Sunday, 19 June 2016

Blaming Labour, Unions, Wilshaw, Gove1s alarmism, ASOS, etc

In typical fashion, Andrew Rawnsley suggests that if the Remain camp fails to gain a victory in the EU referendum, "the finger of blame" will point briefly at Cameron, and then "it will turn to the Labour party" (Labour needs to seize the day and make a powerful case for Remain,12/06/16). A huge amount of evidence has to be ignored, and a fair amount of biased opinion added, before Labour should even share responsibility for such an event. This referendum campaign has revealed not only the prime minister`s political naivety, but his complete lack of foresight.

    Stupidly announcing his pre-resignation prior to the referendum taking place was the first of many mistakes. Did Cameron really expect loyalty from all of his cabinet, with so many opportunities available to any Tories willing to sacrifice principles for popularity? Should he not have prepared in advance for the ambitious Johnson to play the role of the 1846 Disraeli to his Robert Peel? Tories talk so much about the importance of national history in the school curriculum, but team Cameron appear to have learned very little from it. Then there`s Michael Gove, whose time as Education Secretary will best be remembered for the amount of expert advice which went unheeded!
   Another obvious point is whether Cameron ever considered whose support would be needed if Remain was to prove victorious, when evidence suggested, months ago, that non-Tory voters would have to be persuaded. Even Rawnsley admits he has "rather banged on about it"! Yet Cameron`s government continued its assault on trade unions, and offered no regulation to prevent the exploitation of private tenants, whilst the prime minister himself continued to ridicule the very man whose support, arguably, he needed most of all, at PMQs. 
     Blaming Labour, and Corbyn in particular, will undoubtedly dominate headlines if Brexit is victorious, with fairness again the loser. 

If there really is, as your editorial suggests, a "new Tory critique of rapacious capitalism", this government would not only strip Sir Philip Green of his knighthood, regardless of whether he gives evidence to the select committee this week or not, but would also scrap its attempts to send trade union rights back to the nineteenth century (Tycoons want respect as well as money but they must earn it,13/06/16). The proposals in the current Trade Union Bill have their origins in Gladstone`s Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1871, a law so pernicious even Disraeli saw the need to repeal it at the earliest opportunity.

The out-going chief of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, may well have found "the most difficult thing" about his job to have been saying "uncomfortable things to government", but he certainly found it easy to generalise about schools and teaching (Schools inspector; keep my post independent, 11/06/16). The number of government ministers he has upset by "telling truth to power" has to be multiplied thousands of times to reach the number of teachers he has demoralised with his simplified and damning generalisations. His successor should first ensure she acknowledges the huge improvements which have been made in schools generally, always due to the hard work of brilliant teachers, before adding any relevant, specific and detailed criticism. Had Wilshaw done that, schools would probably not be having to deal with the huge recruitment crisis they now face.

Sorry, Martin Kettle, but Michael Gove has not "morphed in the space of a few weeks into a Donald Trump-style scaremonger" (Narrow, nasty, unprincipled: whatever has happened to Michael Gove? 10/06/16). Teachers will never forget the way Gove justified his wholesale changes to the examinations, curricula and assessment methods, when appointed Education Secretary in 2010; standards were apparently falling, examinations were too easy, pupils were not being stretched and teaching was in need of massive improvement. The fact that none of these alarmist claims were substantiated by any empirical evidence was irrelevant; "frightening British voters" appears to be his default policy!

The dehumanisation of the workforce, as illustrated by Sport Direct`s treatment of its staff, is more common than is realised. Felicity Lawrence states that Asley`s company "is not alone", but "may be on one extreme", but sadly this appears to be untrue (A brutal and inhumane way to treat staff, and Sports Direct is not alone, 08/06/16). Monday`s edition of the Morning Star focused on the online retailer`s abuse of its employees, and its refusal to recognise the relevant union, GMB. At the warehouse in Grimethorpe in South Yorkshire, workers are subjected to frequent body searches, security checks before going to the loo, and "flexi" shifts, where they use up holiday time when they are not required, often at a few hours` notice.
      With the Tory government, whether led by Cameron or Johnson, intent on reducing trade union rights back to the nineteenth century with a bill not totally dissimilar to Gladstone`s Criminal Law Amendment Act, it is high time, as Lawrence suggests, for workers to exercise their "collective muscle".

 So desperate is Cameron for his political career not to end in an ignominious sacking by his party, he is now prepared to offer almost anything to persuade voters to shun the idea of Brexit (Morning Star,07/06/16). The man who a few months ago was going all-out for a Bill to take trade unions` rights back to the nineteenth century, now has the gall to say that after a vote for Remain, under his government, "workers` rights will be protected". His hypocrisy, it seems, knows no bounds,The revelations of the terrible working conditions of the ASOS workers exposed in your paper (Morning Star,06/06/16), as well as earlier news of similar slave labour in Sports Direct and Amazon warehouses, and the refusal to recognise trade unions by so many firms, reveal a Tory government caring not a jot for the quality of life of working people. Shrinking the state back to 1930s` levels means the return of de-regulation and laissez-faire.
  As Cameron needs Labour support so badly, Labour should be giving it on some terms of their own: why not demand the withdrawal of the Trade Union Bill, and instead insist on a promise to legislate ensuring no company or employer can prevent workers, by threats, bullying or any other tactics, from joining a union?
   Ironic, isn`t it, that the Remain team need young people to vote in huge numbers, when prior to the general election, and the Tories didn`t, electronic voting was rejected as the obvious way to take elections into the twenty first century. Had Cameron shown some boldness then, his job would be less on the line now! 


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