22 March 2010

Brown’s unknown unknowns

What could not be foretold when Brown decided against a March election, were the small unwelcome events that would inevitably bubble to surface.

First, we have “bitter British Airways dispute” that Brown is now urgently attempting to resolve.  As discussed, that will not be easy due to the fractured structure that exists within Unite:

Government sources claim a deal to prevent the walkouts was in sight last Thursday, but Tony Woodley, Unite's joint general secretary, was given little room for manoeuvre by hardline shop stewards and officials representing the cabin crew union Bassa.

The threatened RMT action is another headache that Brown could well do without, but Acas should be able to come up with a remedy later this week.  Neither Network Rail or the RMT itself can afford for this dispute to result in strike action.  The railways, despite Lord Adonis’s best efforts, are still a weak child.

To cap all this off, we have the civil service action and the expected picket line that will not-so-tactfully be placed outside the Commons on Budget Day.

Team Cameron are having great delight with all this, as well they might.  However, to compare the present little difficulties with the Winter of Discontent is a big mistake.  The unions, thanks to Margaret Thatcher, do not have the collective power nor the membership they once had.  Moreover, the legal framework they exist under today is completely different to what it was 30 years ago.

Secondly, we have a new lobbying scandal that is dominating the headlines.  Again, Team Cameron have been quick to jump up and down with obvious comments over leaked extracts of a programme that that has yet to broadcast.

At the end of the day, these are unwelcome distractions in the pre-budget period for the Labour party, even if Cameron may have overplayed his hand.

There could well be other ‘unknown unknowns’ in the pipe line.  After all, it was over the Easter weekend last year that Damian McBride became a national figure.

Sometime soon we will focus on the boring unpalatable policy issues that are facing our damp islands, but not until after the election.

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