BBC BLOGS - Nick Robinson's Newslog
« Previous | Main | Next »

Another Winter of Discontent? Unlikely

Nick Robinson | 14:44 UK time, Monday, 13 September 2010

For more than 30 years, talk of strike action at the TUC Conference has been greeted by headlines warning about a repeat of the Winter of Discontent.

For more than 30 years, those warnings have proved to be wrong.

This year, they are likely to be proved wrong again.

Pickets keeping warm outside the main entrance of Felixstowe docks

Unions were stronger 30 years ago

The Winter of Discontent - in 1978/9 - was significant not because it was the high point for days lost due to strikes nor even because it was the only time the dead were left unburied thanks to strike action. It mattered because it triggered a shift in public attitudes to the trade unions which contributed to the election of a Tory government committed to using the law to limit union power.

Voters observed that the relationship between a Labour government and the unions had broken down. The consequences were both visible and distressing - not just those unburied bodies in Liverpool but rubbish lying uncollected in streets elsewhere. All this came after governments of both left and right had tried and largely failed to limit union power.

This set of circumstances is very unlikely to be repeated. The unions are weaker, the laws limiting their actions much stronger and the desire for that style of confrontation is simply not there.

The rhetoric this morning at the TUC was robust - dubbing the government's planned cuts "obscene", "reckless" and "lunacy" and pledging the "fight of our lives" against a "demolition government". However, the plans of most unions are, so far at least, much more cautious. Most union leaders know that they will only win a ballot for strike action if their own members' pay and conditions are directly threatened. They know that their enemies would love to portray the battle ahead as one between unions and the people rather than the unions and the people standing up to the government. That's why the TUC is talking of building a coalition against the cuts in which they hope people will recognise that, in David Cameron's phrase "we are all in this together".

For now ministers are desperate to sound conciliatory, promising to consult and work with union leaders who are expecting to meet both the Chancellor and the Prime Minister in the next few weeks.

What the coalition should fear is not another Winter of Discontent (capital "W" and capital "D") but a winter in which unions, Labour under new leadership and those who fear the effect on their lives and livelihoods form their own coalition against the cuts.


  • Comment number 1.

    There's no political mileage for the Left in opposing cuts without an alternative and credible plan for deficit reduction. Their best strategy is to point to a lack of sensitivity in Mr Osborne's plans and suggest that they do not stop at what is economically necessary but constitute an ideological agenda as well.

  • Comment number 2.

    I agree that at present we are in a phoney war with both the Government and the unions talking tough. We will know a lot more once the results of the spending review are announced.

    Politically the ONLY way the government can sensibly proceed is to ensure they can make real the rhetoric of "we are all in this together". That will mean cracking down on BOTH tax and benefit cheats. They MUST also ensure that it is not the poor and under-privileged that bear the greatest burden of the cuts. If Labour make that charge stick the coalition is unlikely to survive.

  • Comment number 3.

    Sand... Head... Bury...

    That'll sort out the deficit. I'm sure all Union members’ jobs will be safe then!

    I fully expect to hear Labour criticizing every single cut and not coming up with alternatives. They have the opportunity to be involved in a different kind of politics; however I doubt it will be anything but opposition for opposition’s sake. It is very easy to criticize when you aren't making the decisions. Labour hadn't exactly spelt out where their cuts would have come from, for that we can only guess!

  • Comment number 4.

    We also had massive Oil supplies which could be used to transittion from the BL making maxi's, Allegro's and marina making that nobody would buy in there right minds to the economy of '97 where toyota,Nissan and Honda felt that they could come and do buisness.

    since '97 to chase C02 TARGETS whole industires have relocated to China and India, that was not possible back in '79.

    Maybe DC might wish that NC had gone into Bed with GB and have to wait for the moment when the country again reaches the abbyss before it smells the coffee and wakes up to what is required to be done.

    Perhaps there might be another election before the year is out if NC and the LD's have a about turn when they see the colour of the next Labour leader

  • Comment number 5.

    Do these silly obese old men of the TUC not realise yet that they and their mentors the Labour party have driven this country to the brink of banktrupcy and their posturing concern for the "poor" is just that , cynical posturing. They have no concern for the poor, god knows, they, like our politicians are too busy lining their own pockets to have any true concern for anyone. Calls for action will solve nothing, they may in fact mean redundency for even more workers as strikes destroy even more jobs. Cuts in public spending are essential before the few people left in work in this country paying tax to fund the public sector find that they are working for nothing. It seems, that the TUC thinks it is now in a position to declare war on the Tories and the British people once more; they never learn, like their predecessors found out when they were mauled by Margaret Thatcher, if you go to war, you have to win.

  • Comment number 6.

    I'm glad you pointed that out Nick, the days of 'everybody out' wildcat strikes are long gone. The laws relating to strike action are clear: it is limited by industry and a definitive dispute. Not that the right wing press will pay any attention, they'll join the bandwagon for yet more restrictions like minimum ballot numbers for legitimacy. Interesting TUC conference this, I wonder what Harriet Harman thought having to give a speech after following a scathing critique of 'New' Labour's PFIs.
    Regards, etc.

  • Comment number 7.

    Well, it's simple; both sides will have to make their case.

    Then if the cuts really are 'obscene, reckless and lunacy' we deserve to know why...

    Whereas if the cuts are 'fair, efficiency savings, getting rid of waste and duplication' we also need to be told...

    Doubltless both sides will grossly exaggerate their claims, doubtless their will be strikes but the argument that we can't afford the level of spending inherited from newlabour is won. The economic recovery is on its way, arguments about its fragility are a nonsense. Ed Balls comparison with 1981 completely misses the point; all the econmists who opposed Thatcher turned out to be wrong and recovery had already been secured. But that's the difficulty of being Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition; you get completely behind the curve and stay there for years.

    I think we're still in the 'denial' stage of grieving for many in the newlabour and indeed the trades union movement. There had been signs of movement through anger and into bargaining but they have receeded with the vain hope that the coalition will be torn apart, a new election will be called and newlabour returned to their rightful places around the cabinet table. Interesting but bogus thought that one. You can even read it in the interviews of the porspective newlabour leaders - Ed Miliband admitting to the frustrations of being in opposition unable to do anything. But he hasn't accepted it yet and he's in denial that it will be anything but the briefest of interludes. What did they put in the tea in Primrose Hill?

    And so a winter of co-ordinated (and illegally so) civil disobedience beckons from our union brethren and months of sulking from newlabour who seem to believe they have been cheated out of office.

    It's a great timne to be a tory...

  • Comment number 8.

    At the last election, voters had a choicer of more of Labour's 'spend-spend-spend', or making cuts to reduce the deficit.

    Bob Crow and his comrades at the TUC haven't grasped the fact that most people understand that cuts cannot be avoided given the disastrous mess left by Gordon Brown

    Trade Unions should restrict their activities to mediating between members and their employers. It is not the role of the unions to 'fight' the policy of government. They need to wake up to the fact that it now the 21st century, not the 1970s.

    There will be no sympathy from the public for politically motivated strike action. Employment legislation should be amended so that employers can sue the unions for damages caused by non-work related industrial action.

  • Comment number 9.

    The problem with the unions is that their leadership is stuck in the “glory days” of trade unionism and are out of touch with our increasingly affluent society, what we saw today looked liked an old news item from the archives. Somewhat comical to see a man on £187,000 a year salary ranting about “inequality”.

    Such a shouty, angry, selfish bunch, can they not see that they have become a parody of themselves. The language and attitude hasn’t moved on since the 1970s, what the TUC needs is reform and fresh, more conciliatory voices.

    The only option that this leadership seems capable of pursuing inevitably harms the public and alienates opinion.

    This could be a “Winter of Discontent” for public sector workers once the public works out which ones we really miss and those that we could easily do without. Strikes are a double edged weapon.

    Enlisting the help of Harriett Harman shows just how dramatically out of touch the TUC are – if anyone is likely to engage public opinion it is her – own goal on day one!

  • Comment number 10.

    Robin @ 7

    Nearly all of your posts, whatever the topic, revolve around how Labour is handling defeat. Why this peculiar obsession? What personal demons are being exorcised? Yes, Labour lost - but more narrowly than the Conservatives did at any of the three preceding elections. Which was quite an achievement, considering the PM was a vote-loser and the economy was in a bit of a pickle. But I guess you'd say I'm in denial.

  • Comment number 11.

    must be a busy day for sagamix today... banging the UNITE drum at the TUC conference he doesn't appear to have had time to trouble his laptop.

    Maybe we'll have to wait for the 'view from the coalface' about the obscene and reckless lunacy of the coming cuts. Maybe he's struggling to work out what Bob Crow is actually saying; it always takes me some time to decipher his invectives.

    Three cheers for Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition...

  • Comment number 12.

    Instead of taking defensive positions why do the Unions not look to the positive and work with govt to secure more jobs and improve the position of the Unions, their members and the country as a whole. In previous threads we have touched upon tax avoidance and evasion. Whilst the latter is very important (perhaps the PCS and its members have ideas as to how to tackle evasion in a more effective way in the future)what about the £40bn of taxes simply not collected over the last 5 years? Reducing this might not solve the country's problems but surely it would help.

  • Comment number 13.

    I agree to the extent that the hugely powerful unions of the 70's are a thing of the past - some sort of miners strike type direct battle with a government is not practical.

    But as the tories deliberately destroy the lives of millions of people in order to transfer yet more wealth to their wealthy backers they should expect a response.

    The unions may not have much power any more but millions of angry ordinary people do.

    I would like to see as much disruption as possible - targetting both the tory government and the spivs who bankroll them. Targetted strikes (eg. transport workers and bin men in London) and civil action (eg. boycott of businesses operated by tory supporters) would be a good start. The more damage the better.

    On this occassion I would have no criticism of direct action. There is no society under the tories and no one should feel inhibited about causing damage.

    The tories talk rather glibly of 'pain' Lets hope the victims of their conduct can cause a bit of the pain to be felt by the tories.

  • Comment number 14.

    Maybe Bob Crow could enlighten us as to why he feels he's worth £145,548 of his members' moeny in salry and expenses...

    And maybe he can enlighten us as to why they think they are representing the views of their members when Derek Simpson was reelected as leader of UNITE with only a 12% turnout?

    Not very democratic?

  • Comment number 15.

    The Pantomime that is the TUC was always going to come out with strike threats In the same way the Goverment are leaking scary information on the size of the cuts. Maybe there will be a winter of discontent . Both side have failed so far to take the public fully with them and this could be the thing that levels the cuts out . Most of the public know we could not have kept going on in they way the Labour goeverment had been doing. The people want cuts but dont want the pain they bring.

  • Comment number 16.

    it seems quite clear why FUBAR_LIEBOUR refused to have a speading review before the election, concern for the poor, themselfs becoming poor that is

  • Comment number 17.

    pdavies65. You are correct when you say that the scale of the Labour defeat was less than the previous Tory losses . Perhaps thats why they are attemping to equalise boundaries to take away Labours advantage , Much to the disgust of Jack Straw

  • Comment number 18.

    You're quite right that the unions are now just empty vessels making a lot of noise.

    They do their own members a disservice with their left wing calls for civil disobedience. Most must be hiding their heads in shame at being associated with such provocative language.

    This in ignorance of what these cuts might involve.

    We're no longer talking about a largely male workforce of heavy industry.

    These are low and middle income earners who cannot afford to be involved in civil strife and reprisals for not doing so.

    We have all seen how nasty people against people can be when some want to work and others want to strike.

    We are where we are and loud noises from the labour and union lot cannot disguise their inability to come up with any realistic solutions to the problems that have to be sorted out.

  • Comment number 19.

    jim3227 @ 17

    Tories moan about boundaries, but it's just sour grapes. They didn't moan when they were winning elections. Labour's 'advantage' comes from the fact that the Tories in effect waste thousands of votes piling up huge majorities in very safe seats.

  • Comment number 20.

    It is not often I say this but I have to admit that in #7 RocknRobin makes some good points.

    Brown and Blair are yesterday's men. The Labour Party need time in the wilderness to recognise, consider and address the failures and weaknesses of New Labour in power. The sooner that is done the more effective (dare I say constructive)their opposition.

    My suggestions - views welcomed:

    1. The new labour leader should ask for meetings with Clegg to exchange thoughts/views on how to ensure the poor do not suffer disproportionately from spending cuts.

    2. The new labour leader should support the referendum on the change to AV. I appreciate this involves complexities (not least re the re-distribution) but Labour should be discussing precisely those issues with the LibDems (and others).

    3. To prove that prove that "we are all in this together", why doesn't our PM and/or Mayor Boris invite the banking community (and of course only with the consent of the individuals concerned) to publish the names of their top earners, their annual income, tax paid and charity contributions. Is that a "Big Society" thing to do - where the wealthy are proud of the amount of tax and charitable donations they make to this Nation/Community?

    4. Why don't the Unions take up the opportunity to discuss what the Government is proposing as has been offered. Surely the Unions can have discussions and make submissions and still reserve the right to take industrial action - just as our PM is "reserving" his position on the electoral referendum.

    Oh and before I forget RocknRobin7- the "great time to be a Tory" - tag is distinctive but ultimately a bit silly isn't it? Surely your position is that Blair/Brown have left the country in a horrible mess and (regrettably) the Tories now have no option but to deal with that mess. In short wouldn't you say you would prefer to be in a position where the Tories did not inherit such financial problems?

  • Comment number 21.

    11 rockrobin7

    Sorry to disappoint but sagamix is at full throttle on the Andrew Neil blog. Amongst others about 100 comments have been posted!

  • Comment number 22.


    You know I get a feeling you have something against the unions Robin...
    Your concern about the election of their bosses and their salaries is touching...but surely that is a matter for the unions themselves ?

    Still, elsewhere, I see executive bonuses are now back to pre-crises levels, and running at an average (for the top companies) at between 100 and 140% of annual its not all bad news...

  • Comment number 23.

    7. At 3:50pm on 13 Sep 2010, rockRobin7 wrote:

    "It's a great timne to be a tory..."

    Should presumably read "It's a great time to be a tory..." Shall we put it down to first time jitters?

    I'm sure that if George Osbourne is to be seen to act in the best interests of Britain and that if he keeps to his word and the hardship is shared equally, the coalition have nothing to fear. On the otherhand if GO appears to have his sights on the minority rather than the majority, we should all get angry and maybe think about joining a Trade Union to voice our concern.

    Anyway, "We're all in it together" sounds as if it comes straight from the TUC leaders mouths, so I'm sure there's nothing to fear brother Robin.

  • Comment number 24.

    CraigM @22 Too true. And what about:

    the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has backed comments by the leader of the RMT Union, Bob Crow, that attacked bankers for accepting large bonuses.
    Mr Johnson told the BBC: "Those distinguished, intelligent, highly remunerated people have got to understand the political consequences of doing nothing about the huge bonuses they are about to receive."

    Seems at least some Tories are concerned that we might not 'all be in it together'.

  • Comment number 25.

    Cassandra #20

    Some refreshing suggestions - but why pick on the Bankers again in point 3? The Bank bailout is only a small percentage of our structural deficit, the greater part being the compulsive spending of Gordon Brown on the public sector.

    If you want to target high earners to make a contribution, then how about publishing the annual income, tax paid and charity contributions of other wealthy people like; actors, footballers, senior civil servants, authors, musicians, film stars, property developers, racing car drivers, TV presenters, celebro-journalists, former cabinet ministers and ……. union bosses.

    That I’d like to see!

  • Comment number 26.

    14. At 4:42pm on 13 Sep 2010, rockRobin7 wrote:
    Maybe Bob Crow could enlighten us as to why he feels he's worth £145,548 of his members' moeny in salry and expenses...


    Obviously a fairly tiny wage compared with some in the private sector - I see that they are also back to bonuses of 140% of their basic pay on top. Usually they say that they absolutely must pay that much to attract the right sort of talent - shortly before they report massive losses and demand a bailout.

    Personally I don't like Crow very much, but if he can cause the tories (and a lot of complaicent, arogant London spivs) a bit of 'pain' then good luck to him. Worth every penny.

  • Comment number 27.

    Idont Believeit @ 24.

    Boris (bless him)needs to distance himself from these cuts out of electorial necessity...but good on him for speaking out anyway...

    The LibDems are in a pickle. The Orange Book faction which have hi-jacked the party (and are the ones in ministerial posts) are obviously comfortable with whats going on...its the rest of the MPs and the rank & file I will watch with interest. I have a feeling (and I could be wrong) that a certain Mr.Kennedy will not remain silent for much longer...

  • Comment number 28.

    rr7 @ 7

    "The economic recovery is on its way, arguments about its fragility are a nonsense."

    If it is, Robin - and let's hope you're right - it will be because of Brown's post crash and pre May 2010 policies. If it isn't, it will be due to the Coalition cutting too hard and too quickly. Such will be the Labour political narrative, anyway - the one to set against the tory story; you know, the "clearing up Labour's mess" nonsense.

    That's if you mean the recovery is on its way soon. If you're not putting a time on it, then the prediction is completely meaningless. Since economic recoveries - rather like buses - are always on their way.

  • Comment number 29.

    @27 craigmarlpool wrote:

    The LibDems are in a pickle.

    Probably the most generous comment I've read for a long time. I wish I could show such self restraint.

    I fancy that Clegg, Cable, Aleaxander et al will have a very long time to reflect on their brief spat with "real" power.

    If anything like the level of cuts intimated to date are implemented I cannot see how the coalition can fail to implode.

    Of course, Clegg, Cable, Alexander et at could pay their dues and actually join the Conservative party.

    Having just typed that, I'm not sure they wouldn't actualy do it!

    Power, corruption, absolue power, absolute corruption and all that stuff.

  • Comment number 30.

    re #25
    Me too.

    I have this fantasy ...
    that if we continue moving the tax burden south onto the lower paid and things get really tough - another million and a half out of work, massive business failures, food shortages, home repos quadrupling, bank failures, people living on the streets, etc that a disc (or laptop) or two would be 'lost' by HMRC and we get to discover such things ...

    But then, I have this hope ...
    that things never, ever get that way.

  • Comment number 31.

    29. At 10:53pm on 13 Sep 2010, EBAHGUM wrote:
    @27 craigmarlpool wrote:

    The LibDems are in a pickle.

    Probably the most generous comment I've read for a long time. I wish I could show such self restraint.

    I fancy that Clegg, Cable, Aleaxander et al will have a very long time to reflect on their brief spat with "real" power.

    If anything like the level of cuts intimated to date are implemented I cannot see how the coalition can fail to implode.
    Trouble is, for those who want that to occur, the longer those predictions are made and do not happen, the stronger The Coalition will appear and may become. Set against that will be the mood of the nation as 'stirred' by the meejah. Who knows which way they will jump?

    People have been predicting splits or the end of The Coalition since mid-May ... it's four months and counting ...

    Hey! Let's be careful out there today. [Especially in The Coalition, GO. Are you listening?]

  • Comment number 32.

    "But as the tories deliberately destroy the lives of millions of people in order to transfer yet more wealth to their wealthy backers they should expect a response."

    You really would be a lot more credible Jon, if instead of spouting this middle class schoolboy revolutionary drivel, you'd actually prove it instead of lying about it.

    It could be argued that via the Union Modernisation Programme that public money is being recirculated via the Unions back to the Labour party to prevent it from going bankrupt. There is certainly a lot more truth in that than in your throwaway one line placard slogan.

    "The unions may not have much power any more but millions of angry ordinary people do."

    Yeah... they're so angry, they can just about be bothered to vote, let alone stretch across to the other side of the sofa to reach for another bag of Dorritos. The anger's absolutely palpable, innit???

  • Comment number 33.


    Incapable of answering the question again Jon, without resorting to the politics of envy, eh? The private sector person you're referring to isnt ELECTED by anyone to REPRESENT anyone and DOESNT bang on about how hard done by his members are (forty grand a year for train driving, hard done by? Give me a break....) as well as having a strong communist streak - all animals are equal, except for Bob, who is much more equal than the others - nothing more than a Milwall football hooligan in a suit.

  • Comment number 34.

    #19 pdavies65 wrote:
    "Tories moan about boundaries, but it's just sour grapes. They didn't moan when they were winning elections. Labour's 'advantage' comes from the fact that the Tories in effect waste thousands of votes piling up huge majorities in very safe seats."

    The first sentence sounds like one of those irregular verbs ('Yes Minister').

    I (and the Tories) make substantial points from our deep attachment to high democratic principles;

    The LibDems make points from narrow partisan advantage;

    You (and Labour) moan all the time.

    As to the second part, whilst there is a higher turnout in Conservative-held seats there is also a bias due to there being a smaller number of registered electors in Labour-held seats.

    According to the BBC's 'Newsnight' (if the last election had been fought on 600 equal-sized constituencies)

    "The LibDems would have lost 12% of seats - seven of 57. Labour would have lost 10% - 25 of 258, and the Tories 4% - 13 of 307.

    "The research also suggested Wales would have lost 25% of its seats, N Ireland 17%, Scotland 12% and England 6%."

    Clearly the Tories are following the fairness agenda.

  • Comment number 35.

    John @ 34

    Would you redraw the boundaries whenever somebody moved house?

    Seems sensible to have a formula which combines geographical area and population - like a taxi meter (if you know what I mean) - as issues often relate to areas and that is the point of having constituencies.

    The current system is not intrinsically fairer to one party or another, it has always depended on how well the parties argue their case to the Boundaries Commission. Labour were good at this in the nineties, the Conservatives less so.

    And the Conservatives do better when it rains on polling day because their supporters have all got cars or big golf umbrellas. How unfair is that?

  • Comment number 36.

    Things have moved on since the turmoil of all out war between unions and the government. There used to be a time when employers put less value on employees that meant the unions, in effect, represented a gap in the market and government always has to compromise with the big businesses it relies on. These days there is a growing emphasis on employers placing more value on employees and people acknowledging that the work market has changed. This has led to a growing acceptance by people and employers over situations, greater protections in place for employees due to past conflict with unions and in today's world there is a shrinking market for the need of union representation.

    However, just because the need is diminishing, they still have a purpose that can add weight in discussions and negotiations but the levels of power, support and membership has changed significantly. As much as people want the power to protect themselves, there is a realisation that many companies will do what they can to try their best to help employees and that as much as we all want to be selfish in just protecting our own interests we acknowledge that a limited amount of money can only achieve so much and that priorities may lead to cuts in all types of expenditure, much like how we all live our every day lives with fluctuating commodity prices, ever increasing living expenses, etc. while trying our best to live within the finite income we receive to cover these costs.

    The Union leaders are paid by their membership, if they don't fight then they don't get paid and interest in unions diminishes further. This is not the type of attitudes we need in such people. Union leaders seem to be much like the politicians as they represent a smaller proportion of the people and live inside their own worlds outside the true realities that the majority live in.

    They should wake up and face the facts that there are economic problems and as much as we would all like to be selfish and not care about anyone else, unfortunately there are consequences to such thinking so they should realise that we all have to make sacrifices in order to get by yet in their minds there's clearly no need to worry about sacrifices as long as they're getting paid, most likely because they realise that if they ever had to face the real job market then things would be quite different for them.

    I may not have detailed insider knowledge of the whole British Airways incident but as a member of the public I found the Unions seemed to be spending too much time acting like spoilt brats and found that although I felt both sides were hindering the talks, leading to constant breakdowns I was actually more on side with British Airways.

    All it seems to take is just one word being spoken, that's right "CUTS", and suddenly they're all up in arms ready to declare war. To me, it's that type of attitude that helps create more barriers and divides in discussions and there doesn't seem to be as much thought on how the business will suffer when they are prevented from finding ways of reducing costs that may only lead to a worsening business that will lead to more cuts being needed and as the spiral goes on, shareholders jump ship and the company sinks while the Unions all pat themselves on the back for the good work they've done in helping to destroy viable businesses.

    Then they wonder why there's such a lack of interest in people wanting to sign up.

    I work for the NHS, that's right, I am a public sector worker so you'd probably think that I would be supportive of Labour and a member of a Union. Well, personally I can't stand the Unions and paying a subscription fee to a Union reduces the amount of money spare I do manage to retain each month so on balance I'm happy with that choice. As for Labour, I will never ever be voting for a Labour government ever again and I only ever voted for them the one time back in 2001 to give them a second chance, which I feel they failed miserably on.

    The economy is in ruins and amidst trying to recover, the Unions want to help us suffer more.

    If the Unions want to help, the first thing they should be doing is explaining why we shouldn't have cuts, provide a reasoned argument along with evidence, provide an alternative to cuts they don't want to happen and how expenditure will be funded and then let the public have their say.

    Instead, we have a government trying to balance the ruined economy while the Unions are trying to stir up trouble, which will only help make the damage more severe through possible strike action and civil unrest.

    So, my simple response to the Unions is, stop arguing and opposing for the sake of it and start working along with the government to make a difference that can help benefit people rather than trying to lead everyone down a path that could be very self destructive for the country, its businesses and its economy.

    Use your voice in the right way and make it count because all I'm hearing is "Cuts bad, we must not have them, we're right, our way is the only way, we expect everyone to agree with us, we're not prepared to discuss anything or prove any point, you're on the side of justice if you follow us and anybody who doesn't is evil. Now let's get the angry mob mobilised with their burning torches and pitch forks to destroy the evil menace."

    I apologise if I offend anyone but it seems to me that the Unions seem to be much like some extremist religious cult with extreme tunnel vision.

    Therefore, I will not be supporting the Unions in their potential campaign of terror across the country to force evrybody to bow to their demands without a proper open discussion and debate where they can lay down all their arguments.

    Public finances need to be brought back under control after too many years of recklessness. For that, I feel the majority should come from cuts, though I'm sure there will also be tax rises in the future, though I hope they are within reason as it's already bad enough trying to live in today's world with what money I do get in that I would struggle if spending was left unchecked while taxes upon taxes were brought in that I couldn't afford. I see plenty of waste and problems in the public sector machine that allows room for cuts in unnecessary expenditure so cuts can and should happen.

    It's time we all stand together with resolve and fix the problems that have been allowed to grow for not just the last Labour government but for decades on an unbalanced economy that keeps failing. Time to start re-laying the foundations and planning for a properly managed and balanced economy that can start from a controlled point rather than constantly hoping that it will all be fine in years to come because it was that type of thinking that helped to create the mess in the first place.

    It's time we all faced the realities together and acknowledge the problems we will all have to face in the coming years to deal with the prolonged problems that have been allowed to build up over many years.

  • Comment number 37.

    "The current system is not intrinsically fairer to one party or another, it has always depended on how well the parties argue their case to the Boundaries Commission. Labour were good at this in the nineties, the Conservatives less so."

    Ah, I knew the nugget would be in there somewhere.

    So, you would have to agree then, with your fairness head on, that making the constituencies the same size in terms of voter numbers is, intrinsically "fair" then? No one member represents many more thousands than another?

    Kind of undoes all that Boundary Commission work in the 90's, but, hey...

  • Comment number 38.


    Well said.

    I'd take a slight issue with paragraph 2 in that there are some firms out there (granted, mainly American ones although there are some British ones as well) who have been so concerned about their domestic workforce that they cut their pay by between 15-25%, citing cashflow/being able to keep jobs, and barely a year later are out on the acquisition trail spending 4billion dollars on buying firms (step forward HP....) and others that are in a mighty rush to offshore as much as possible as quickly as possible (Dyson, Carphone Warehouse, Three, VirginMedia, et al)... not all firms have acted as honourably, particularly the very big players. The SME's, I can accept your Para2 as being reprasentative of, but not the big players.

  • Comment number 39.

    Fubar @ 37

    What's this? Championing equality all of a sudden? What a turn-around!

  • Comment number 40.

    #35 pd65

    Equal-sized constituencies:

    As you probably know, there is a proposed 5% tolerance for constituency electorate size, and two geographical exceptions.

  • Comment number 41.

    The intriguing thing about the budget deficit, is that it should not be an ideological position to reduce it.
    At what point will the bond markets become spooked and do the thing we all dread: raise interest rates to the point most of the tax revenue is consumed by paying interest.
    Mark Serwotka has a point, the greatest increase in public expenditure occurred at the very point when the national debt was at it highest.
    Who would believe we intoduced the welfare state and the NHS when the National Debt was 140% of GDP.
    Is the fear if we do not do something about cutting back now, we will remortgage the annual deficit and raise the National Debt to beyond 150% of GDP.
    Or is the problem comparing past events with the present day very difficult, particularly when sterling was a reserve currency.
    As always confused


  • Comment number 42.

    Trouble with all the talk of Winter of Discontent is that it detracts from a heck of a lot of the good work that unions actually do - health and safety in the workplace, anti bullying, representation at tribunals, and so on - which is presumably the idea. My union even set up a deal with a local shop where we all got 20% off electrical good - you won't read about that in the Daily Mail!

    'Why do tube drivers earn 40K a year and nurse only earn 20K?'

    'Because tube drivers are prepared to go on strike.'

    If the RCN dropped their 'no strike' pledge, the government (any government, Labour or Tory) would promptly foul themselves and upgrade nurses pay and conditions to a reasonable level. All the time they know they won't take action they can pay them as little as they want.

    Funny, a lot of Tory posters here seem to have disappeared since the election. 'Sing when you're winning' I suppose.

    Fubar's still around, but the gas chamber 'jokes' he's peddling are simply sick and not even worthy of the BNP.

  • Comment number 43.

    John @ 40

    Sounds like a good system then.

    As you probably know, the geographical distribution of the three parties' supporters has a much greater effect than any variations in constituency size. If the Conservatives believe that equalizing constituencies will provide a major electoral boost, they may be disappointed. In other words, those often-quoted disparities in the percentage of vote needed to win a majority will not disappear. It's something Conservatives could legitimately complain about if they hadn't made equality and fairness dirty words.

  • Comment number 44.


    I have no problem with an equality agenda pd, so long as its not a politically envious socialist wolf hiding under a sheep's skin. A lot of the left bang on about equality when all they want to do is make the rich poor, not the poor better off.

    You recognise it as well then, that if all constituencies are the same size (as much as they can possibly be anyway), that this should put an end to the grumbling, usually from the LimpDumbs that their votes dont count. If all the constituencies are the same size, its then purely a matter of who you convince by the strength of your political argument/how many public sector jobs you've bought in the area/how much you've kept the riff-raff out (delete as applicable or to taste).

  • Comment number 45.

    Sorry I thought the issue here is that the unions are now having what was called on the radio as their "last hurrah". Their membership numbers have been in free fall over the last decade oh so and their leadership is out of kilter with its members. According to their own research. So now we have them calling for civil unrest. Is this their last big stand will it be their Maffaking or the Little big Horn. Pensioners to sit on motorways. The unemployed to create civil unrest. What next? One thing for sure the likes of Bob Crow will not be with them unless there is a camera and microphone and even then he will only be there for the shortest possible time.

    Come the revolution brother, it will be all for one.... sorry that's it. The one being the leadership or the ruling class as they now think of themselves.

  • Comment number 46.

    #43 pd65

    I was merely quoting some research which shows that the Conservatives are estimated to gain from constituency equality (though as you said, less than some people who don't follow these issues might expect).

    I agree that other factors are important. One is geographical distribution, which you mention, and the other is differential turnout (the tendendency for higher turnout in conservative-held seats).

    I see no problem (given a FPTP system) in a party having to win a higher percentage of the vote nationally providing this is not due to constituency-size inequality. It's logical to have equal-size seats (and surely difficult to argue against). It's not logical to support FPTP, and at the same time complain that the resulting House of Commons does not reflect the national vote share.

    By the way, it's an abuse of the democratic process to have the AV referendum on the same day as votes in some parts of the country but not others. If we are going to have referenda we need some control over and above a simple majority in Parliament.

  • Comment number 47.


    Do you even know what a nurse gets paid, sunshine? Especially an agency nurse?


    Didnt think so.

  • Comment number 48.

    Anyone remember during the BA Strikes Tony, Chief Negotiator and Joint Leader of the Union, sneaking off on holiday? Never mind holding up negotiations, or looking after the union members who were losing pay. First and foremost had to look after himself.


  • Comment number 49.


    "My union even set up a deal with a local shop where we all got 20% off electrical good - you won't read about that in the Daily Mail!"

    Yep. Bet that made all the difference to all those who lost their livelihoods at Longbridge, Leyland DAF and Corus Middlesborough eh?

  • Comment number 50.

    Fubar - have you ever been a member of a union?

  • Comment number 51.

    F_S @ 44
    'I have no problem with an equality agenda pd, so long as its not a politically envious socialist wolf hiding under a sheep's skin. A lot of the left bang on about equality when all they want to do is make the rich poor, not the poor better off.'
    Well to be fair, we've had the making the poor better off experiment since at least 1979, so perhaps, given the results so far, it's time to admit defeat and give the alternative proposition 30 years or so to see if that works better. Sounds fair and has a touch of equality to it too. Agreed?

  • Comment number 52.


    Hah. Perhaps so!

  • Comment number 53.

    "I would like to see as much disruption as possible - targetting both the tory government and the spivs who bankroll them.
    Targetted strikes (eg. transport workers and bin men in London) and civil action (eg. boycott of businesses operated by tory supporters) would be a good start.
    The more damage the better."
    (jon112dk wrote @13)
    Hello again, jon.
    Would these activities be done by others, or will you be taking part?


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.