20 March 2010

BA strike: Brown has to show leadership

The weekend papers should be dominated by Labour's attempt to set the agenda ahead of the budget on Wednesday.  Instead, we have British Airways cabin crew strike.  On Sunday, there will be a few too many column inches on Labour’s relationship with Unite, along with a boost to Charlie Whelan’s ego.

All we had yesterday from Brown was a statement issued through his spokesman:

The Prime Minister believes that this strike is in no-one's interest and will cause unacceptable inconvenience to passengers.

He urges the strike be called off immediately. He also urges BA's management and workforce to get together without delay to resolve what is a dispute about jobs and wages.

That is not good enough.  Neither was it that Mandelson took himself up to Scotland to make a speech.  Both of them should devoting their attention to getting this strike called off.  The consequences of their failure to act are obvious.

Cameron will have a field day, as he highlights what happened during the winter of 1978-79, even if the parallel is not there.  Not only that, but once this type of industrial action starts, it not that easy to put the toothpaste back in the tube.  On Monday night, when the first of the strikes finishes, the planes and crews will be in the wrong place, causing a knock on effect well into next week.

Over the past few weeks Labour have set the agenda, put the Tories on the back foot and, more importantly, improved their share of the vote.  Meanwhile, Cameron, has stumbled and mumbled through various U-turns, while failing to prove that he is the Prime Minster-in-waiting.  That may all change now.

Brown may have calculated that BA’s heavy handed tactics will win the day and the strike will collapse.  If that is the case, it has been a hare-brained risk to have taken and an error of judgement on his part.

Gordon Brown has to cut through the internal politics within the Labour movement and turn his attention to solving this strike without delay.  If he doesn't, it will derail all the carefully worked out plans for the next few weeks.

It is about time that Brown and Mandelson demonstrated leadership and solve this dispute.  If we have to go back to the days of ‘beer and sandwiches’, so be it.

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  1. Error of judgment... Brown.... surely not?

    I wonder if Cameron can make this work to his advantage. I mean he has been handed victory on a plate (having managed to smash the plate that the previous victory he was handed was on). Can he play this almost certion victory to his advantage?

  2. A good question. It probably depends how long the strikes last.