30/06/2011 Newsnight


In-depth investigation and analysis of the stories behind the day's headlines with Kirsty Wark.

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The first major strike in Britain under the coalition, who will blink


first? The stakes could hardly be higher for the Government, the


unions and for Labour. As all sides dispute the impact of the walkout,


is this the beginning of a new era of industrial action? These days


protestors seem to have croissants for breakfast, but the anger of


what the Government is doing seems as strong as ever. Unions are


taking action. It isn't just as probably many of them think, us and


our own self-interests at all, it is about the defence of the


education system as a whole, that is what we are about. We argue it


out in the studio with major protaganist. They know they are


paid and have pensions and they are lucky to have a job at this time.


We have been in one community affected, here we will speak to the


headteacher who worked, and his teacher who didn't. Plus lessons


from history. Our group of political insiders game play the


future. Also tonight, could the opposition


be gaining the upper hand in Syria. Another exclusive undercover report


Good evening, today's strike action by a variety of public sector


unions, in England and Wales, and including the PCS in Scotland, over


pensions reform, involved a series of personal and political judgments


by union members, particularly teachers. It also tested the metal


of David Cameron and Ed Miliband. The Labour leader exoration to


teachers not to take action has brought the wrath of union leaders


on his head, while the Prime Minister has to decide whether to


stand his ground or make concessions. As for the strikers,


it is not clear where the public sympathy lies, the argument about


fairness are still being played out. Plenty has changed since the anti-


Government protests of the 1980s. At Lambeth Town Hall in south


London, the red flag no longer flies. These days protestors seemed


to have croissants for breakfast. But the anger at what the


Government is doing is just the same as it was in the 80s. Thus


fortified by French pastry and English rhetoric, this group of


protestors moves off to join the many others converging on


Westminster. Many of the marchers are teachers, judging by the number


of whistles, PE teachers. Can I walk with you a second. You two or


three don't look like dangerous radicals? No we are not. Are you


teachers? Yes we are. Why have you come out today? Everything else is


going up in price, we haven't had pay rise for two years, how are we


supposed to survive. Some people in the private sector say they have


the same problem with their passion and they don't have a pension


anything like as good? We pay for our pension, it is not like


somebody is giving it to us. But, goes the complaint of public sector


workers, they are being asked to pay more and take reduced pensions


even later. We are all independent school


teachers, we are not in the Vanguard of the country's


revolutionaries. You are not dressed as a revolutionary? I don't


feel like one. You are angry? are angry, we feel let down,


because, there has always been an understanding in teaching, that


teachers are not paid an enormous amount, but they have a reasonable


pension, it is a pension based on what you earn any way, it is never


going to be huge. Other marchers clearly haven't come straight from


the staff room. The police searched this group, perhaps they have had a


tip-off, perhaps it is just because one of them looks like Colonel


Gaddafi. Whatever the reason, they were all


let go. This is one of the features of modern protests, everyone has a


camera, we have got one, then they are filming the police, and over


there, the police are filming everyone else.


As much as it angers these people, the Government has said there is no


alternative but to cut pensions. On Tuesday the Prime Minister made the


case again, he said they were unaffordable. First, reform is


essential, because we just cannot go on as we are. That's not because


as some people say, public service pensions are ridiculously generous.


In fact, around half of public service pensioners receive less


than �6,000 a year. No, the reason we can't go on as we are, is


because as the babyboomers retire, and thankfully, live longer, the


pensions system is in danger of going broke. But is this true? Well


according to Lord Hutton's public review, the cost of public sector


pensions as a proportion of GDP is falling from 1.9% to 1.4% by 2060.


This fall is partly only achieved by adapting one of the measures


that these people are protesting about, but the other one, the


increase in contributions they are being asking to make will cause the


graph to fall even more. Why is the Government reforming pensions? One


reason is fairness. Another is suggested by the terms of reference


that the Government gave the independent pensions commission. It


In other words, it sees the relative generosity of public


sector pensions as a problem in encouraging private sector


providers in health and education. Meanwhile, for the Labour leader,


Ed Miliband, there is a big problem. He can't openly disown the unions,


nor can he fully support the strikes. Instead, he attacks the


Government. These strikes are wrong, at a time when negotiations are


still going on. But parents and the public have been let down by both


sides because the Government has acted in a reckless and provocative


manner. He was obviously very pleased with that line, either that


or he didn't want to risk saying anything else. The Government has


acted in a reckless and provocative manner. The Government has acted in


a reckless and provocative manner. Parents and governors have been let


down by both sides because the Government has acted in a reckless


and provocative manner! Other public sector unions were on strike


today, it is the teachers' action that the Government knows will have


the most impact on family life. Ministers were desperate to keep


schools open. The question is, of course, how many teachers have gone


to work as normal today. As of lunchtime the Department for


Education has given us these statistics, about quarter of


schools, they say, are closed. Another quarter partially open,-


and-a-quarter open. The remainder, they don't know about yet. We have


to remember, of course, that one of the really big teachers' unions


isn't taking industrial action today.


The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, was in one open school, if


the kids there had missed out on day off, at least they could share


an anecdote about his breakfast. had Cherrios for breakfast with my


children, normally I have toast, but I needed extra energy today, so


I had two bowls. Two bowls but one message? I feel disappointed people


have decided to go out on strike today. I understand there are


strong feelings about pensions, we want to ensure that everyone in the


public sector, especially teachers, have decent pension, but I don't


think it is a good idea to have gone out on strike today. With an


aftermarch pint and a quick scrub for the streets, London gets back


to normal. The question of public sector pensions is still far from


tidy. I'm joined by the Treasury minister,


Justine Greening, Labour would not put up a single frontbencher or


backbencher, make what that - of that what you will. We are


delighted to have Kitty Usher, from formally from the think-tank dem


moss. David Cameron says pension teams


are in danger of going bust, there is no evidence for that? Lord


Hutton did report over this year and last year. His analysis is the


current system is untenable. The reason he said that was when he


looked at how public sector pensions were going to be


affordable and sustainable over the next 50 years, he said there was a


real risk they wouldn't be. That is why we needed to reform them. That


is why we are talking with the unions about doing that now. David


Cameron, let's be clear, was wrong to say the pension schemes are in


danger of going broke. Nobody said that. I read the Hutton Report,


nothing there suggests that? look at what has happened with


public sector pensions in terms of what they cost the taxpayer in the


last decade, they have risen by a third. It is percentage terms in


terms of GDP, they would be falling from 1.9 to 1.4, in real terms,


pensions in the future will cost less? As your earlier package


pointed out, one of the reasons that is happening is the current


reforms that we are talking about unions about how to implement now.


These are very, difficult issues we have to sort out. For many people


watching this in the private sector and had to go through it with their


own companies, they know it is difficult too. We need to find a


route that is fair by public sector workers, in making sure they have


extremely good pension, but it is also fair by the taxpayer who is


paying it. We will come on to the private-public sector split in a


moment. Let's unpick what you said there. In terms of reform, what you


are saying is what the Hutton Report recommended was based on,


for example, CPI, but actually pensions would rise in line with


the consumer price index, rather than the retail price index. He


went on to say that, given that, these pensions, as they stand,


would be affordable. Nowhere in the Hutton Report, at all, does he talk


about the need for increased contributions to make it affordable.


If the CPI is carried out, as a measure, that will be enough,


nowhere at all does he talk about having to increase pension


contributions, in order to reach the scheme that you want to reach?


That is not actually correct, cirsity. In fact f you look at -


Kirsty, in fact, if you look at what analysis went into the graph


you showed earlier. No big increase in public sector contributions?


you let me finish. It did have two element, one was the CPI and RPI


shift, the other was also another piece that was going to be


delivered by public sector pension reform. In fact, it was something


the previous Government had also started looking at, prior to


leaving office. That was all about trying to tackle this issue that


the taxpayer couldn't be simply expected to keep on funding extra


and extra requirements as people live longer. His graphs do not show


that any big increase in public sector contributions to pensions


are necessary, to reach affordability in the new scheme.


The CPI, yes. And some increase, but not the big increases you are


asking for at the moment? I think families who are paying an awful


lot more to fund public sector pensions already will say actually


there is issue...This Is really important? If I can finish


answering one of your questions. You have answered that point, but


what you are really talking about, isn't t you are dressing it up by


saying that actually the Hutton independent commission really did


want large increases, though it didn't say so. What you are


actually talking about is not affordability, what you are talking


about, and reasonably, is fairness? We're talking about a number of


things. We are talking about making sure public sector pensions in the


long-term are sustainable. That means, having public sector


pensions that are fair by public sector workers, and will still be


incredible strong pensions for them. But are also fair by tax-payers.


There will be many people in their 30-somethings, watching this, this


evening, who are problems even paying for their own pension, let


alone anybody elses. What we have been doing with the unions is


sitting down and talking to them about how we can strike the right


balance by public sector workers and the rest of the tax-payers. The


other point that Lord Hutton made, of course, he looked at that graph,


what he said, first of all he said let's bear in mind we are


projecting out 50 years here, there is some unreliability around the


figures. Also, is it right to make a 50-year bet on whether these


pension schemes are going to be sustainable. That is what he said,


I think he's right. That is why we are better off, not putting our


heads in the sand and pretending it will be fine. It is better to be


responsible as a Government and working with the unions to find a


real solution to this now. You may say that you have to have these


large increase, but actually, nowhere, in Hutton, in the


independent commission, did it say we needed large increases. Is it


not the case in the terms of reference of the whole commission


is the truth of it. Ideolgically, perfectly reason for the


Conservatives to say that what he they want is to reduce the barrier


for public sector work, going into private sector provision, because


if pensions rise the increase will not be afforded if these jobs went


to the private sector providers. That is what it is about? I don't


think you are right. If that was the case...Why Not, it says clearly


that is one of the aims that you had for the commission, perfectly


reasonably? And one of the reasons that was one of our parts of what


we wanted Lord Hutton to look at, because that was common sense. The


point was about to make before you went into your next question was


this cross-party consensus, really, that we need public sector reform


and the question is making sure we can do it in fair way for everybody.


That is what we want to sit down with the unions and sort out. What


I would say is let's distinguish between that genuine problem, and


then the second issue, which is whether the strikes we have had


today will help us sort that out, and the answer is they are not.


Let's raise that last point by Justine Greening, what you have


done today helps not one jot? have been driven to what we have


done today. We have never taken strike action for 127 years. I just


have to comment on three things that Justine has said. What she has


really laid bare and you have laid bare in the questioning is the


complete dogs dinner of the Government's approach to this


problem. We have David Cameron saying, and he did say, public


service pensions are in danger of going broke, it is clear they are


not. Then we had Michael Gove in the House on the same day saying,


we need to reform public sector pensions because of the deficit,


and the mess that Labour left the country in. Then we have the other


ministers saying it has to be about longevity. They haven't got their


ducks in a row about this. Let's be clear what Justine Greening is also


saying, is you could have a private sector job, and a public sector job


of roughly comparable salaries. Let's have an example, your driving


instructor is a private sector, he has his own company, he earns a


salary, your public sector workers earns the same, why should the


examiner have 14% greater pension pot than - why should the examiner


have the 14% greater pension pot than the private workers. Public


sector work remembers paying contributions to their pensions.


pays through his taxation? Public sector workers also pay taxes and


contributions. We pay our taxes and contributions. Just let's deal with


the issue of longevity, I have heard so much nonsense about this


for so long. If teachers live longer then we have agreed, in the


changes we made in 2007, that if there is extra contributions to be


made for us living longer, we will pay them out of our wages. Kitty


Usher, I'm not expecting you to be an apologyist for the Labour party


who haven't got their ducks in a row either. What is the dilemma,


unions striking today weren't affiliated, which is why Ed


Miliband felt safer in making the criticism about it. What is Labour


to do? I think the issue here is trade unions are fantastic, they


have a really strong role to play in 21st century Britain, and


everyone should join a trade union. There is nothing about being a


trade unionist that means you necessarily have to be part of the


Labour movement. Although I welcome the fact that they are part of the


family. Was Ed Miliband right to criticise them for coming out on


strike today? In the place he was in he had a choice of either


looking like Red Ed, or being slightly more pragmatic.


I think he did exactly the right thing. Do you think he was between


a rock and hard place. The problem the Labour opposition don't oppose,


they are mourning from being in Government. You say his remarks


were disgraceful? To say nothing about public sector pensions and


the negotiations up until about three days ago, and then to say the


strike is a mistake. Then to invite a Labour leader of the opposition


to advise people to go across picket lines, that is a disgrace.


Trade unionism shouldn't just be about the labour Government, at


Demos we are doing a Conservative project, looking at the role trade


unions can play in supporting the Big Society, we need to understand


they have a wider role, it doesn't need to be party political. The


reason why Ed was right is that the real negotiating power that the


unions have is over the timing of all of this. It is quite possible


to have a long-term settlement about reforminging public sector


pensions, that remove the break with final salary schemes, which is


a good idea, having an average salary scheme, which supports lower


paid people, and making sure we are able to get a better return for the


taxpayer. It is an unfunded scheme, future generations pay. The problem


is the Government is trying to score it in the next couple of


years on the fiscal books to meet the cuts agenda. That is what you


should be negotiated. That message hasn't come through with the strike.


Part of the reason Ed Miliband said he wasn't supporting action is


because negotiations are continuing. Here you both are, I'm not


expecting a resolution on Newsnight, are you prepared to move on the


level of increase and indeed the principle of increase? We have been


in discussions with the unions for some time now, I think it is worth


pointing out that although some unions were on strike today, there


were an awful lot, including major ones like GMB, in fact, under half


of the PCS unions were on strike too. We are prepared to continue


having constructive talks with the unions, difficult issues, but we


are convinced we can sit down and work together. I would say, at the


end of the day, the strikes don't change what we have to do, what


they Diamonds Will Do is make it harder for parents - do do is make


it harder for parents to go out to work when they are looking after


their children. We need to focus our energy and efforts on trying to


find a solution to a difficult problem. I'm happy to negotiate,


let me negotiate on these things, let me negotiate about the pension


contribution increase, let me negotiate about the rise in the


retirement age, let me negotiate about the move from final salary to


career average, first of all, give me information. Give me the


information, and give us the time to negotiate properly, don't say on


all the key issues we are not going to negotiate.


The Department of Education said that the strike action affected


11,000 of the schools in England and Wales, of that number nearly


6,000 shut entirely. And in a knock-on effect as parents


scrambled to find childcare or had to take a day off work. There was


schools where some teachers worked and some didn't. We went to


Dartford to see how one school was affected. In a moment we will speak


to a headteacher who worked and his too mucher who went on strike.


- teacher who went on strike. While thousands of children are off


school, these ones are having toast and jam at the school breakfast


club, just like they always. Do only one teacher is striking here


at OKfield Primary School, which is great news for these kids, they


claimed they didn't want to have a day off any way. The teachers


decided to come in and get us education. What do you think?


Brilliant, excellent. My nan is always frustrated about it on the


news, shouting on the telly about the cuts, she says it is bad for


children, it should be kept open because of their education. They


need it when they are older. This is not one of Kent's very best


performing schools, they have had their fair share of problems in the


past. They say they are improving year-on-year, the headteacher says


to strike here at OKfield would fly in the face of everything they have


achieved. Garry Ratcliffe is trying hard to turn around his school's


fortunes, attendance is a huge issue here. This week alone he


issued fines to six parents who kept their children out of school.


To close the school for Daewoo send the wrong message to parents and


children. At the same time I have to be clear that I would support


any member of staff, any teacher in the unions that are striking.


It is a very young work force here, which could explain the general


apathy towards industrial action. This is a generation that hasn't


grown up with a powerful trade union movement, and a generation


that can ill afford to lose a day's wages. I look at the students,


everything that happened there, that was chaos, have they changed


the decision, no they haven't. We could go in our masses, and we


could strike, and scream and shout, but, you know, it doesn't matter


what we are going to do, they will make the decisions. What will make


the Government listen? If every teacher would go on strike, perhaps


they would start to listen, who knows. What made one teacher break


rank and go on strike the? It goes towards proect iting the


integrity of the teaching profession. We want to traict the


best people to teaching. We want to - attract the best people to


teaching and keep experienced teachers in the profession. I know


it is hard for parents and I do feel sympathy for them, I hope they


understand. He might be a lone voice at the school. But across the


rest of Kent 200 schools were caught up in the strikes. This is


Chatham, the teachers here aren't quite as resigned to the status quo


as in Dartford, they are undeterred by colleagues who aren't on strike,


they say it is just the beginning. The lesson I'm giving my students


today is the best I could give this year, I don't have to be there.


About 100 people came to the Hustings, this man says it is a


good turnout. What about the thousand who is chose to stay in


the classroom. We have a lot of young teachers in the profession


these days, for them this is something entirely new, they are


not familiar with this kind of thing. They are not familiar with


the arguments we are making, they are very dedkaited, often their


heads are down, - dedicated, they have heads down and into their work.


Hopefully we can convince them of the merits of the case and we will


see more people supporting the strike next time. They haven't


convinced all the parents. I have two children at school, one at


secondary and one at junior, both schools have closed, I have had to


take the day off. It is annoying, I won't get paid. It is wrong, they


know their pay and pensions and really they are lucky to have work


at the moment. Although it has inconvienced me for the day, I


fully accept it, I fully agree with what they are doing. There is


definitely sympathy out there for the teachers, but this is, afterall,


a one-day strike, if there are many more like it, the question remains,


how long will the sympathy last. Joining me now are two of the


teachers from OKfield Primary School, the headteacher, Garry


Ratcliffe, who didn't strike, and the year three teacher, Richard


Moore, who did. Garry Ratcliffe, was there any doubt in your mind as


to whether you should strike? doubt. I'm a member of the NAHT,


that wasn't striking today any way. When I joined the profession and


when I became a head, I made assurances to my governors and my


parent body, and my colleagues, my teachers that the children would


always come first. There are plenty of reasons for being in a union, so


right at the very beginning, when you joined the union, it was on the


basis that you would never take strike action? Absolutely, for me I


really feel passionate that we should keep the school open for the


children and our community. Doesn't that let down some of your


colleagues, who are perhaps not in the position of headteacher, whose


salaries are much lower than your's, and who face, as it stands, the


possibility that they will be paying much higher pension


contributions and having a stand still pay? I do sympathise with all


teachers, as I discussed with my colleagues today, I'm paying a


pension as well, my contributions would be going up as well. I would


support any teacher in my school going out on strike. In the end you


were the only teacher in the school that went out on strike, what was


the conversation with your colleagues like? I spoke to a lot


of colleagues about going on strike and gave my reasons for them. We


have a friendly staff in the school, and there was no animosity or any


debate about whether we should go on strike. I firmly believe the


people who work at the school are educated people themselves, they


have read all about it, they know the issues, it was their choice to


go on strike or not. It was my choice to go on strike. What was


the tipping point for you? tipping point was generally the


Government's intransigence, they didn't seem to want to negotiate on


any of the key issues, I feel a little bit let down by a Government,


an elected Government that doesn't seem to want to negotiate. I


believe they have made the decisions as to what's going to


happen with the teachers' pensions, there is no negotiation with it.


From what I have been reading and have heard, the only discussion is


how it will be implemented, I don't think that is fair. You are coming


towards the end of term, it is possible strike action if there


isn't a resolution might continue in autumn, would you come out


again? That depends heavily on the Government's position. I think


between now and then, I do think there are issues with the pension


scheme that need to be resolved, I think the Government need to talk


to the teaching body about those things. If there was action in the


autumn and the Government positions hadn't changed and they were still


in this position of not changing, I would vote for a strike, yes. Again,


it is a very, very difficult decision to go on strike. You are


now in a school which has been turned round, I think, by your own


endeavours and the endeavours of your teachers, you are presumably


held in higher regard by the parents, do you think more broadly


there will be an issue if striking teachers are seen out on the


streets? Our parents are very supportive of the whole teaching


body, and I think they would listen to the teachers, I think they would


sympathise, I think even within our own parent body there is a wide


variety of opinion already, some fully supportive of teachers going


on strike, and some saying thank you for keeping the school open.


More broadly, the profession itself, if it was prolonged action, might


be called into disrepute? No. is interesting, if it don't be and


if you see as intransigence in the Government, as you would see it,


coming towards the autumn and teachers becoming more


disillusioned, would you see it as something you would support?


support it already. But not take part in it? I won't take part in it.


Is there a danger you are undermining your position? I'm not


undermining their position, I will support Richard and any other


teacher that decides to strike, we have a fantastic teaching staff


working together for the good of the community, if three, five, ten


of them want to strike. I will examine the position of the school


each time there is industrial action.


We discussed the political implications of the strike in a few


minutes with our political panel. First, in Syria, opposition leaders


have set up a National Coordination Committee, uniting figures inside


the country and those outside. The unrest is entering the next four


months, the opposition looks like it is being successful in


controlling four cities. Sue Lloyd Roberts, has been undercover, and


explains how co-operation between activists inside and outside the


country have helped keep the revolution alive. This report


contains graphic images. Pictures show clashes between


protestors and security forces and there have been more deaths. This


is going on in Syria for weeks now. We received these pictures on


YouTube within hours of it taking place. It is a sign the opposition


is getting better organised, and the skill of those who are


literally advertising this uprising. TRANSLATION: Demonstrations started


when people saw what happened in Deraa and ban yos. People saw the


videos that were uploaded, this is just a small part. Perhaps 5% of


what is really happening in Syria. What's happening in Syria is much


more terrifying. The first time they responded by firing at us. The


security forces provoked the protestors, they took up firing


positions, they pointed their guns at the protestors. Some of the


young men bared their chests and said if you are a man, fire.


They faced them with their chests bared, they are not worth more than


the people of Tehran. We shall die as they died. We are seekers of


freedom. The protest and the coverage


require co-ordination. In the capital, Damascus, must taf FA


shows how they - Mustafa shows how they share it between the


protestors. They are the co- ordinators and advocates who


promote what they are doing on the ground. Sometimes I go and monitor


the protests, for example, driving my car to go there, and I just


watch myself what is going on there. Then I report this to some of the


news agencies or channels, I would publish everything I see,


everything I get on a page I'm running on Facebook, it is called


"monitoring protests in Syria". Many of the early activists were


known to the authorities. They had to flee to neighbouring Lebanon, to


join a growing number of Syrian exiles who work as advocates abroad.


Like these two, who now upload the material as it arrives from Syria,


check it, and vitally, distribute He then contacts journalists and


human rights organisations with the latest news on fatalities, and who


From shaky beginnings, the pictures and the coverage have become faster,


and more daring. Spreading the information, and the uprising. In


the beginning, in Deraa, people were only asking for reform. The


brutal response to modest demands, and the images, widely distributed,


has seen the uprising spread throughout the country, with the


call for the end of the regime. Media watchers of an older


generation in Syria called it nothing less than a political and


reporting revolution. TRANSLATION: Professional journalists who work


in the field here, suffer huge restrictions and an inability to


move and communicate freely. We believe these young people, who I


call citizen journalist, have changed that fact. They have set


information free, they have spread it and erased the silence imposed


Recently there has been a discernable change in the pictures


coming out. It shows demonstrators gaining in confidence, an almost


carnival atmosphere. It is too early to conclude that the tide is


turning in favour of the protestors. But it does appear that Government


troops are overstretched. It could be that there are now so many


demonstrations, that they haven't got the means to respond to them


all with guns. Sue Lloyd Roberts. We return to


today's strike action, discussed with our regular panel of political


insiders how they think it will all play out. First, banner-waving


strikers, marching in the streets, chants, rallies, all of an echo of


a not so distant time, when struggle and strive were part -


strike were part of a not too Back in 1974, strikes by dockers


and miners had an impact on the whole population. There were power


cuts and a three-day week. It also brought down the Conservative


Government. Perhaps it wasn't such a great idea for Edward Heath to go


to the country asking who governs Britain. The answer came back, not


you. Labour claimed to have a better


relationship with the unions, but attempts to strike a deal over pay


collapsed, leading to the "Winter of Discontent" in 1978. Waves of


strikes by lorry drivers, refuse collectors and grave diggers, left


rubbish on the streets and bodies unburied, and led to the defeat of


the Callaghan Government the next year. Don't run down your country


by talking about mounting chaos. Margaret Thatcher promised a fresh


start, and union reform. Where there is discord, may we bring


harmony. But five years later another strike


by miners pitched the Government into a year-long battle with the


union. This time Arthur Scargill was the loser.


Industrial action after Tony Blair came to power returned, but it


caused little disruption compared with the disputes of the 70s and


80s. Union membership has halved since 1979, it is doubtful the


disruption could ever rocket to 70s' levels again, but how high are


the stakes as Britain faces the prospect of large scale disruption


and unrest for the first time in years. I'm joined by Finkelstein,


from the Times, formerly an aide, and Deborah Mattinson from Britain


Thinks, almost a former pollster to Gordon Brown.


First of all, let's quickly deal with Ed Miliband's position today?


It's a nightmare for an opposition, an unpredictable issue. I really


feel for him. If he goes against it, and then the strikes turn out to be


a real success, he has obviously opposed his own members in their


successful action. If he goes with it and the Government don't go with


him, he will end up looking like someone who request run the country.


The one thing he can't do, and I'm afraid he has done, is not choose.


You can't say strikes are wrong because they are still negotiating,


you either think they are right because of the issue or they are


wrong. He has to choose. Even though I'm sympathetic to him


because it is difficult to choose and correctly, politically that is.


Do you agree? I certainly agree, if there is one job that is worse


being a leader of the opposition, is a Labour leader of the


opposition with an industrial dispute. Especially if you are one


criticised for being in the pockets of the union. None of these are


affiliated? Absolutely, I think he was very mindful of the Red Ed


tag's crafted his words. I agree with Danny, he ended up dancing on


the head of a pin. And not, actually, putting out a clear


position, not really saying where he stood. I think you have to be


very true at this point to what you fundamentally believe. My suspicion


is that he supports the strikes, but he feels that it's politically


untenable. Whether or not that is the case, that is what people will


think. That is what people will think. Therefore, it smax of a kind


of slight - smacks of a kind of slight lack of truthfulness. But he


is in an incredibly difficult position. For once what we are


having from the Labour Party is a sense that it is complex and there


is no simple answer. For the last seven months what we have heard


from the Labour Party is it is incredibly simple, don't do this,


don't do that. This, at least, is the Labour Party saying this issue


is complicated. The Labour Party might be saying this issue is


complicated, but nobody is actually prepared to come and say, this is a


complicated issue? Having said that, this is also an opportunity, he


could say I'm my own man, not guided by the trade union, I will


be clear, independent and decisive, and come out against the strikes,


and come out against the demand, which are, effectively, a sectional


demand against the community interest. There is a sense at the


moment he's sitting on the fence, he with do that or the other way.


What would Tony Blair have done? think Tony Blair would have handled


it very differently. I think Tony Blair probably would have been


critical of the unions, and possibly been able to do that with


more conviction. I think there is a slightly different point to make


here, actually. I think the missed opportunity, I don't know if it


will be missed forever, but at the moment, is the opportunity for Ed


Miliband to present Labour as the party that stands up for great


public services, and to frame what's happening now in this that


context, that is not happening. you have written today, that this


is actually a possible disaster, really, for the coalition? I just


objected to the idea, that because Margaret Thatcher defeated the


miners, that all Government also now defeat unions. Historically


that hasn't been the case. There is every reason to think that if the


teachers manage to go out over and over again, people will decide that


they can't put up with the nuisance and wonder why the Government


hasn't settled. Apart from my own view, I robustly think the


Government is correct on this. Looking at it politically it could


happen like that. It ends up being a battle for the survival between


the unions and the coalition. It is pretty apocalyptic? The unions will


behave in a national cirriculum will make people say why are they


behave - in a fashion that will make people say they are behaving


that way they must have a point. With trade unions, in terms of the


pensions issue, right now, people are broadly on the unions' side,


rather than the Government's side. The language that this has been


couched in today, and we should just talk about this for a minute.


This language, this reluctance of Justine Greening to say, yes it is


about fairness, we want to be able to put public sector work out to


multiple providers because the danger of the pension hikes, that


is perfectly reasonable position to take, they keep going on about


affordability, going broke? There is an issue of affordability, David


Cameron talked about the risk of going broke. That is exactly the


right word "the risk" is the critical thing, the Government will


pick up the downside risk. There are complicated argument about the


future of pensions you could get lost in. People do understand


public expenditure is too high, we have to get it down. This is part


of the reason why it is too high. This is the position of the Liberal


Democrats, which is last zooed to the Conservatives over this, -


lasooed to the Conservatives. there is a critical danger at the


moment, we have seen this with Ed Miliband's position, where there is


a chasam being created between the private and public sector, what was


amazing over the last two or three years, is everyone in the private


sector, especially in consultancy, pursued the public opinion, because


that is the way of making it through the recession. Now there


are chasams opening up, they are dangerous. In a funny sort of way


the coalition does well by voicing that chasam, but I think there are


long-term consequences to that. Liberal Democrats, presumably have


lost the public sector vote? It is very serious, who knows about it,


we speculate on every programme at work, how many votes the Liberal


Democrats have lost, I'm sure we will go on doing that for the next


four years, within a stable coalition, which will continue for


the next four years. There is a much bigger problem for the


Government, made much worse by this, that people don't know what it is


for, there is no overarching positive narrative, if you say to


people in focus groups, what the Government is about, they say it is


just about cuts, that is all they know? I think that what is


happening at the moment will just reinforce that. It is a real


problem. I think they do think that, agree it is a problem. On the other


hand that is itself a narrative, it is a narrative lots of people can


support f the Government sticks to it and doesn't move from it can win


a lot of support behind it. Do you think there will also be an impact


with the high street almost shutting up. Thorntons Jane Norman,


shop after shop, the physical impact of the recession hitting


them, thinking we have to be careful here. Thornton's isn't the


only shop on the high street, but of course this is a rough period,


we have discussed this a lot. You have a combination of inflation,


you are keeping wages low. Of course, there is also a particular


squeeze on public sector workers. lot of stuff has been taken out of


the long grass, lots of issues you have to look at if you are going to


set the finances in m the right direction. If it is tuition fees


and long-term care for the elderly, if it is not public sector pensions,


all of these have to be considered in the whole. Where is this going,


do you think, will it head into the autumn, or do you think there will


be a bigger stage in negotiation between now and the autumn?


knows? I think that's, at the moment, the public opinion is


broadly on the unions side, but unions are not great at making


their case. I don't agree with that, I really don't. It does, in terms,


if you ask people do they support changes to public sector pension


that is are being proposed, there is a 10% lead for people saying, no,


rather than yes. In terms of whether or not the union should


strike then it is 50-50. She's right. If the unions don't present


themselves well it may change. Negotiation is more real than some


of the starker opinions on either side of the argument are making out


at the moment. That's all from Newsnight tonight.


There is royal fever in Canada where the Duke and Duchess of


Cambridge have arrived for their overseas tour. There are will you


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