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Confusion on the wildcat strikes (2)

Nick Robinson | 17:40 UK time, Monday, 2 February 2009

"It's very hard to know what's going on here. The Unions say that Total's subcontractors are discriminating against British workers. Total says they aren't. Whom to believe?"

That's the question posed by DisgustedOfMitcham2 in this morning's post.

The government's reply to this is that ACAS will find out the facts, although it's striking that Peter Mandelson appears to have already decided that the company is telling the truth when it says there's no discrimination against British workers.

What's also becoming clear is that there's no agreement on what "discrimination" really means.

The unions believe that EU law should not simply guarantee that foreign workers get the same legal minimum terms and conditions as British workers. They argue that it should prevent "undercutting" of British workers by giving foreign workers the terms and conditions produced by collective agreements negotiated between unions and employers.

The unions claim that the EU's "posted workers directive" would mean this, if it was implemented properly by the British government. They also argue that recent judgements of the European Court of Justice have limited their right to fight for the directive to be implemented.

The Business Secretary Lord Mandelson begs to differ. In the Lords just now, he argued that "I don't think it's reasonable to seek to change the law in a way, in respect of this European directive which would extend collectively bargained entitlements to all companies and employees in adjacent employment, because that's not in UK law, let alone EU law."

It's not just his cabinet colleague Alan Johnson who appears to take the unions' side. The comments in the Commons of the former cabinet minister Peter Hain and of Labour's former chair Ian McCartney suggest that they do too.

Peter Mandelson is trying to make this dispute purely about the behaviour of Total and his message is, essentially: the company isn't breaking the law, so get back to work. The strikers and many others insist that this dispute is about protecting workers up and down the country.

PS: Brownloather (a name which may tell you something) draws my attention to Peter Oborne's criticism of me in today's Daily Mail for being "gullible" in my coverage of Gordon Brown's promise to deliver "British jobs for British workers". I simply ask you to re-read what I said at the time the phrase was first used, in September 2007:

"Ponder for a second how exactly the same policies or phrases would have been written up had David Cameron delivered them. A 'lurch to the right' anyone? Or, even, 'language normally associated with the far right BNP'?"


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  • Comment number 1.

    The government can't come clean on this subject.......... because they have sold the UK down the river and are hamstrung by EU legislation on this issue.

    Expect....... nothing to happen......... .......because our government signed any power they may have had to act away to Brussels.

    Brown will, however, continue to bluster that he is doing everything possible for British workers - although insist that when he said "British jobs for British workers" that he actually meant something different - just like the "No return to boom and bust" promise.

  • Comment number 2.

    Nick, you prove your critics point. Browns statement was one of the worse examples of dog whistle politics yet you both failed to criticise him and managed to associate bigotry with another party. What you present as a subtle critical aside of Brown clashes with your often strident sleight at his opponents.

  • Comment number 3.

    I wouldn't believe a word Mandy says. For him to be in a labour government is an oxymoron in itself. This is not an issue that only involves Total. The whole thing is a total farce, a sell-out on British worker's rights. This should cause the downfall of a government, and in times past would, but I fear Brown will call a state of emergency and stop elections taking place. British jobs for British workers. A Total lie!

  • Comment number 4.

    The confusion for me is not about Tenders, or where the British tenders are failing - it's about what the strikers say is unfair or even discriminatory.

    They are not making their case clearly enough, because those being interviewed by the media are the strikers themselves who - on live radio or tv - have the passion of their convictions but perhaps not the clarity. Is it that overseas companies are gaining contracts but deliberately not using local resources (ie workers) or are they unable to use them?

    Can someone clarify for me?

  • Comment number 5.

    It must be right if Mandy says so. Nick, why don't you get yourself down to one of these plants and have a chat with some of the workers. Come on get out of that Westminster bubble. I'm sure you'll pick-up a better idea about what's going on from some of those on the ground, so to speak. Go on, do it for the ordinary punter out there.

  • Comment number 6.


    now we are beginning to learn of the millions spent on buying a Titian for the country, for the sum of GBP50 million from the Duke of Sterling, or somewhere in Scotland.

    I mean those now allegedly in control of this country do really not so see it. This is disgraceful and the world must think, no know, that we have gone collectively mad. It is not only Brown who is bonkers, it is all of us for letting this shambles go on.

    Give us a general election, please, this is disgraceful!

  • Comment number 7.

    Reading between the lines I would suggest that Gordon Brown was opportunistic.

    He also runs true to form in now saying that he didn't mean that, the same as he cannot say that we are going through a "Bust" even though he had previously given a definition of what that was; i.e -1.5 GDP.

    Clearly the guy has a problem. Don't believe a word he says.

  • Comment number 8.

    This is the second piece within a week where you have felt the need to clarify your initial point.

    Nick, whatever you may think to many of the bloggers here you face very serious questions over the impartiality of your posts.

    You seem to ascribe comments made by ministers as fact and anyone who may hold a different view as highly suspect.

    You must accept that the unelected Minister you quote above has had some past difficulties where comments he has made have been found to be wanting in accuracy.

    An increasing number of the UK population find it very difficult to believe anything that members of the cabinet say.

    The credibility of not just you but the BBC is at stake here.

  • Comment number 9.

    The tender was put out by Total,a French Company operating in the UK to supply engineering services for an engineering contract at their refinery.
    The rules of the European legislators say that procurement rules are that Total send out tender to any company in Europe who wishes to bid on the work.
    The Italian company looks how they can be cheapest and bid accordingly by:
    - renting a floating hotel for the itinerant workers.
    -paying the Italian and Portugese workers enough to entice them to work in the UK.
    And all within the rules that NuLab signed up to.
    So the Government and Uniions can come up with as many weazle words as they like but they agreed with it the day they signed with all these european agreements.

  • Comment number 10.

    Having lived and worked in the Netherlands for a considerable period I can vouch personally for the benefits of the free movement of labour within the EU.

    The Government can call as many meetings on this as it wants but what Total did was perfectly legal and correct so we already know the answer to their deliberations.

    What is amazing is that Brown made the ridiculous "British jobs.." statement in the first place - what does that say about his judgement in these difficult times?

  • Comment number 11.

    I feel that both your blog and the comments have missed the fundamental anger underlying the plight the refinery construction workers. They see their livelihood, homes and families put at risk by complex and frequently incomprehensible european legislation which legitimises the right of large multinational corporations to maximise profits regardless of the social consquences and is, frankly, not fit for purpose. Even without the present economic meltdown this situation would be an appalling travesty of natural justice. But I do not see press reports of the Serious Fraud Office trawling through the e-mails of senior banking executives or of hedge fund managers having their computers seized in search of the undoubted malfeasance which has largely created the problems facing refinery workers and many other sectors. Yet this does not happen: we have suffered from utterly spastic regulation at the hands of the FSA with the connivance of the very same government ministers who are now telling the refinery workers that their natural and reasonable actions are 'indefensible'.

    There is clearly more than one rule which governs in this democracy. It is a sad reflection on ten years of New Labour that things can only get worse.

  • Comment number 12.

    Sorry, but am I the only one who sees the idiotic irony in all this? British protests over hiring foreign workers at a TOTAL-owned plant? TOTAL? As in the FRENCH energy concern? If it weren't for cross-border movement, these protesters would be standing in an empty field. You can't have your cake and eat it too: bringing foreign employers is good, but bringing foreign employees is not. I can't sympathise with such hypocrisy.

  • Comment number 13.

    indirect discrimination can occur where it appears that all workers are treated the same, regardless of race but where it becomes apparent that workers of a particular racial group suffer or are likely more likely to suffer a disadvantage.

  • Comment number 14.

    This issue is not about Total and the striking British workers.

    It is about Gordon Brown's use of the phrase 'British jobs for British workers'. The whole issue has become a problem because of Brown and his dog whistle statements.

  • Comment number 15.


    Thanks for engaging with us commentators ('Commontators'? ;-) ).

    Some of us give you a hard time not because, I believe, we think you are in thrall to Nu Labour (only an idiot would be - and you are not an idiot), but because you are so embedded in the Westminster Village culture (or bubble).

    Outside that bubble the nation is seething with anger. Anger that is mostly directed against this government and its abysmal record.

    Every time Brown, Mandelson [interesting how he is now 2nd in command] or some other lesser minister lies to us the anger grows.

    With their lies and self-delusion Labour has sown the seeds of a cold wind. The whirlwind they will reap come the General Election may blow them away for all time.

  • Comment number 16.

    I do like this accountability however you are a little soft on the government for some reason. The danger we face here is a face off between workers and the government. As we are in recession, if not depression, it is right that we aim to keep British jobs and I am proud of these guys for standing up to big business. It is pretty much what the Chinese Premier said today as well if the translation was correct in that he wanted to safeguard chinese jobs!

    (I also saw on the news that Gordon took him the wrong way before a quick U turn!! Had me in stitches that did! Comedy gold from our U turn PM!)

  • Comment number 17.


    The real problem is that we are in a recession and there are not enough jobs to go around - even those paying the minimum wage.

    NuLabour has encouraged people to come to this country when times were good to fill skilled jobs instead of training our own up. The govt was more concerned to have kids with a wad of A levels and universities stuffed to the rafters with students on useless degree courses rather than concentrating on training up a home produced skilled work force.

    Foreign workers were also encouraged to fill jobs at the lower end of the scale which british workers would not touch with a barge pole because the pay was so poor and they could "earn" just as much staying at home on benefits.

    The latter being the downside of the minimum wage which has had the unfortunate consequence of keeping the going rate for the job artifically low as it is, "made up," by the tax payer in the form of tax credits. A plus for employers as they are getting cheap labour. Also Ok if you have children - but not so good if you don`t.

    As the recession bites deeper we will see more of this unrest. The ratio of foreigners to the indigenouus population in the Uk is way out of kilter.

    (Even the govt has recognised this and is putting a cap on the number of foreigners allowed in our regiments)

    This, "local problem," is just the tip of the ice berg. As more and more british people
    continue to lose their jobs, they are going to be very unhappy to see foreigners remaining at work, whilst they are forced to sit at home existing on very little.

    If the various forecasts of 3+million unemployed at the end of the year come true, then this country is in big trouble. Gordon Brown`s slogan, "British Jobs for British People", will come home to haunt him big time. The BNP will certainly a very good chance of getting a foothold in parliment. The only people to blame for that will be NuLabour who have been sleep walking for the past decade and judging by Peter Mandleson conduct so far in this dispute has not woken up to the reality of the situation.

  • Comment number 18.

    Nick, thanks for your reply.

    Total are in the right, the unions cant have it both ways, however much they would like to, and the Labour Government say they can.

    This is a European Law I fully support and think is right.

    If they were turfing out british workers to replace them with swarthy foriegn looking types, then well they might have a case. But as it is, nah tough chicken. But well done on making a numebr of companies want to hire EU workers instead of you bolshie lot. Idiots.

    Anyway back to Mandleson and his little boat ride over the summer with the tarrifs.


  • Comment number 19.


    Regarding your comment about what you said at the time of the soundbite - you don't actually say anything about it, only what might have been said if the David Cameron had said it.

    An interesting angle to take but David Cameron didn't say it - Gordon Brown did - and you don't seem to have made any comment about that.

    Why don't you comment critically on what is actually happening with the government and not on some imaginary situation involving the opposition ?

    I suspect this is what your critic was refering to and you actually reinforce his view with your response!

  • Comment number 20.

    It is irrelevant whether the foreign workers are being paid the same as British workers would be paid. ACAS investigating this is a waste of time and money, and the Unions paying lip service to Brown are betraying their members by going along with it. The simple fact of the matter is that foreign workers are keeping unemployed British workers out of a job. Whether it's legal under EU rules does not have any bearing on it, it is contrary to the interests and prosperity of the British people and must be stopped. The obvious anger on the picket lines bodes ill for any foreign worker that finds himself out in the street while this mood prevails.

  • Comment number 21.

    Well, this is what you get by not poking the politicians in the chest and demanding action from them.

    All this was brought up apparently prior to the signing of the Lisbon agreement by GB... and all protests were waved away. What you are seeing now is the endgame, the logical conclusion of it.

    What Total are doing is not illegal. The unions may huff and puff, but there is naff all they can do about it.

    So, why now are the unions, who you would think would have the political savvy to have known something like this would happen, why leave it til now? Why not bang the drum prior to Lisbon? Why not use their influence, being a major funder of Labour, to raise the matter on behalf of their members?

    Because like the politicians, they have their own political agenda. They have their snouts in their own particular troughs. They're not interested in their members, only in their own political futures. Correct me if I am wrong, but arent at least 2 of these 4 troughing Labour lords former Union leaders?

    This is the end product of globalisation. This is what happens. The Union leaders are mugs for not seeing it coming; the politicians have hardly covered themselves in glory for hiding it under the carpet and then trying to fudge it; and the public are mugs for being politically disengaged from their MP's and not getting in the faces of their local members in their surgeries and telling them its not on.

    And, as other contributors have mentioned, the boot has been on the other foot for years. What do you think we were doing in Saudi on Al Yamamah? Employing Saudis? In the UAE 80% of the population are ex-pats. Its been going on for years. We cannot have it both ways.

    Get used to it guys, this is the way it is.

    And as for the BNP... I've been banging on about this for months. If they are making political capital out of these disputes, it does not surprise me in the slightest. I dare say that this will be the thin end of the wedge. They will see it as their chance to make hay whilst the sun shines. Watch them carefully, it'll only get worse, unless the main players step up to the plate and do something.

    Starting with someone, anyone, calling for a vote of no confidence in Gordon. Before it gets any worse.

  • Comment number 22.

    Dear Nick,

    Few things better illustrate the strategic confidence of Gordon Brown. He spots the territory - immmigration, Britishness... etc - which the Tories are nervous of occupying and plants his flag there.

    Remember the other part to your speech?

    I believe the Tories were nervous because everyone would have called them 'racist' if they did!

    Any chance you could answer some other blog questions raised? Mandyson and big house, a yatch, Russian hospitality etc etc..?
    GB unable to do anything about EU laws?
    Corruption in the House of Lords?

    How is your (HP)source?

  • Comment number 23.

    Nick, glad to see you read the comments here.

    The issue is not what Mr Mandelson would have you believe. Mandelson says the company is not breaking the law. This does not square with the Unions' version of events.

    Construction workers have been staging a similar protest at Staythorpe power station in Nottinghamshire for weeks now, about exactly the same problem.

    "Alstom has been contracted by RWE to build a gas fired power station near Newark. Two companies, Montpressa and FMM, have been subcontracted to carry out construction work on the site. These two non-UK contracting companies say they have no intention of employing any local labour to undertake the work. Unite has branded the decision a national scandal.

    Unite estimates that 600 jobs will be needed to build the power station's turbine and boiler (Montpressa will fit the turbine and FMM will fit the boiler) and another 250 to build the pipe connecting the two. None of these jobs will go to UK workers.

    FMM told union officials that because they had no direct employees themselves, they would supply their workers directly from abroad and would not be giving any consideration to local construction workers with years of experience of building power stations throughout the Trent Valley.

    Unite joint general secretary, Derek Simpson, said: "Our message to Alstom is that we will keep on knocking until you let us in! Staythorpe is a national scandal. We are seeing thousands of jobs being lost daily but at Staythorpe there is skilled, well-paid work available. It's a disgrace that local workers with years of experience are being locked out of the job.

    Staythorpe, although the most prominent, is not the only site where employers are refusing to employ local workers.

    Alstom has been contracted by Eon to build a gas-fired power station near Grain in Kent. Unite sought assurances that Alstom would provide a level playing field for UK workers during the process for sub-contracting. The union pressed Alstom to include a clause in the tendering process - that any sub contractor would endeavour to use UK or local labour. Alstom refused and then appointed a non-UK construction company, Remak, to build the boiler. The union has been informed that Remak will not use any UK labour."


    It is reported that both Irem at Lindsey and Remak at Grain have refused to even consider employing British labour as part of the contract.

    That is what the workers are complaining about, set against Brown's fatuous and vote-grabbing slogan of "British jobs for British workers".

    When yo next see him, tell Mr Mandelson to get on his bike and actually travel up to Killingholme and talk to the workers there, he is Business Secretary after all, isn't he?

  • Comment number 24.

    This may seem hard to believe but these wildcat strikers represent a white dominated cliché that very successfully mange to deny opportunity to UK ethnic workers outside of the present difficulties.

    The strikers work in remote locations away from cities where equal opportunity is well established. They are often right wing conservative in attitude and are over paid and out of touch for what they do.

    What are they going to do when the French arrive to build our next generation Nuclear Power stations?

  • Comment number 25.


    you asked us to e-read what you wrote in September 2007, so I did.

    "Few things better illustrate the strategic confidence of Gordon Brown. He spots the territory - immmigration, Britishness... etc - which the Tories are nervous of occupying and plants his flag there."


    Strategic confidence, Gordon Brown? Are you sure?

    Jumping on any bandwagon and running around like a headless chicken would be more appropriate!

  • Comment number 26.

    9 and 12

    This is not a British vs. foreign issue.

    The most worrying aspect is that it cannot possibly be true that it is cheaper to ship in, house, feed and employ construction workers from elsewhere in the EU, paid above the minimum wage in Euros, than it would be to employ local UK workers, paid in sterling.

    Either the UK bidders for the contract were trying to make a colossal profit margin or, there is something dodgy about the contract between Total and the US company who won it then sub contracted to Irem.

    It's impossible for us to know exactly how it was awarded, but something about this Lincs. contract stinks of fish.

    It has been pointed out that this situation is far from unique, or confind to the UK.

    In other words, it looks like it's not only bankers and politicians who are corrupt.

  • Comment number 27.

    So far as I can see, what you said in September 2007 is as good an example of you letting Brown off the hook as any. Brown makes a nonsensical, undeliverable promise, and even before he's actually said it, your conclusion is that this makes life difficult for the Tories. Eh?

    Perhaps if you had drawn attention to the inconsistencies of such a statement, and pointed out that it was a purely political soundbite, rather than some dramatic change of policy, borne more out of a desperation to hide his Scottishness and steal Tory clothes, the difficulties arising out of EU employment legislation might have become a topic of debate before all this nonsense started.

  • Comment number 28.

    The problem at Total hasn't been caused by European law but by the government approved sale of British industry to foreign companies. Quite understandably these companies want to use contractors they have confidence in or who have particular expertise. The same thing will be repeated when EDF/Areva start to build nuclear power stations in the UK. Most of the design and manufacturing will be in France. Brown pushed through the sale of Westinghouse ( by BNFL) to Toshiba just as the the UK and many countries in the world need start to building nuclear power stations again. Non existent strategic planning.

  • Comment number 29.

    Your last comment actually mentions the BNP and David Cameron in the same short paragraph. I really don't need to ponder about what would have happened if David Cameron had said this. He didn't.

    Please, Nick - try to stick to the facts. There is so much you and the other reporters on the BBC have let slip through your fingers, like what Mandleson was doing on Deripaska's yacht. I'm still waiting for an answer, as I am sure plenty of others are, too.

    This government is guilty of so much. What exactly would it take for you to start asking the pertinent questions?

  • Comment number 30.

    The trades unions can no longer sit on the fence and trade pleasantries with their members.

    We are back in a situation where they are paid by their members to look after their rights not a labour government who has literally sold us all down the river.

    If they are to regain any respect as trade union officials then they should start doing their job.

    They have had an easy time of it over the last few years but now we shall see what sort of mettle this new breed of trade union officials are made of.

    No one believes Mandelson about anything.

    This time he's completely out of his depth.

  • Comment number 31.

    Nick I am not sure of the point you are trying to make by providing your quote? You make it appear that you are attacking Brown for his words yet the rest of your post suggest quite the opposite:

    "Few things better illustrate the strategic confidence of Gordon Brown. He spots the territory - immmigration, Britishness... etc - which the Tories are nervous of occupying and plants his flag there."

    You are actually suggesting that Brown's move was tactical - trying to force the Tories down a path.

    So far from deflecting the accusation it appears to support it!

  • Comment number 32.

    The EU argument is fundamentally irrelevant, gordon brown, peter mandelson and co, are wrong, WE the British Public have never given our consent to be part of the EU, we have been denied our say, we have been denied a referendum, so the argument for the EU and all its laws, regulations etc, means absolutely NOTHING to us, so do not talk to us like we in any way have accepted the evolved EU concept, we have not.

  • Comment number 33.

    This is typical of the stupid British worker. One minute we do not want to accept less working hours and better conditions like the rest of Europe, and now we are complaining about hard working foreigners. Wonder what those 2.2 million British working all over Europe are saying!

    Instead of thanking their lucky stars that they still have a job, while all the world is in a downturn, they go out on strike. Marvellous!

    KICK THEM OUT AND BRING IN THE FOREIGNERS. Maybe then, and only then, will we start to get the message.

    Do not be amazed to hear Dave pretending to be on the side of these workers' (sic) side and play the protector while his party DESTROYED British Industry in the 80s and 90s and sold the lot to the foreigners. Ahh, investment coming UK they shouted. Trust in the UK economy they paraded.

    Now, get back to work and thank God you still have a job!


  • Comment number 34.

    One of the facts that discredits Mr Mandelson and Lindsey Oil operators Totals views that the foreign labour are under the same pay and conditions as the highly skilled British tradesmen,
    The foreign labour stay on an accommodation barge probably in 2-4 berth rooms, therefore each of the 250 workers will not be in receipt of the £217.35 per week lodge allowance stipulated by the NACEI agreement (Blue book) that the British skilled tradesmen are entitled to under the agreement.
    This is only one instance of the terms and conditions being eroded by the foreign labour which in turn is detrimental to the British economy as the lodge allowance is not being put back into the local economy i.e. through guest houses and land lords thus putting them out of business as well!
    This blatant lie from Total and Mr Mandelson also casts doubt on their statement that the foreign workers are on the same hourly rate as the skilled British tradesmen!

  • Comment number 35.

    Mandelson with his cupid bow mouth and stained teeth leaves me quite cold. Goodness only knows how the frustrated workers are reacting to him.

  • Comment number 36.

    Politicians particularly spinless Labour ones are running scared that this is the thin end of the wedge and the UK worker will finally focus on what has been happening for the last decade i.e. McStalin and his sycophants have at best turned a blind eye to overseas outsourcing but more accurately actively encouraged. As for the unions their breathtaking is beyond jaw-dropping having demanded we welcome such unwanted arrivals with open arms when they taking our jobs and fought tooth and nail for their rights whilst ignoring their longstanding UK membership. That so much of the work that was once done in the UK and has been encouraged to move overseas by a compliant government drunk on multiculturalism and globalisation is nothing short of a national scandal and thank God they've finally be rumbled.

  • Comment number 37.

    Onlywayup wrote:

    This is typical of the stupid British worker. One minute we do not want to accept less working hours and better conditions like the rest of Europe, and now we are complaining about hard working foreigners.

    Don't you see the irony of what you have written?

    In one line you are talking about British workers refusing to accept shorter working hours and the next you are talking about "hard working" foreigners?

    Wouldn't the British workers working the longer hours be the harder workers?

    Or are the only British workers who work long hours public workers who are claiming thousands extra a month on over time?

  • Comment number 38.

    We all know GB doesn't do anything without very careful planning. When he promised "British jobs for British workers" he meant it in the sense that most ordinary people would understand it. It's hardly that complicated a concept after all. He will also have done it knowing exactly how little he could deliver against that meaning, but calculating that the soundbite would have greater political value.

    Now the promise has backfired spectacularly, he and Mandelson are claiming that he didn't mean it in the sense that it seems most ordinary people (even Nick!) did in fact understand it.

    So, first GB shows poor judgment, then when he's found out he treats us like idiots.

    When are the BBC and other commentators going to start taking GB and other government spokesmen to task over this? I have yet to hear a single reporter challenge this behaviour directly.

  • Comment number 39.

    Just because the Total contract might be legal, does not make it morally acceptable. It is discriminatory.

    The fact that it may legal shows how bloody awful the EU laws are.

    We could have a much more constructive and balanced relationship with the EU if we were outside of it. Money talks as the saying goes, and if we pulled out of the EU and created a low-tax, dynamic economy the EU would trade with us, only it would be on mutually agreeable terms, instead of the master/slave terms we have now where we have to work within rules that NO UK citizen has ever even had the opportunity to vote upon.

    The EU could have been a great thing. In theory it was a brilliant idea, but it is a flawed and failing, undemocratic dictatorship in the making.

    We should not obey, nor pay taxes to provide, laws that we have absolutely no say in whatsoever.

    No taxation without representation.

    And don't even go near claiming that the EU Parliament has any power, it has NONE. It can only make suggestions about amendments to policy. It cannot enforce any amendment. Just because our unelected PM has a one in twenty seven say on suggesting ideas for laws to be put forward by the EU council, does NOT in any way shape or form, resemble democracy. The EU Commission, taking representations from over 3000 secret working groups, defines the laws. the EU council and council of minsters fine tune them, give them to parliament to rubber stamp to give a tiny facile fig-leaf of fake democracy.

    I have never ever ever ever ever been given any say whatsoever, by way of vote or any other means, over any law or decision making process in the EU, EVER.


    It is arrogant in the extreme to suggest that this contract making process is all OK merely because it does not break EU rules. We have never ever been given any say at all about the EU rules.

    If companies can operate a policy of refusing to employ people on the grounds that they are from a specific EU member nation, AND THEY ARE, then that is discriminatory and should be outlawed.

    This protest is about ending discrimination and about the British having some say about our own future, and about how the British government have treated British tax-paying, voting, working people with complete and total contempt.

  • Comment number 40.

    The root cause of the strike is actually the failure of democracy in the UK.

    Today we had an unelected appointee of a Business Secretary defending labour laws made by unelected European Commissioners, under a constitution on which the British people were denied a referendum by an unelected prime minister in direct contravention of his predecessor’s general election manifesto commitment.

    The strikers are doing the whole of the British people an enormous favour by standing up for our rights to determine our own destiny by democratic means against European autocrats.

    Call an election.

  • Comment number 41.

    No 38 said:

    We all know GB doesn't do anything without very careful planning. When he promised "British jobs for British workers" he meant it in the sense that most ordinary people would understand it.

    ----- ----- ----- -----

    I've seen very little evidence of the Golem's "careful planning".
    This "British jobs for British workers" was as ill-judged and ill-conceived as his "no return to boom and bust". A populist utterance to increase popularity. The first (boom and bust) was to reassure the middle classes, the latter (British jobs for British workers) was to pander to the proletariat.
    His approach to the recession has been the "headless chicken" approach and, to be perfectly honest, a headless chicken would probably do less damage than the Golem.
    He's running amok. Where's Rabbi Low when you need him?
    And yes, I know, Rabbi Low is in the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague.

  • Comment number 42.

    Just listening to Keith Vaz on Newsnight trying to dig Gollum out of his "British Jobs For British Workers" hole.

    God, I've seen some two faced, squirming and political wriggling in my time, but that took the cake. I nearly fell off my chair laughing. Nigel Farage took him to bits and Vaz just kept interrupting and trying to talk over the top of him.

    And, the union leader was all at sea... he didnt know whether he was coming or going. Paxo tied him up in knots, but as per usual, let both him and Vaz off the hook. Chances are if there had been a Conservative reprasentative there he would probably have got the usual "do nothing"/"what was Osborne doing on that yacht" guff instead of dealing with the issues....

    I dont normally have any time for UKIP, but I'll give them credit for one thing. The only candidate of any political flavour that I have seen in my home town at all in the last 14 months, who has tried to engage the people is the UKIP candidate. Nobody else is in the slightest bit interested.

  • Comment number 43.

    About 2500 (based on BBC figures) people believe that discrimination is taking place, they believe this so strongly that they are willing to go on strike and lose pay to highlight the issue. Now they may well be wrong but they may just turn out to be right, the logical move is to investigate and find out the truth. Instead Gordon Brown & Lord Mandelson have chosen to take the word of Total and have labelled the the strikers as xenophobes. They well may find the low regard they have for the electorate is reciprocated at the next election.

  • Comment number 44.

    Hi Nick

    If you would be kind enough to raise your head from the Westminster bubble you would see how the country regards Lord Mandelson.

    In the "bubble" he is seen as a skilful operator whereas outside he is seen as duplicitous and someone who let's be polite is happy to misrepresent things. So in the outside world he is seen as one of the things wrong in our politics. If we wished to clean up the Lords it would have been better not to send him there.

    As to Gordon Brown everyone heard the phrase about British Jobs and whilst I do not support wildcat strikes I find it very wrong that Lord Mandelson has found against them already.

  • Comment number 45.

    5. At 6:28pm on 02 Feb 2009, doctor-gloom wrote:
    It must be right if Mandy says so. Nick, why don't you get yourself down to one of these plants and have a chat with some of the workers. Come on get out of that Westminster bubble. I'm sure you'll pick-up a better idea about what's going on from some of those on the ground, so to speak. Go on, do it for the ordinary punter out there.


    What!! A BBC journalist actually doing some journalism?

    Mandelson wouldn't stand for that - they'd be gone by the end of the week.

  • Comment number 46.

    This has NOTHING to do with discrimination, race, politics. None

    It has all to do with workers wanting to put food on the table by doing a fair days work for a fair days pay.

    Is that too much to ask in Brown's Britain? I'm getting the impression from all the 'brains' on here that it is.

    If the politicians don't listen soon, we are going to see a lot more trouble. And I mean a lot more.

  • Comment number 47.

    It's not about race for god sake, dont be stupid, the trade union movement was created to fight against abuse in all it's forms, look many companies and especially multi-national companies have been guilty of employing foreign worker's for no other reason than,, giving foreign worker's less pay and condition's, Tesco's Asda, Primark
    Ineos and many more have been abusing
    foreign worker's for a long time.

  • Comment number 48.

    Ah it's starting to feel like we're back in the 70s isn't it?

    But anyway, as far as I can see this issue highlights a (if not the) fundamental flaw with the EU - the free movement of labour means that no country is protected, in effect the EU behaves like a country, when it is not, and clearly isn't accepted as such by much of the population

    for example there wouldn't be such a problem if these jobs went to a contractor in Wales or Kent, but because they're Italian - they're 'foreign'

    But within the EU they aren't - everybody is the same

    to me this just highlights that, culturally, nations (or Britain at least) are not ready for this step - they do not regard EU countries as part of the same state

    I don't say this as a euroskeptic, I just see one massive, obvious problem that this feature of the EU brings up

  • Comment number 49.

    Nick, I followed the link to your earlier blog
    Strategic Confidence

    You quote your own earlier comments about Brown's promise of "British Jobs for British Workers", but taken as a whole you seem to be enthusiastic.

    You said, "Few things better illustrate the strategic confidence of Gordon Brown. He spots the territory - immigration, Britishness... etc - which the Tories are nervous of occupying and plants his flag there"

    So, you seem to imply that Brown is being 'confident' for making this promise, but the Tories are being timid for not making a similar pledge.

    Unless you meant this ironically (as when Sir Humphrey tells Jim Hacker he is being 'courageous'), you seem to be praising Brown for his 'Strategic Confidence'.

    Now the sky has grown dark with the wings of chickens coming home to roost, it seems in retrospect a very foolish and undeliverable promise to have made. Don't you think?

  • Comment number 50.

    I'm beginning to wonder if most of the commenters on BBC blogs aren't all fake accounts made by a couple of elderly UKIP fanatics, frantically trying to fill the comments section with badly-disguised adverts for the party.

    I preferred it when you chaps stuck to painting "SAY NO TO EUROPE!!!" on old doors and leaving them in hedges, to be honest.

  • Comment number 51.

    Hi Nick,

    Very robust.

    To use a topical metaphor, Lord Mandy seems to be skating on thin us.

    The legal and intellectual issue is, at what point does 'collective bargaining' cross over into discrimination?

    If a group of women (of whatever nationality) were prepared to work for less wages than men competing for the same job, we would all scream sexual discrimination. So if Total, and others, are seeking to use foreigners to undercut indigenous workers, it seems to me that a Class Action would be successful.

    As our friend Derek says in #47:

    "many more [companies] have been abusing foreign worker's for a long time."

    ...which is a sad indictment after 12 years of socialist rule, don't you think?

    See you in the pub (having some mulled wine at the moment).

  • Comment number 52.

    A bit left of field but if some of the cliaims are true then it's not just "British" workers that are being discriminated against but workers from 23 other EU countries who this contractor chooses not to select its employees from. Also "foreign" nationals resident in the UK are apparently not considered eligible for employment by this contractor.

  • Comment number 53.

    Oh dear! I did suggest that GB and friends should be very careful what they said in the next few says, lest a spark ignited the packed and angry tinderbox of civil unrest.

    They didn't listen and it looks like we're now heading for social unrest of mega proportions.

    A vote of no confidence would be a very good thing right now - at least the ensuing mess would be so diversionary as to diffuse the situation somewhat.

    Incidentally, I'm of no particular political persuasion-I love my country, and can't bear the mess it's in.

    The true face of the credit crunch is shown on every protester.

  • Comment number 54.

    One of the ironies of the situation is that effectively the Conservatives are gagged on this issue since their spokesman in opposition to the Lord of Darkness is Kenneth Clarke who probably feels that Mandy hasnt gone far enough in reconfirming the supremacy of the EU.

    In other words the average voter has only the smaller parties e.g UKIP to put their point of view.

  • Comment number 55.

    Dear Nick

    Politics and Unions are a feisty mix at the best of times
    However, these men have a a point this time, it is a "politically deep rooted" sell out of Britain by a Labour party, to encourage Foreign workers into the country to reduce wages and salaries, AND even pensions.
    Here lies the crux of the plot, economically we will suffer more than any other country in Europe, because Labours plot to diminish the indigenous People for the Vote, has left Briatain incapable of dealing with the credit crunch, due to too many Foreign Owners of British Companies, who have taken steps to take out of the Economy all money they make, to pro up their own countries.
    On top of that we have a massive Immigration problem, accelerated by labour, to again diminish the Vote , of indigenous people, as British people are viewed as the most Cynical about the Lisbon Treaty, and the reason Gordon Brown will noot give us a Referendunm.

    The Plot to bring in more Foreigners is part ot of the Labour Parties plans to reduce Britain to a multi cultural economy, where the world owns Britain, and The Vote is slanted towards Labour for letting them all in, as a majoity are socialists, and Catholic, orientated,
    The reason for this is to get the mix of people within Britain the same as that of Europe, a true multi national nation, which leave the Political parties, themselfs disfunctionable, and out of step with the EU, which is basically Socialist in its approach.
    Look closely ate all the service industries, the influx of foreign has a had a major impact on British Jobs, and that is absolutely visible, for all to see, now its industry that is being hijacked.workers,

  • Comment number 56.

    You wont print it,but it is still a fact that Nick Robinson is so pro Brown that his credibility is nil. His job should not be safe !

  • Comment number 57.

    Mandelson is bound to say it is alright (& get back to work) as he was formerly the EU trade commissioner and probably cobbled together the legislation that means he's right. I expect if asked about "British workers rights" off guard he would respond with a lethargic "who?"!

    I expect he spends more time going through the loan documents for his Regents Park mansion than he does on the legal working rights of the people he is meant to represent!

    Disgraceful man!

  • Comment number 58.

    Does anyone agree with me that Total gave the contract to an American company (non-EC) so that foreign labour could be used.

    The contract obviously makes a profit for both the contractor and sub-contractor so there is obviously a lot of money to be made from this contract.

    Smells rather!!!!

  • Comment number 59.

    Freecornwall 55

    Its not a conspiracy the simple reason why Labour allowed immigration to get out of hand was first they were totally inept. Secondly they did not want to reform the welfare state. Instead of forcing our people to work they allowed foreign workers in to do the jobs ours would not. The reason is simple, people on benefits are their core voters. Indeed who has not been effected at all by the recession?, the people on benefits. These were the first people the Government helped.

  • Comment number 60.


    Regarding your PS.

    It is not what Cameron would say, it is what Brown actually said to hold himself a hostage to fortune that matters.

    Being only an ordinry voter and not a super intelligent PPE graduate can I suggest that what we the general public actually want is

    1 Politicians who are honest and transparent in all their dealings

    2 Politicians who tell the truth (some hope) "as it is" at all times. We can take it!!!

    3 A government that takes into account ALL of the population and governs for all of the population equally and fairly.

    I know that this goes against the grain for politicians and Brown's government fails spectacularly on all points.

    The result would be spin doctors out of work (cost savings), commentators who didn't need to read between the lines or be biased in their reporting, and a government we could trust.

    Since there is no hope of any of the above, lets hope for new government that has some semblance of honesty.

  • Comment number 61.

    Peter Mandelson's "International rates" for the job was dismissed on the Today programme as nothing more than the minimum wage, I warned you about sophistry yesterday. Go back to Downing Street and ask them what the Italians are actually being paid. Peter Mandelson should be required to provide more information to back up his statement on the Today programme, after all he is being paid £185,000 a year plus a EU pension of £30,000.

    I wonder whether this dispute actually lies with the fact that the vast majority of workers in the UK construction industry are self employed and recruited for each job. What is the employment status of the Italian and Portuguese workers?

  • Comment number 62.

    This strike is about more than British Jobs for British workers, its about something that Government and the people of this country have forgotton. Government only exists by the will of the people. A promise made in good times, if broken is of no consequence, when the bad times come it is remembered. It is about workers holding a Labour Government to account for a promise made by our Prime Minister. Strange to think that Labour was born out of the working class mans desire to improve, and Labour have moved so far from that ideal.

    Now this Government that has made itself so powerful, and made so many people reliant on it, and has took away our freedoms, may I hope, be brought down by its original purpose the working man.

  • Comment number 63.

    I watched Newsnight last night and it crystallised my view on this matter. The question directed at the Unite shop steward was would you have the same problem is the workers came from the Orkney’s or the Isle of Wight and the answer was yes. Like a horrible parody of the League of Gentlemen the mantra given was local jobs for local people. So the local union reps would have had the same problem if workers from Northern Ireland had got the contract.

    Many of you are right this is not about EU law and foreign workers it is regrettably about protectionism on a micro scale. Also as has been pointed out this is a French company that put out a tender which was met by a firm who had its workforce ready. While they did need to be transported to the area (no different than if they came from Belfast) the workforce were already employed and trained, something it would seem the local tenders could not offer. If they could then it would not have affected local unemployment since these people would already been on someone’s pay roll.

    As for the strikes elsewhere in support, what exactly are they supporting? No one has lost their jobs, nor was likely to until these strikes (remember these are wild cat strikes, without the official support of the law or the union). The people striking other than at the Total deport are not affected by the decision of one French company and their Italian contractor. Other than embarrass the Government what do these people hope to achieve? A review has already been promised and nothing can be done until that review is completed. The law has already been challenged and that challenge failed. This strike is purely political and the politics behind it worry me.

    I live in an area with a high Polish population, some of my friends are Polish, almost all of them (I don’t know of any but I guess there are some unemployed) are employed and work hard. Already these people get the odd racist remark from people who either have better jobs than they do or cannot be asked to get up off their backsides and do a job. I can see this getting worse, my area has an unfortunate history of supporting nationalist political groups. I for one do not want to see my country revert back to the blatant racism of past decades.

    On this one I cannot support the strikers and would rather go with the workers of the WORLD unite.

  • Comment number 64.

    Unsurprisingly voters are turning in increasing numbers against Labour. As Chancellor for 10 years, Brown’s finger prints are all over this growing crisis. As PM the situation has escalated with millions losing their jobs. Reckless borrowing and spending has left the country with an exposure that will take two generations to repay.

    Brown’s cardinal mistake was to remove the regulatory powers of the Bank of England which effectively supervised the monitoring of banks' operating collateralized loan obligations involving sub-prime markets. Substituting with a newly created FSA, was an equally flawed mistake as they lacked expertise to identify misuse & abuse of those financial instruments. As its architect, he must admit culpability and shoulder responsibility.

    ‘British jobs for British workers’ were an attempt by Brown to placate the far right. Foreign contractors are here legally as a direct consequence of EU law. Perhaps now British workers will realize the implications of EU laws which take precedence over British laws. Labour cannot admit they have lost control of employment because the country must accept EU consequences. All EU laws directly affecting the UK come from unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. Commissioner Barroso, a former member of the Portuguese Communist Party, now presides over this flawed conglomerate. Despite opposition warnings, Labour has deliberately and stealthily led the country into deeper involvement with the costly EU without a promised referendum.

    Having sidelined Parliament, this Government has brought this country to its knees. It will take a refreshed, responsible Tory Party to salvage what is left of our economy and address the consequences of the Lisbon Treaty.

  • Comment number 65.

    The core Labour voters have long deserted this government. Any working person you meet is against them. The old Socialist types (except perhaps Grandantidote) are feeling let down by them.

    This issue of wildcat strikes regarding foreign workers is the tip of the iceberg and paves a nice way for the BNP.

    I have been warning of this for several years now.

    Those people who usually support Labour but cannot bring themselves to support the Conservatives will undoubtedly support and vote BNP. We have one in the London Assembly and a smattering throughout the country.

    Somebody HAS to make a stand about this foreign stuff, immigrants etc. because it is the biggest issue facing ordinary people across the country. (Except perhaps Devon who is receiving a "white flight" from our big cities, rendering our cities into ghetto areas).

  • Comment number 66.

    The core Labour voters have long deserted this government. Any working person you meet is against them. The old Socialist types (except perhaps Grandantidote) are feeling let down by them.

    This issue of wildcat strikes regarding foreign workers is the tip of the iceberg and paves a nice way for the BNP.

    I have been warning of this for several years now.

    Those people who usually support Labour but cannot bring themselves to support the Conservatives will undoubtedly support and vote BNP. We have one in the London Assembly and a smattering throughout the country.

    Somebody HAS to make a stand about this foreign stuff, immigrants etc. because it is the biggest issue facing ordinary people across the country. (Except perhaps Devon which is receiving a "white flight" from our big cities, rendering our cities into ghetto areas).

  • Comment number 67.

    Susan Croft - you are right. Benefit recipients are not affected by this recession. Neither are pensioners.

    Both groups receive a regular income from the government, except pensioners looking to augment their pensions with interest on savings are badly let down by the banks present rate of interest, I believe.

    We have huge council estates here in London where none of the mothers work. Many have several children by different fathers of different colours. Most are on benefits and everybody (I believe) has a neighbour who has been or is about to be in prison. NICE!

    This has been allowed by this government, as I keep on and on saying, as Blair and now this fool Brown are only interested in GLOBALISATI ON. Not good fathers of the country are they - don't put their own family first before their personal ambitions and delusions of grandeur.

    Pickets are the tip of the iceberg - and they are the decent men and women who ARE working. Sad. Very very sad.

  • Comment number 68.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 69.


    Good to see you engaging with your public.

    You have no idea how ill it makes me to say this....but Mandelson is actually right. There is nothing illegal going on here.

    From all the news footage I've seen the protestors don't appear to be holding up banners saying:

    'Pay the Italians more'
    'Send the Italians home'
    'Scrap the EU'

    They are virtually all saying....

    'Brown Lied'

    And that's the issue. He made a promise he had no right to make to curry favour with the adoring hordes at conference, and presumably to shore up the core Labour vote at a time when he was probably considering going to the country to get a mandate of his own.

    It is just one of a number of fatuous statements including 'no more boom & bust', 'Britain is best placed to weather the downturn', etc, etc.

    I repeat (roughly) what I said yesterday on your previous posting ..... no-one believes a word he says anymore and it's about time the parliamentary Labour Party did the country a favour, recognised what a liability he is, and 'grew some'.

  • Comment number 70.


    Firstly thank you responding to the Peter Oborne's and our criticism.

    I have re-read it.

    But I believe your response has only solidified my view. As the overall tenet of the piece you wrote at the time was big up Gordon and run down Cameron and that Brown was a strategic genius who was giving Cameron the run around.

    "Few things better illustrate the strategic confidence of Gordon Brown."

    This is just before Brown went into free fall. Hardly insightful.

    Your problem is the fact that many of us who blog on here see the important issues and expect you to present a blog topic with insight into the main issues of the day.

    At the moment these topics are invariably bad for the Government.

    It is at this point you come up with puerile opposition focused topics that are meant to divert attention from bad Government topics and our frustration grows and our trust in you falls.
    Also your high profile lead in the Osbourne discusses donation Gate is still in stark contrast to your complete and utter failure to hold 3 time looser Mandy to account for much worse.
    This can only be seen as double standards.
    I’m sorry to say that your credibility has not been restored by your response.
    I for one still see you as a conduit for the Governments message machine lacking independence and balance.
    Not really worthy of the Pre Hutton BBC.

  • Comment number 71.

    The foreign workers issue is not just about construction / engineering workers, although they've been hit pretty bad by it. It's also about massive outsourcing to India of IT staff - there's an onshore / offshore model where they actually import Indian workers here, but obviously pay them Indian wages back home. This is now happening with accounts departments as well. Also, I know someone who works in Tescos and she says the Polish workers have a different contract in which, for example, they don't get double time for working on Sundays as she does. I understand the strikers anger - and find it totally defensible. Perhaps Brown would if he actually had to worry about feeding his family!!!

  • Comment number 72.

    I must be dim but I cannot really see any evidence of bias by Nick. He possesses the type of journalistic technique which whets the appetite to get involved and comment on the issue.

    I feel sorry for him actually (maybe because I am a woman - is that sexist? No! Probably, oh hell). He actually inaugurated these blogs didn't he? He didn't have to did he? Now he is getting the flack.

    I suppose one has to remember that the BBC as a whole has a huge Left bias which has not gone unnoticed by the general public who have voted as such on "What the Nation Thinks" online polls.

    The management are probably the tail wagging the dog.

  • Comment number 73.

    DavidRMurrell 63

    Yes, but David who started this problem, it was not the workers, it was not even the BNP, it was our own Prime Minister. If this was about racism then the workers would not have sent the BNP activist off site when he came to cause trouble. They said the BNP's goal was not their goal.

    I still believe that this more to do with powerful Governments, here and in the EU who have gradually took away all peoples rights and freedoms, until they have had enough. People want a voice again, and rightly so.

  • Comment number 74.

    At a meeting in Schleswig-Holstein I heard a leader of one of Germany's key industries say: "We aren't free traders like the English. We believe in protecting our industries".

    And didn't the French designate yoghurt making a vital industry to prevent a takeover by a British company?

    So that's all right then.

  • Comment number 75.


    Analysis absolutely bang on. Not 100% convinced about the Conservatives being the answer, in their current form, but the answer is most definately, categorically NOT another 4 years of Brown.


    Me too.

  • Comment number 76.

    Good response Nick. This has been much more of a blog since new year, and in this case I can see exactly what you mean...

    The problem remains though, that what you imply in your posts could sometimes be put more bluntly - when it comes to our Prime Minister for example, the most common thing he seems to come out with these days is 'That is not what I meant' or 'That is not what I said' - You simply cannot believe a single word that comes out of Gordon Brown! You know it, I know it, Mandelson knows it... You are the political editor of the BBC and I know it must be hard to look impartial in these circumstances but for the benefit of the country, almost - just SAY it.

    Gordon. Brown. is. a. lying. little. weasel.

    Just like all politicians, yes. But not all of them lead our country, and most of those that HAVE ever lead our country had the decency to ask us first...

  • Comment number 77.

    Can anyone tell me if we won WW1 WW2?

    Because looking at our country today I wonder if all those men and women that died in thoses wars were worth it.

    Give it 40-50 years we wont have a Britain.

  • Comment number 78.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 79.

    67. flamepatricia wrote:

    We have huge council estates here in London where none of the mothers work. Many have several children by different fathers of different colours. Most are on benefits........
    This has been allowed by this government,


    This has not been allowed by the government, it has been actively encouraged. More captive audience, more NU Labour voters.
    Only now, that unemployment is rampant, has this anti-family, anti-normal marriage government suddenly released papers saying how British children are suffering from the breakdown of family and working mothers.

  • Comment number 80.

    derekbarker wrote:

    It's not about race for god sake, dont be stupid, the trade union movement was created to fight against abuse in all it's forms

    No a trade union was formed to get the best rights for it's workers by working as a collective. The whole point of the trade unions were that if the workers were united then their voice became louder.

    One striker wouldn't be noticed but if all the workers striked then the bosses would have to take notice.

    If a trade union was fighting against abuse it was only because it's members benefitted (i.e. fighting against exploitation of unskilled workers = greater use of the skilled union members).

    It is only recently that the Unions are getting so political and are often tredding on the rights of their members to get their noses in the troughs. When they were first formed they were all about their members - pretty much like the Labour party were!

  • Comment number 81.


    Did you actually read what you wrote?

    Mandleson says it is unreasonable to try to change the law, because that would mean changing the law...

    He says this stuff, it gets recorded, it gets reported and you don't notice the stupidity of this statement?

    Read it again:

    "I don't think it's reasonable to seek to change the law in a way, in respect of this European directive which would extend collectively bargained entitlements to all companies and employees in adjacent employment, because that's not in UK law, let alone EU law."

    If you could be bothered to ask him about oleg/tarrifs etc, would you accept an answer of:

    "I am not willing to answer that question untill you already know the answer"

    Oh yes, now I remember, that is exactly what he does, and you accept again and again...

    Get a grip Nick, the english language is supposed to be a tool of your trade...

  • Comment number 82.

    Susan: I agree that Brown stuck his foot into it, right up to his elbow. It was a stupid thing to say, stupid and meaningless (completely meaningless since apparent brown did not actually mean what he said).

    I know this board is not truly representative, but in the main it is populated by intelligent people, and some of the sentimental rhetoric is at best sentimental nonsense and at worse very worrying. I mean really what has who won WWII, much less WWI, go to do with the current situation? Keep Britain for the British, kick all the foreigners out and the assorted crud that seems to be creeping in here, I tell you something if this becomes the mantra of this country because times are hard, then I will follow the Poles and Czech’s etc across the border.

    I don’t want to live in an ignorant xenophobic country, people can wrap the prejudices in the most glittery justification they want, its still prejudice. As I have said previously on these boards, when it comes to personal freedoms I am very liberal and I believe everyone no matter where they were born should have the same freedoms.

    By the way Susan this is not directed at you, or anyone else specifically at this point, as I said at the beginning I agree with you that in part it is directly Brown’s fault this has come about, just as it is Total’s for not thinking things through. I just think this is the first signs of a cultural malaise that may be growing in the UK.

  • Comment number 83.


    It is good that you are now responding to the comments on your blog but yet again you are missing the point:

    a) In your linked post - supposedly countering the Labour Lackey critisism - you merely comment on the use of the language and do not question GB's ability to deliver his promise. Also note no mention of meaning simply training for British workers for British jobs which is the spin Labour are now trying to put on it.

    b) Even now you have made no comment on the fact that it is GB's phrase which is being used by the strikers as the justification for their actions. If nothing else I thought you would have commented that this phrase is likely to haunt Brown in the same way that 'There is no such thing as Society' was used against Thatcher even though in both cases they may be used out of context by their opponents.

  • Comment number 84.

    A few key points and one big worry have surfaced in my mind over the past few days:

    1. Gordo, and everyone else in politics must remember that if you 'live by the sword' you may well die by it. One of the great dangers of sound bite politics. So his 'British jobs for British workers' line has shown him to be the fool that he is (being aware of the EU regulations it was at worst a lie - at best a foolish statement he could never live up to).

    2. The Unions are in disaray over this, as shown by their 'man' on Newsnight. He let slip that this is nothing to do with workers from overseas - he didn't want anyone from elsewhere else in the UK taking 'their' jobs! They need to get their story straight!

    3. Tough times result in polarised views, wheras both sides of this arguement have elements of truth and sense about them.

    What concerns me most about all of this is where it is going to take us next. Enoch Powell and his 'rivers of blood' speech may have been made before its time, but what he said is starting to ring true. You only need to look at history to see how the flames of revolution are fanned. All it takes is a critical mass of people who feel that their way of life is being destroyed by (to use a Cornish term) 'Incomers', buoyed up by a charismatic leader.

    As it stands, that charismatic leader has yet to emerge in this country, but if they do we have the makings of a 'perfect storm'!

  • Comment number 85.

    A Musical ditty found on the web

    My name is Prime Minister Brown
    I’m an MP who’s getting you down
    Was never a sinister
    King or prime minister
    Known to make everyone frown

    You will see that I’m quick on my feet
    I’m the first one to sound a retreat
    I’m full of depravity
    Just like Macavity
    Working in 10 Downing Street

    We’re the people’s political party
    With a service to come to your aid
    Our architect’s witty and arty
    Our secretary’s skilful at trade
    We send out our orders through faxes
    And the world in the palm of my hand
    We’re famous for fiddling with taxes, with taxes
    The way that we govern the land

    BN, conservatives
    Liberals, preservatives
    Social democracy
    Total autocracy
    Modern mechanical
    Slightly tyrannical
    Great magnanimity
    What a divinity – what a divinity

    He has influence notable
    Cunning and quotable
    No more equality
    Shoddy type quality
    Wonderfully cynical
    Top of the pinnacle
    And if you want it he
    Makes a reduction on mineral quantity

    Assemble the forces elite
    I’ll have them patrolling the beat
    With a force and ability
    Filled with nobility
    Marching past 10 Downing Street

    I can summon hoards
    Of lords
    Propose amazing ventures
    And raid the banks
    With tanks
    Or other strange adventures
    I can raise the price
    Of rice
    And drop the price of oil
    Or make Cameron Dave
    A slave
    And jewellery as cheap as foil

    King of humanity
    Loving urbanity
    Swimming in vanity
    Curing inanity
    Hating organity
    And if you plan it he
    Drives all the Tories to almost insanity

    Taught sociology
    Follows astrology
    Loves entomology
    Insect biology
    Talks in tautology
    Spreading his knowledge, he
    Lectured at college, he
    Isn’t a man who would give an apology!

    My name is Prime Minister Brown
    I’m an MP who’s getting you down
    Was never a sinister
    King or prime minister
    Known to make everyone frown

    So assemble the forces elite
    I’ll have them patrolling the beat
    With a force and ability
    Filled with nobility
    Marching past 10 Downing Street

  • Comment number 86.

    The way i see it, the government now appears powerless to do anything to stimulate the BRITISH economy....If it aims to use public money for construction etc projects ...the scenario now facing the country is that these will inevitably be awarded to european companies that are significantly foreign state owned. As these contracts are subcontracted out to foreign companies with foreign workers our reserves are pouring overseas. The policy of GORD-ELP-US to encourage consumer lead growth will therefore not work as British consumers either won't have jobs or..when Crash Gordon sees the light and actually does something that is specifically targeted to British workers ( which will have to involve some shenanigans with Brussels as most courses of actions open to him are currently illegal) they will have to pay exhorbitant rates of tax to repay gov't debt.....The conundrum on the horizon is that if tax and national insurance rates do spiral....these foreign owned companies will relocate to ireland or isle of man or calcutta and then there will be even less jobs for british workers. What Crash Gordon has failed to appreciate during the last 15 years is that low taxation brought inward investment (subsidised by oil revenues) now that we've got no primary industry left eg'banking,insurance,airways,steel, vehicles,mining,constuction,gas,electric,nuclear energy and the "foreigners" have now found a way around the protectionist sevice sector i believe we are heading for one almighty disaster and the only ones who will benefit will be UKIP and the BNP.

  • Comment number 87.


    My father and grandfather fought in the two world wars for our freedom and a different society than we have today.

    My grandfather was buried alive in the trenches. My father liberated towns and villages in France and Belgium. He stepped over decapitated bodies in the Tripoli landings. He sweltered in the heat and froze in the night in Egypt. He was allocated one bottle of water a day to wash with or drink. What do you think they did - of course.

    I have a letter to him from Montgomery praising and thanking him.

    Shortly before he died (and in his right mind) he told me of his fears for this country and how it was becoming. He said Labour nev er works in this country - it always ends in disaster. It is out of step with the people and what is needed.

    True. All too true.

  • Comment number 88.

    This British jobs for British works uproar will only hurry Brown to ban the BNP. Anyone looking at their election results lately, will see that they are gaining voters at an alarming rate, while the BBC's acceptable face of the extreem right, UKIP, are now out of the game.

    I have just read Amity Shlaes book, The Forgotten Man, in which Roosevelt is shown not to have handled the Great Depression very well. He just thrashed around trying whatever came to hand, in the hope it would work, including persecuting people through the courts. This is just what Brown is doing, so I guess we can stop calling him Crash Gordon, and start calling him Thrash Gordon.

  • Comment number 89.

    82 David

    I agree with just about the whole of your post, but I personally think that far from indicating the imminent onset of a 'cultural malaise' the Total issue may mark the beginning of a cultural reawakening in Britain, and an end to our collective iPod-induced lethargy.

    Whoever is to blame for the Total mess [I personally blame Total, the US contractors and the European Court] the strikers do have a moral point- where's the economic and other sense in bringing over constrution workers from the continent when there's a ready-made local workforce which must be a more cost-efficient option? It's got to be dodgy, but we'll probably never find out which spiv(s) got the kickback.

    The Total situation ought not to be used by Doom n Gloom whingers, Daily Mail bigots, Broken Britain political opportunists, etc. as a stick to beat 'foreigners'. I have every confidence in my fellow Britons' ability to see past these positions [even though many of the most vocal will be, like some bloggers here, on the Broken Britain end of the spectrum].

    Britain is a very tolerant, friendly country relative to the rest of Europe, and will stay that way, whatever the Daily Mail lot would like to think / happen.

  • Comment number 90.


    David, you raise a valid point. The prejudices you highlight are in some cases long held and arguably suppressed during what appeared to be the "good times" and possibly part of the darker side of human nature.

    I'm thinking that it could possibly be described as the brewing of a perfect storm - where a combination of factors over the last 20-30 years are all now starting to come to a head; dumbing down of education, falling standards, globalisation, offshoring, unrestricted, uncontrolled immigration, a sprawling welfare state, the economic situation, poor regulation, the creeping hand of EU directives, voter apathy and disengagement, the blame and compensation culture; at the end of it, it could be argued that there are significant tracts of the population who are being left behind and either do not have the nous or the inclination to take a broader, longer term political view - if they take any kind of political view at all - and thereby unable to take any kind of action to mitigate the effects of what is happening all around them. They have no comprehension of what they are letting themselves in for until the day arrives. And, maybe, just maybe that day is arriving and they dont like the look of it.

    There are political parties such as the BNP, such as UKIP, who will seek to make capital out of prejudices and fears - this is potentially their moment in the sun to spring out and say I told you so, now, wont you trust me, we know how you feel, we will listen to you. That is part and parcel of the political spectrum that exists in a so called liberal democracy such as ours.

    I can understand why a poster referred to the fallen of WW1 and WW2. People gave their lives to protect values and a way of life in violent conflicts. They would surely, not appreciate the reality of what their country has become, what has become of those values; what would they think of armed teenage gangs bumping off other kids with knives and firearms? What would they make of the nation grinding to a halt after one snowfall? Even the height of the blitz didnt stop London running buses!

    It is ultimately down to us, what we have let this country become and what we have allowed the political establishment to do without so much as a whimper, let alone a pointy finger in the chest. As I've said, its all well and good us letting off steam on forums such as this, but that isnt going to change anything. Our political leaders will only change when we hold them to account and pull their snouts out of the trough.

    And, collectively as a nation, we dont have the stomach or the gumption or the backbone for such a thing.

    Under the current rules, Total have done nothing wrong. The unions didnt see it coming and did nothing, just kept on beating their gums about money and indulging in their usual junkets, lining their own pockets. The workers are too politically ignorant to educate themselves to see it coming. Thems the rules. By voting TB and GB back in, in 2005, we gave our consent to it. Gordon never gave a second thought to it, all he had his eyes on were the keys to No10. Nothing else has ever interested him, certainly not the fate of the electorate. So long as he's the king of the playground, he could not care less. Its not possible to kick all the foreigners out, that is hopelessly unrealistic, and in truth unwarranted. Plus, we are an Island nation of immigrants anyway and have been for over a thousand years or more.

    People need to wise up and educate themselves politically and engage with the system to change it. All of these things that are coming to pass.... we let it happen.

  • Comment number 91.


    100% totally agree. Just pray the "Charismatic Leader" doesnt emerge from the far right. Signs arent good though...

    You listening Derek? What have I been telling you for the last 8 months??

  • Comment number 92.

    Plaudits to Nick for responding to opinions on this blog.

    I watched "V for Vendetta" the other day. Frightening stuff when you think of all the "anti-terror" legislation and surveillance that has been brought in.

    The government need to get a grip and not fuel an underlying tide of xenophobia. I think we do need to look more inward to help ourselves more. But, this includes tackling why migrant labour is used in preference to a UK based workforce. I have read examples on these message boards of construction workers not having the correct accreditation. Surely this is an enforement issue and should be part of any contract.

    We also need to examine our on conscience. We need to be better skilled and prepared to put the hard work in. A system that hands an easy life to all and sundry must be curbed. Society needs to help those in need and encourage others to earn their keep.

    I still think the best solution to all the problems is a fresh start. At the moment we seem to be sinking ever further down.

  • Comment number 93.

    THis little episode is the most obvious example yet of newlabour spin going wrong.

    Put simply, Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson have become steadily ensnared in the inevitable consequences of their own failings.

    It is not possible to govern by endless hyperbole and rhetoric without policy implementation; you will simply be brought down by your own words in time.

    They are now being brought down; the very social contracts newlabour tried to impose on the electorate - no more boom and bust, an end to child poverty, British jobs for British workers, education education education (we've slipped to 24th form 8th in world maths proficency) all these contracts have been broken by newlabour and Gordon Brown themselves.

    There is nowhere for them to go except out of office and into exile.

    Call an election.

  • Comment number 94.


    I suggest you read what #39 PurpleDogzzz said. Some very pertinent points, especially:

    "Just because the Total contract might be legal, does not make it morally acceptable. It is discriminatory.

    The fact that it may [be] legal shows how bloody awful the EU laws are."

    I am a 90% Europhile - despite what the media says the EU has on balance been VERY good for the UK over the last 40 years and over 2/3 of our trade is with the EU.

    But silly and ill-conceived EU Directives, which the UK honours to the letter and more but other countries ignore when they doesn't suit them, just gives ammunition to the anti-Eu sentiment common in the UK.

    And I fear the commentators who argue that Brown's silly statement about "British Jobs ofr British Workers" could become his greatest gaffe, on a par with "No such thing as society" may prove right.

    This dispute is about much more than "kick out the foreigners". It's also a protest against the selling off of UK industry, about big business exploiting their workers generally, and about the current and previous governments actively encouraging the greed of said big business, and doing nothing to rein in their rapaciousness.

    For instance, BP have just announced a 39% increase in profit to $25 billion despite a big fall in the last quarter of 2008. Total are presumably making similar profits. No-one could argue that they can't afford to pay their workers and sub-contractors top wages, and could make sure their sub-contractors treat their employees fairly.

    I suspect if an election were held today the Labour party would be drubbed. Which is why we won't get one, and those who call for it are whistling in the wind. McCavity knows that he'll be out when an election comes, and will presumably now hang on until almost the last possible date.

  • Comment number 95.

    Dear Nick

    Well what HAS Thatcher, Blair and Brown done for England
    The Answer is NOTHING.

  • Comment number 96.

    Sorry Nick, but like everyone else I think your linking the original point actually proves the allegation.

    In fact, the commentators at the time asked you about this at the time. For example :

    * 3.
    * At 11:55 AM on 10 Sep 2007,
    * Ed wrote:

    Nick, the clearly unbridled bias now shown towards this governments current leader is becoming unsufferable. You may as well just give up any pretence of reporting and run a banner headline saying 'All hail the Great Gordon'.

    I know you've a mortgage and bills to pay like the rest of us, but how about a return to the independent political comment that you were very good at once upon a time?

  • Comment number 97.


    I'll be brief because I am in danger of merely repeating what many others have already posted.

    Your justification in the PS is that you identified the statement as political posturing/positioning, designed to wrong foot the opposition, and that the statement had no intended basis in fact or aspiration.

    So that's alright then?

    I bet Nixon wished he was President today if that represents the new age of political journalism.

    Facts may not be as intriguing but they are a darn site more relevant. Trouble is, they are not so easy to find.

  • Comment number 98.

    People asking why we Brits cant take pay cuts to be more competitive, simple we have family life, mortgages, bills, community services, national services, all of which we Brits have worked hard to pay for and support, we are now taxed to the hilt with stealth taxes, our foreign energy supplies are higher here than most EU countries, our public transport system expensive, so we Brits, are at a complete disadvantage to foreign workers coming on mass, staying on boats, sharing accommodation and expenses ie rent, bills, council taxes, etc.

  • Comment number 99.

    although saying that, @ 98. many Brits are taking paycuts, accepting pay freezes, working shorter weeks etc just to hold on to the jobs they have got.

  • Comment number 100.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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