I’ve recently seen at first hand and as a patient, the dedicated work of our hospital staff, not just nurses and doctors but across the range from those who clean, the porters and all those who keep our hospitals running. How this government has managed to lose faith with all of these has taken years of underinvestment, of treating people badly and letting their pay erode year after year. But of course the story’s the same one for teachers in our schools, care workers, postal workers, rail workers and public service workers generally. It’s obvious to almost everyone that the answer begins by sitting down to negotiate a reasonable pay deal for people who’ve already seen their household income dropping and who are living as we all are with governments’ failure to check inflation. Mr Sunak and friends don’t see it that way. They think they can tough it out and drive people back to work. They can try that but it doesn’t resolve the problem that our public services and the infrastructure that supports them have been underfunded for a decade and more. Some of you may have seen the slippery Grant Shapps threatening to bring in minimum standards for public services during industrial disputes. This is of course the same Mr Shapps who as Transport Secretary allowed the terrible deterioration in trans Pennine services affecting Rochdale directly, and whose government extended the incompetent Avanti’s franchise to run the Manchester to London service and in neither case were minimum standards enforced even though they were in the contract. So there we have it, no minimum standards for companies who fail the public time and time again but minimum standards to get the government out of a hole of their own making around the massively unfair erosion of pay. This really is no time for political gimmicks. I wish I could magic in a different government who would be a lot more grown up. But that’s likely some years off. So Mr Sunak, Shapps and Chancellor Hunt negotiation is the only sensible option. You may not like it but the long-suffering public need it.
On a different note the government has passed new laws which means for the first time people will need photo identification in order to vote at the polling station. Their motive is pretty suspect. We know there is little fraudulent voting at polling stations in elections whereas this law can see many people turned away from voting where they are totally genuine. The Conservative Party thinks that will help them . This isn’t democracy in action but a crackdown against it but hopefully people warned will be people armed with passport I.D or driving licences but make you check out the rules before you exercise the democratic right to tell politicians where they’re going wrong or even right!
This article was originally published in the Rochdale Observer on 14 January 2023.