Ed Miliband’s attack on striking public sector workers last week turned out to be an own goal. In this article for the Huffington Post Lindsey German questions why trade unionists should subsidise a party whose leadership fails to back them.

Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband made a big mistake last week when he condemned the teachers going on strike. I know he thought he was being very clever. The Tories and right wing media would be demanding: do you support these strikes or are you willing to distance yourself and the Labour party from them? Will you condemn them as all right thinking people will? So Ed caught them out by attacking the strikes before anyone had asked him to.

Cunning. Or perhaps not. Miliband thinks he’s protecting Labour from attacks in the press. But he has become the prisoner of the media. Not that they captured him: he walked into the police station with his lawyer and said he was willing to answer a few questions. Now he can’t leave.

Meanwhile, he probably lost hundreds of thousands of votes by his statement attacking the strikes. His name was booed and hissed in the strikers’ rally in London. That treatment should be reserved for those actually attacking the teachers and other public servants. The leader of the opposition shouldn’t be the person that everyone’s angry with, especially since he will rely on the votes of public sector workers at the next election.

So own goal to Ed. It’s not even as though Rupert Murdoch will love him now. They just laugh at him, as they laughed at him when he got married so the right wing wouldn’t attack him for not being married.

The strikers were condemned by all the main parties. They didn’t have to do it. They stopped hard working parents from going to work. Those parents, in Ed’s words, know the value of a day’s education. Funny no one mentioned the value of a day’s education when all our children were given a compulsory day off just before the exams to swell the numbers watching the royal wedding on television. A wedding the cost of which could have paid for a good number of public sector pensions.

I supported the strike and went on the London demonstration, along with many thousands of mainly young and mainly female strikers who nearly every day of the year are carrying out one of the most valuable jobs in society for modest wages and under near constant criticism about educational standards.

Ed Miliband unpopularityIt occurred to me then that this strike was not just about them and their pensions, but about what kind of public services we want. We recently heard about ill treatment of old and vulnerable people in care homes. Like many other people I was amazed that nearly all such homes are privately run by profit making organisations. These things happen without most of us being aware of the changes. So when public sector workers like teachers and civil servants strike they are alerting us all to changes in their conditions which may affect us in the future.

We will almost certainly see more of these strikes, and strikes among local government and hospital workers, later in the year. It would be good if the press could stop condemning them so loudly and report exactly what the consequences of the cuts will mean for most of us. That would mean challenging the government and business agenda, so probably best not to hang around waiting for it to happen.

Maybe Ed will begin to feel the heat from Labour supporters many of whom were on strike on Thursday. He should remember that Labour grew 100 years ago from supporting working people and their campaigns for a better life. The clue’s in the name. Otherwise people might begin to wonder what Labour and Ed is really for.

Originally published in the Huffington Post (UK)

Lindsey German

As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.

Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.