I'm not so sure that George Osborne did gaffe when he hinted yesterday that he’d crack down
on the power of public sector unions. Labour is stoking the row. But if this provokes Brown to pose as the strikers' friend, then good luck to him. I know which side the public will be on. In the real world, final salary pension schemes
are being closed to new entrants nationwide as funds adjust to Brown's pension raid (which has depleted the value of our collective retirement cash by at least £100bn
). We are all victims, not just Grangemouth workers. Most workers are getting a below-RPI inflation pay rise (average 2.9 percent
v RPI of 3.8 percent
) not just the teachers. Brown has led Britain into what I call the Hangover Years, which followed his borrow-and-spend binge. We’d all like RPI-linked pay rises. We’d all like lucrative pensions. But thanks to the “reign of error”
at the Treasury those days are gone. The unions don’t like it any more than us. But their workers have done the best out of the last decade, as public sector pay overtook private sector pay. There is little sympathy for them now, and Osborne is right to give them short shrift.
PS Brown’s pension raid is often written up as a one-off event costing £5 billion. It is in fact an ongoing raid worth closer to £7bn today – something the Tories have yet to cotton on to. The repercussions of this are everywhere. Littlejohn’s nickname for Brown – The Man Who Stole Your Pension – is a very powerful charge that is not repeated enough.