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Unison is another influential union in the UK, one that makes no bones about the fact that it uses union dues to lobby the Labour Party in order to bend MPs to the union’s will. Unison’s general secretary, Dave Prentis, employed the same sort of rhetoric as his colleague at Unite:
‘These are ordinary families and working people, many with their children to send a strong message to David Cameron to halt the damaging cuts which are leading to the loss of tens of thousands of jobs and the closure of services including libraries and care homes,’ Prentis said.
It’s difficult to imagine why apparently savvy organizers like McCluskey and Prentis would believe that appealing to class warfare themes would resonate in Britain in 2011. True, the “us versus them” theme drew somewhere between 250,000 and 500,000 protesters into the streets of London on Saturday, but all reports indicate that the atmosphere more resembled a party than an angry protest. A few hundred marchers did break away to make mischief, and a few police officers were injured, but organizers universally denounced those violent miscreants, reaffirming their commitment to peaceful and respectful debate.
London on Saturday was thus something of the “anti-Madison” in terms of the strategies that the left employed to protest a resurgence in conservative government fiscal policies. However, it also emphasized the essential conundrum the left faces: in this economic environment, there is no winning strategy available for the left. If the left chooses to have a peaceful, respectful debate of the sort that the stereotypical well-mannered Brit would prefer, that’s great. In that case, they need to explain why it makes more sense to pile on more unsustainable debt than it does for government to live within its means. That’s an impossible task. If the left chooses petulance and anger instead, that’s great too. In this day and age where everyone has to make sacrifices, few people are going to sympathize with protesters behaving like spoiled children.
There’s no doubt that the Cameron government has the will and the votes to stay the course. Ironically, the Conservative/Liberal coalition in the UK is thus committed to spending cuts $30 billion more than the cuts that Republicans in the United States Congress promised voters, but have yet to deliver.
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