT, it would have a disastrous impact on the Labour Party.

Of course Mr Crow knows that – and would not be at all unhappy about that. He left the Labour Party several years ago because it was not left-wing enough for him.

Labour politicians are now in a difficult position. On the one hand they know that their supporters whose jobs are under threat want to do something to to protect their work.

If they don’t back their efforts to stave off cuts it could look as if they endorsing the cuts.

On the other hand, they know that if there were to be a series of politically-inspired strikes causing disruption for people across the country, many voters would be quick to lump trades unions and the Labour Party together and blame the lot of them.

There will be several London newspapers keen to make that link.

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And don’t forget most opinion polls suggest that currently most people still support the principle of government cuts even if they don’t like all the specifics about them.

I’ve spoken to many members of staff from the county council over the last couple of weeks and they are worried about their jobs (and they were worried about their jobs long before we published details of the cuts last week) but I haven’t detected any great militancy yet.

If they are to retain public support they would be well-advised not to undertake any action that leads to children being turned away from school, home helps failing to turn up, or libraries closing.

No one is going to change this government’s mind by threatening industrial action.

If Labour can portray itself as a credible alternative with a sensible economic policy at the next election it could well end up back in power.

If it allies itself with the industrial stormtroopers led by the likes of Mr Crow, it could be facing years in the political wilderness again.