Wednesday 15 July 2015
"They" are the masters now.
It was in 1946, when Labour, with its first ever overall majority House of Commons (but still less than half the popular vote) repealed previous anti-union legislation, that Sir Hartley Shawcross used the phrase "We are the masters now." Nevertheless, in spite of the convincing size of its majority, the government trod carefully and tried to govern by consensus, however deviously this was achieved. Senior doctors were persuaded to accept the National Health Service because Nye Bevan famously "stuffed their mouths with gold." The utilities and industries that were taken into public ownership were not simply confiscated, but their previous owners compensated with a fair price.
Thus was "government by consent," one of the best definitions of democracy, put into practice.
The present Tory government is ignoring both this principle and the example of history. Despite its narrow majority, based on the support of only 37% of those who voted (and therefore, on a 66% turnout, less than a quarter of those entitled to vote) it is acting with a shameful arrogance. Today's proposals to further emasculate the trade union movement are both illogical and unfair. "They" may be, technically, " the masters now" but these bullying tactics do not have the consent of the governed.
Sadly, the inevitable huffing and puffing by the Labour party in its present emaciated state will have little resonance, and we Liberals are, for the time being, regarded as an irrelevance.
I sincerely hope that the political left can revive sufficiently to provide a viable and effective alternative before less scrupulous elements in society take opposition into their own hands through riots and violence.