Saturday, March 13, 2010

Come on Down

It's all a bit odd to me. Not just that the House of Lords, swiftly passed new rules a month ago, much to the dismay of the Director of Public Prosecutions, that peers only have to spend one evening a month in a property, to be able to designate it as their primary home - A sigh of relief then from Baroness Udin!- but that Government is apparently doing nothing to prevent a strike that could further cripple British Airways, the nation's 'Flag Carrier'.

Of course there's more to this than meets the eye, as Ken Clarke, the shadow Business Secretary, drew the obvious link yesterday between Gordon Brown and the union involved in the BA strike.

"There is no point in being naive," he said. "The fact is that Unite has given £11m to Labour over the past four years. They own the Labour Party, which is why there is no condemnation of any kind coming for a particularly irresponsible strike. They are totally silent because their silence has been bought."

The Independent newspaper this morning appears equally interested in this connection and asks:

"Given the close personal ties between the union and the Labour Party, an obvious question is why Unite should call a strike that could embarrass the Prime Minister at such a politically sensitive time. Why could Harriet Harman's husband, Jack Dromey, deputy general secretary of Unite and prospective Labour MP for Birmingham Erdington, or Brown's former spin doctor, Charlie Whelan, political director of the union, not simply have arranged to delay the dispute until the general election is over?"

Clearly, there's rather more going on behind the scenes, in terms of a political power-struggle than the public are aware of but it's tough luck for BA's customer's over the Easter holidays and worse still in terms of reputational damage and loss of earnings for the airline.

It also occurs to me that the Unions are now flexing their muscles in a way that we haven't seen since 1979. Labour is broke. Arguably the Party is hovering on the edge of bankruptcy, if all those famous and indefinite 'loans' were called in. The Government is fighting for its life and it needs a substantial war chest over the next two months. That money will be coming from the Trades Unions, to support that rather worn-out slogan I flew at the last General Election: "For Schools Hospitals and Jobs - Vote Labour.

Once can then understand the deafening silence coming from Downing Street.

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