The boss of Britain’s biggest public sector union has come up with a foolproof plan to roll back the spending cuts being imposed by the Conservative-led coalition government: sabotage this summer’s Olympics in London.
Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, thinks the modest cuts (around three per cent in real terms over the term of this government) to public services are such a provocation the wrecking the games would be justified. “If the Olympics provide us with an opportunity, then that’s exactly one that we should be looking at,” McCluskey told the left-wing Guardian newspaper. He also called on members of the public to support striking workers with ‘civil disobedience’.
Unite is the biggest single donor to the opposition Labour party, and McCluskey’s remarks were seized on by the Conservatives. Prime Minister David Cameron forced Labour leader Ed Miliband to condemn the threat, and so risk falling out with the union which not only bankrolls his cash-strapped party, but played a key role in making him leader.
McCluskey has badly misjudged the mood of the British people. The upcoming games have captured the imagination of the country, and are set to provide a welcome boost to morale amid the current austerity and high unemployment. At the same time, in light of the economic situation people are growing tired of public sector unions campaigning against job losses, and cuts to pensions that are far better than most private sector workers can hope for.
The left in Britain is currently in some disarray, with the general public showing no inclination to revolt against the coalition’s policies, and criticism of Miliband’s leadership growing by the day. If the Olympics are disrupted by strikes, Cameron would likely win public support for a crackdown on public sector unions, and the Conservatives would receive a boost in their bid to win an outright majority at the next election.