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Tories make a compelling argument… For supporting the strike.

November 25, 2011

Louise Mensch; A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, to paraphrase Churchill.

Sometimes, she appears free-thinking, opinionated, radical, independent – everything a constituency MP ought to be. Sadly, most of the time she supports a government whose motives are so self-serving, that she must necessarily share in its disgrace.

She reminds me of the fiancée of the male lead at the start of a Romantic Comedy. I sympathise with her. I want to like her. But, ultimately, she is the obstacle which prevents the adorably eccentric female lead from getting her man. Nice enough, but in the wrong place at the wrong time. And definitely in the wrong political party.

Self-censorship may be advisable.

Very occasionally, I find myself agreeing with everything she says. Other times, she opens her mouth and horse manure falls out. Lately, it has been mostly the latte(r). Like her idea that, by drinking a latte from Starbucks, one forfeits the right to protest about the gross systemic problems in our financial sector. Does the same theorem prevent any Coalition MPs from dismantling the NHS if they have ever been treated within it? If that is the case, I am happy to adopt Ms Mensch’s cock-a-doodie logic, wholeheartedly.

On Wednesday, she stood up in the House of Commons and asked what appeared to be a scripted question on the upcoming 30th November strike. She was one of many people sitting behind Cameron who, according to the Prime Minister, made “a good point” or “an important point”. In response, he appeared to have just the right page of inaccurate statistics in front of him. She said:

Will the Prime Minister acknowledge that one of most disruptive impacts of next week’s strikes will be on mums and dads with children in school?

Ms Mensch thus joined the army of ill-informed Coalition MPs who seem to be much more interested in sound-bites and scare tactics, than they are in engaging with any of the actual issues. Instead of really posing a question on the strike, she elected to strike a pose. Her question is riddled with assumption and misconception.

First is the idea that public servants somehow owe us their work. They do not. They are not slaves, nor convicted to hard labour. They get paid to do a job. A strike is the withdrawal of that labour at the worker’s own cost.

Second, a strike would be utterly pointless as an ultimate expression of extreme dissatisfaction, if it did not have a disruptive impact. The brunt of this impact is borne by the striking worker who foregoes his/her pay. It is naive to suggest that relinquishing 20% of their weekly pay in the current economic climate is a decision taken willy-nilly.

Third, is the ridiculous notion that public servants are not mums and dads, intertwined with the suggestion that no mums and dads support the strike. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Did Louise Mensch complain about her leader’s decision to give the country a paid day off to celebrate the Royal union of two people, one of whom happened to pop out of a particular uterus? Did she express concern about how countless waiters, shop workers, cab drivers, police, pub staff and plumbers would look after their children, with schools closed?

Did Francis Maude and Danny Alexander balk at estimates which put the cost of that extra public holiday to the economy somewhere around the three billion mark? Did David Cameron have a chat with Prince William to ask him to consider getting hitched on a Saturday or Sunday – like most people I know – in response to the Office of National Statistics view that the net effect on growth that quarter was a gigantic minus quarter of a percent?

Danny Alexander makes an excellent point.

I invite Ms Mensch to analyse what Francis Maude and Danny Alexander said yesterday. They claim that the strikes would cost the economy an estimated £500m, in both direct and indirect lost output (about as much as Osborne lost on Northern Rock – if only he would take a day off).

Is the treasury suggesting that public sector workers contribute anything up to a net five hundred million pounds to the British economy, every single working day? That their collective work adds direct and indirect value to our daily GDP to the tune of half a billion? I find no other way of reading that figure.

Ms Mensch joined the Labour Party briefly in the mid-90s. But then she changed her mind and re-joined the Conservatives – a party which takes every opportunity to call public servants lazy, wasteful, entrenched, overpaid, privileged, enemies of enterprise – except of course when they threaten to withdraw their hard work. Only then do Tories recognise the value added by public services.

The Conservative Party philosophy is to shrink the state to the smallest possible size. Next Wednesday is nothing but a taste of her party’s utopian ideal.

31 Comments leave one →
  1. November 25, 2011 7:14 pm

    Nice work as always.
    When I wrote a bit about her a few weeks ago, people found my site by using the search term “how shit is louise mensch” among other less complimentary terms.

    Serial rent-a-quote politician.

  2. November 25, 2011 7:18 pm

    Hard to understand whether which party Louise Mensch belongs to actually matters…

  3. November 25, 2011 7:31 pm

    Great stuff, mate! Did you see the MenschTweet this morning?:

    “Difference Future Jobs Fund vs #youthcontract sums up Lab vs Coalition in nutshell. FJF = shunting into public sector, YC= *REAL* private jobs”

    (Capitals and stars respectfully added by myself)

    • November 25, 2011 7:33 pm

      Another fine example of her “Horse Manure Period” as an artist.

  4. Frances Coppola permalink
    November 25, 2011 7:33 pm

    And of course, it isn’t the job of teachers to provide parents with free childcare anyway. The “disruption to working mums and dads” argument simply doesn’t wash.

  5. November 25, 2011 8:04 pm

    Fantastic stuff, really useful points.

  6. November 25, 2011 8:23 pm

    Empty vassals make the most noise.

  7. Itsmotherswork permalink
    November 25, 2011 8:30 pm

    Great blog as always. Think you’ve underplayed the contribution of public sector to the economy though. The £500million cost to the economy of the proposed strike only represents the direct and indirect benefits attributable to the work of those striking. But it’s a minority of public sector workers who will be striking – albeit a sizeable minority – so the actual contribution of the public sector to the economy is considerably greater than the £500million mentioned.

    • November 25, 2011 8:32 pm

      The point I wanted to zap was that the public sector is a drain. Happy to use their figures, just to ensure there is no wriggle room.

  8. andy permalink
    November 25, 2011 8:31 pm

    Incisive polemic amid the war of words

  9. November 25, 2011 9:17 pm

    As always, another excellent piece. I feel lucky being up here having more that two to choose from.

  10. November 25, 2011 11:58 pm

    Good piece.

    Made a comment on my facebook this morning along the lines of hoping that anyone inconvenienced by the strike action, who voted Tory, is reaping what they sowed (or sewed, sorry). Apart from one elderly aunt taking issue, I got more ‘likes’ than I did on my birthday.

  11. Hollowspy permalink
    November 26, 2011 12:29 am

    Nice reading. Just watched that HIGNFY on sky+ tonight and was not happy to see her, glad she got put in her place.

    I am striking on Wed, difficult to give up the money, but there is a strong voice of discontent with the so-called leaders of this country.

    She represents the ill-informed, media-manipulating, lobby-fuelled, corrupt party to a tee.

  12. frances smith permalink
    November 26, 2011 8:47 am

    narcissists project, what they hate or fear in themselves they project onto others. rich tories with socially useless jobs, that only involve amassing money for themselves, are calling public sector workers who do important jobs parasites. what other conclusion can there be, but that this is projection.

    • November 26, 2011 1:23 pm

      projection indeed but it’s real and the poor suffer as the very rich become even more so

  13. Rob McD permalink
    November 26, 2011 10:22 am

    Super super.

    With blogs like this, I feel Dave the cardboard box and the Muppet Horror Party will not win the day. The public are not fools. They know daylight robbery when they see it.

    We were promised so much, good honest politics, reward for hard work, less interference from Brussels, better control of our borders and a better standard of living! All we got was Dave, Dave, Doug and Nick (The flap four). In other words – lies, lies, damned lies and slavery.

    I will be on strike next week. They are so dead at the next election.

    • November 26, 2011 1:18 pm

      good luck the strike! distressing to see the amount and tone of the propaganda machine that’s being unleashed this weekend. I wish I shared your optimism about the next election: I fear the triumphal return of the nasty right with an overall majority mandated to be even more destructive. :(

      • Rob McD permalink
        November 26, 2011 4:50 pm

        Not sure about optimism, just my luck it will snow next week! Like many, I don’t do politics but I am waking up to it now, even at 50. For me, its the injustice of it all. Politicians and banks screw up, I/we pick up the tab with our pensions. I’m sorry, but I don’t think so.

        I now work in public health, but when called upon, I have been to war, I have been shot at and blown up, but now they want to steal my meager pension. It isn’t gold plated, its a blood, sweat and tears pension.

        It pains me, but I don’t like where we are going, steal from the poor to pay the rich. Shame on them.

  14. Carrie permalink
    November 26, 2011 12:49 pm

    Louise Mensch aside, excellent points. Though I expect that the Tories don’t want less services, just for them to be provided by private companies or charities, by people on less pay or no pay and poorer pensions, the reality for all of us is still pretty grim. I just wish this kind of framing of the argument could hit the mainstream, that their attempts to frame the argument as one of fairness to those who are already putting up with poorer conditions, were being suffocated by insightful observations such as this one.

    • November 26, 2011 12:56 pm

      I’m sure they didn’t want higher prices when they privatised Gas and Electricity, but there you have it.

  15. November 26, 2011 2:28 pm

    I note that neither Danny Alexander or Francis Maude is taking a cut in their very much more generous pensions.

    And yet, aren’t MPs public servants too?

    Hmmm. You just can’t get decent servants these days.

  16. Ray devlin permalink
    November 26, 2011 4:27 pm

    Excellent article. Is she Tory window dressing?

  17. November 27, 2011 10:52 am

    Excellent article. Good point re: £500m ‘cost’ of the strike.

  18. November 27, 2011 9:16 pm

    Clapping loudly.
    My husband has been discussing (well swearing in disbelief really) your second point.
    He reckons that with that level of GDP our debt problem will be over in a matter of weeks.

  19. November 28, 2011 11:38 pm

    An excellent article – spot on and sums up the issues perfectly.

    I would add one further comment: as well as portraying “parents” and “public sector workers” as mutually exclusive groups both Tory politicians and the media use the terms “taxpayers” and “public sector workers” as if they were two different groups. As far as I know all public sector workers are taxpayers too.

    This curious artificial separation crops up when it is reported that “the taxpayer” should not have to subsidise public workers’ pensions. As well as incorrectly implying that public workers do not pay tax, this fails to mention that the Local Government Pension Scheme (I receive an LGPS pension) is fully funded by investments (stock market, etc.) and is not subsidised. True, both employers and employees pay pension contributions, but then when I buy goods or services from a supermarket, train company, bank, etc. part of my money is likely to be contributing towards their employers contributions to their staff pension scheme – for most larger, reputable companies. I think it is right that I do so. Indeed, as a taxpayer, I would rather people had decent occupational pensions than had to rely on means-tested benefits after retirement.

    I’m less happy about paying towards the company cars and so on that I hear some private sector workers get – though I don’t know much about that since public sector staff don’t get those – perhaps they are used solely for travel on business, so that’s OK.

    Perhaps some other public sector pension schemes are “subsidised”. Why shouldn’t they be? It is part of the employees pay, terms and conditions package. As a taxpayer I want good quality public services and that requires good employment practices. Indeed a local council, for example, should act as an exemplar employer locally and should stimulate the local economy by providing jobs and by buying local when possible.

  20. November 29, 2011 5:14 pm

    I wholeheartedly support the strike – even though I won’t be able to work tomorrow because I am looking after my child, I shall also look after the child of a friend so that she can run a lunch club for other mothers with young children (voluntary sector not public). In the evening I shall run a free workshop for professional actors who are not currently working. I won’t be paid anything. That’s fine, that’s what’s meant by the Big Society isn’t it?

    And my reward for this public spiritedness? My meagre state pension to which I have contributed too little because I have been studying/caring/volunteering or too badly paid to make the minimum contribution will now be frozen until I have died of poverty or old age. (Assuming I don’t die as a direct result of Lansbury’s health reforms).

    In a civilised society all citizens should be properly provided for when they are no longer able to contribute. Isn’t that what distinguishes us from wild beasts?

  21. November 30, 2011 2:09 pm

    Well said!

  22. Matt permalink
    December 1, 2011 8:05 pm

    It’s nice to see that Louise Mensch is just as vocal about the sacking of Jeramy Clarkson (regarding his recent comments) as she was about the sacking of Brian Limond regarding his Thatcher comments…..oh…..Not going to happen is it, why am I not surprised?

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