Here are a couple of snapshots from BBC news this week about trade unions trying to do their job in the face of plummeting living standards and soaring boardroom greed.
During Monday’s Tory leadership debate Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak were asked if they would ban strikes in essential public services with both feverishly screaming “yes, yes” like porn stars on the money shot.
No surprise there. When you’re a hopeless lightweight trying to convince mostly retired Thatcherites you carry their dead heroine’s flame, spouting such fascist rhetoric is only to be expected.
Hardcore Tories despise unions because they threaten the rich growing limitlessly richer. It’s why they label them the Enemy Within. But does the public swallow it?
Well, during Wednesday’s rail strike the BBC sent a reporter to Leicester Central Station to gauge people’s anger. Here’s what she reported: “I did ask the question how they felt about the strike and not one person condemned it. There was quite a lot of support for the right to strike actually.”
Which seems to be the mood of the nation. But not the Labour leadership. Why is it picking a fight with MPs who show solidarity with workers on picket lines? What possessed Keir Starmer to sack a junior minister for voicing support for striking RMT members to TV reporters the way those Leicester commuters did?
What a hill to be prepared to die on. This country has some of the most restrictive anti-trade union laws in Europe and its workers are enduring the biggest fall in living standards since rationing in the 1950s.
We expect Tories to ignore all that and side with boardroom leeches sucking millions out of companies at the expense of low-paid employees. But a party set up to fight on behalf of exploited workers?
Not long ago, Labour government ministers, even moderates like Shirley Williams, took to picket lines to support strikers. Why would Labour choose to come down on the wrong side of the argument, especially when that choice puts them on the wrong side of history?
What does Starmer find so shameful about picket lines, when many more decent Labour people have stood on them than have been parachuted into safe seats to turbocharge their political careers?
Does he see it as a defining moment in his leadership, like Tony Blair ditching Clause Four? Do the Mandelson clones who run Labour HQ fear that focus groups equate picket lines with Jeremy Corbyn at a time when Starmer needs to appear more like Thatcher?
If so, how insulting to Labour members. What a castration of the party’s founding principles. What a missed opportunity to take this divided, dishevelled and disgraced Tory government apart by siding not just with Labour’s natural supporters but the majority of voters disgusted with how they have been denied a fair share of the country’s wealth for the past 12 years.
Starmer being prepared to die on this picket line hill may well win back a few of the fairweather voters who deserted Labour at the last election, but as the membership shrinks further, good luck with getting loyal party members out canvassing at the next one.
Good luck inspiring millions of voters with the message that all Labour now stands for is not appearing too different from Liz Truss.