Tories make a compelling argument… For supporting the strike.
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.
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?
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.