We operate on a 'nae fear, nae favour, nae funding' model.
You can hardly have failed to notice that this is the eight-hundredth anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta. It gave extra powers to about fifty barons, some of whom used their authority to make life even more miserable for several thousand peasants. This was the beginning of the system of government that this year is seeking to further curb the rights of trade unions.
Since they were formed, trade unions have improved the lives of millions and have caused a cultural change in this and other countries. They are still necessary: for every hysterical headline in the Daily Mail about union excesses, there are a thousand unreported meetings of well-informed men and women sitting down with management working out deals to benefit their members. Collective bargaining is effective and efficient for both sides in industry.
Even without that, union membership would be valuable for the legal protection it offers. I was a teacher and had I been accused of thumping a boy or seducing a girl pupil (or vice versa), my union would have provided me with a superb defence team. Most union members, I would guess, have some risk of falling foul of unsubstantiated accusations and it is a comfort to know that your case will be argued by a leading barrister.
That’s the good news.
When the unions were formed, businesses were mostly locally owned. You could walk out of the factory, march through the town up to the gates of the owner’s mansion. By the middle of the twentieth century national ownership had become the norm. Local stock exchanges were closing and shares were traded only in London. The unions adapted by centralising their operations in the capital. Big business demanded bigger unions.
You must have noticed that the only unions now operating with any real power nowadays are those that come into direct contact with the public. If the workers close down CalMac, the employers are forced to come to the table, but if they close down Grangemouth all that happens is that the owner shrugs and walks away. Business is international but unions are not, despite some more or less unsuccessful attempts at cooperation.
To continue to protect their workers unions will, in my opinion, be forced into cooperating with government. When a multi-national company threatens jobs in Britain, unions should brief the government, of whatever political colour, and have them argue the case. Their intervention may not be enough but it will carry a lot more weight than an effigy in the works manager’s drive.
Tories who have demonised unions will be outraged almost as much as union bosses who have demonised Tories at the idea of working together but if it brings greater good for the country they should swallow the stale bile and get on with it.
The SNP moved into Labour seats in the Commons because of the lack of opposition to welfare reform and one of the candidates for leadership of the Labour Party said that they speak for the poorest in the country. I live in a quiet street in an English market town where my neighbours are builders, plumbers, joiners and a number of other occupations, many in Health, Welfare and Education. We are labour but emphatically not Labour!
Within half a mile of my house there are six residential homes and a school for people with disabilities. When Ms Black, in her maiden speech, tells of a man who has to starve himself to afford bus fare, we are horrified. The consensus is that his benefit should give him more than the bare minimum to survive. He should be able to take an occasional trip to Largs and have enough to buy a cone at Nardini’s.
The problem comes when we have to define what we mean by living with dignity. If Ms Black’s friend starts buying double nougats, will that still be Ok? Because my neighbours work they can spend anything left over in any way they like. One couple have a caravan parked close to a beauty spot while another couple own two horses. They have to economise elsewhere, of course, but it is their money so they can do as they like.
People on benefits live on our money and there is a very strong feeling that they should not be allowed to decide how to spend the surplus: if they don’t need it to survive, claw it back and reduce our taxes. If we see a two thousand pound TV being delivered to a household where everyone is on benefits, what should our reaction be?
My daughter’s partner subscribes to both Sky and BT Sports channels but he saves in other areas to pay for that indulgence. To be fair, I should assume that the benefits family are scrimping and saving to afford the new TV. I find it hard to do that and I can give anecdotal evidence in support of my case.
All the kids in this neighbourhood get jobs at fifteen. Competition is fierce for Saturday and holiday employment. When my daughter went for a job in a café at fifteen she fought off competition from, amongst others, three of her classmates; all eight parents were in jobs. No one from a benefits household applied for that or any other job. Working parents capped pocket money but parents on benefits handed out extra on demand.
All my neighbours believe in the Welfare system and the provision of health care free at the point of use but we are not convinced that the provision is fair or just. We see disadvantaged people, many in wheelchairs, every day as their carers take them out and we do not grudge them a penny of their benefits. Every week there are bags of clothes left out to be collected by charities. Many of the retired people help in charity shops. We care but we feel we are being ripped off and until we can be convinced otherwise labour will not vote Labour.
The final irony is that I strongly suspect that the people Labour speak for mostly vote for Ukip or the British National Party.
Reasons to be Independent Number 894.
The Average Scottish Penis (ASP*) at 5.8 inches is 0.3 inches longer than the average English prick. So “Up Yours, Westminster!”
*There is no historical evidence that this is the ASP Cleopatra clutched to her bosom but it is widely reported that she died with a smile on her face.