Brendan Barber, head of the TUC, spoke at the university yesterday. He set out a ‘five point plan’ as an alternative to the coalition government’s austerity strategy. The plan consisted of:
- reductions in public spending over a ten-year period rather than within the life of a single parliament
- investment in infrastructure to stimulate the economy
- taxing the financial services industry
- a greater role for trades unions (no surprises there?)
- reductions in the growing inequality in pay
This is less than radical. It looks to the continent for a corporatist model of corporate governance (workers representatives at the top table etc), stimulus packages combined with taxation. It felt like a plea for a return to the ‘good old days’ of the 1970s? Disappointing.
I have noted before that, in the 1970s, the left was highly critical of the welfare state and the relationships between government, the city, trades unions etc. So why now is the radical alternative a return to a past that was unsatisfactory, even on their own terms? Life on Mars all over again?
And one questioner asked whether he would support the forms of direct action and resistance that she believed to be brewing. Brendan Barber’s response – we must be clear that we speak for the majority of ordinary working people. In other words, no.
But at least he was taken to a football match afterwards… How the other half live!!