Just when you think there's nothing left you can despise them for ...
The government will reintroduce powers to ban strikes by prison officers in England and Wales, months after a surprise walkout by 20,000 staff. Justice Secretary Jack Straw said he had "no alternative" but to seek reserve powers, if a voluntary no-strike deal cannot be reached.
Now I can understand, even if I might disagree with, a government wishing to make strikes by key 'security' staff illegal. After all, the Army can't go on strike - it's called mutiny, something people used to get shot at dawn for.
But what really gets my goat is that this bunch of cretins repealed the existing (Tory-legislated) law themselves ! Although in fairness it must be said that Blunkett - for it was he - seems to have been pretty straight with them at the time.
Mr Blunkett admitted the new "partnership approach" would look "very odd" from the outside, but it was "actually for the best of outcomes".
"If we have got a no strike agreement and they wish to remove the order that imposed that nine years ago, and that will change the whole nature of their response to the reform agenda that I am putting in place, then it makes sense from my point of view to do that," he said. "Were the voluntary agreement to break down, we would have the authority and power under the law to bring back the requirements that would protect the prison service and protect the public. I think from their point of view the restoration of union rights and the ability to voluntarily agree with us rather than have something imposed makes a difference. It may be psychological. It may be a pyrrhic victory, but if that is necessary to change people's attitude and to back the new leadership who want reform, who want to modernise the system, then let's go for it."
So he was straight with them that the lifting of the ban didn't actually mean a thing. And what did the union, the POA, say at the time ?
"It means quite a lot to us - infact a great deal," he said. "What it does mean is that we have a right to ask our members their views, gives us a right to ballot our members for their views and it gives us a right to enter a partnership and a partnership of equals."
So the union were quite willing to be sweet-talked, although they knew it meant damn-all in reality ? What about the Tories, who when in power had introduced the ban ?
Shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin said the proposal seemed "perfectly sensible". "If you can have peaceful and cordial relationships and yet be sure that there will not be strikes in the prisons then this is a sensible relationship," he told the same Radio 4 programme.
So it's not (just) this government who think that government by signifier, by mood music, by gesture, is the way to go about things. The unions and the Tories agree. I have to despise them all.
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