Peter Hoskin

Why the government needn’t fear the strikes

Why the government needn't fear the strikes
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With the threat of major strikes timed to coincide with Osborne's spending review in October, I think it's worth exhuming an important point that Julian Glover made in his Guardian column last month:

"UK politics is often characterised as a contest for the centre ground, but that misdescribes the nature of the quest. Centrism implies banality, but I don't think voters want their governments to be mundane. There is a willingness to endorse radical action if it is explained and if it looks practicable. It worked for the left under Attlee and Blair; it worked for the right under Thatcher; and it is working – so far – for this government.

That a large number of people oppose what you are doing, very strongly, can become a strength, so long as they are seen to be opposing something rooted in a kind of imperative. Eight years ago almost half a million people marched through London with the aim of blocking the hunting ban – and to their dismay, the public took the government's side. The miners' strike, the Iraq war – examples are legion. Half a million people and more will probably be marching against the budget cuts soon, and will feel just as strongly that their solidarity brings invincibility. They may be proved wrong.

Keep calm and carry on has become a cliche, but it is good advice for a government. Stay pragmatic and keep explaining, firmly, in moderate language and with courtesy. The left will howl at budget cuts that their own economic legacy makes necessary, just as the right will howl against political reform. That doesn't mean these things won't get through. The noisiest causes often fail."