Britain isn't working and it doesn't look like that will change any time soon, says Mark Dolan

mark dolan strikes feb 1
Mark Dolan

By Mark Dolan

Published: 01/02/2023

- 20:34

Updated: 01/02/2023

- 20:46

It's Walkout Wednesday, and it feels like the entire workforce has downed tools...

It's Walkout Wednesday, and it feels like the entire workforce has downed tools.

I'm counting my blessings that cameraman Steve turned up for tonight's show. Britain isn't working – quite literally.

And right now, not working is being leveraged as a political tool, with the teaching unions, the nursing unions, ambulance workers, lecturers, posties, firefighters, civil servants, bus drivers – you name it, all holding the government and the country to ransom, for inflation-busting pay rises the country simply cannot afford.

I completely understand that nurses, teachers and the rest are struggling – and they do an incredible job for the country.

They deserve a pay rise. And the unions are simply doing their job, trying to get the best possible deal. Who could blame them?

But anything above the 5 per cent that's been offered to most unions, money the private sector would bite your hand off for - is economically illiterate, immoral and deeply irresponsible.

The main reason why millions of Brits are struggling is because of inflation, which raises the cost of basic goods, like energy and food and which reduces the value of the pound in their pocket and their wage packet.

It's a perfect storm. But to subsidise the public sector against rising prices, is effectively an arms race with inflation, which doesn't end well.

Wages go up, prices go up with them, and you bake inflation into the system for years to come.

And be clear, a high inflation economy is a dying economy. Inflation is a tax on everyone.

Teachers have gone on strike on 'Walkout Wednesday'
Teachers have gone on strike on 'Walkout Wednesday'
Ben Birchall

Sunak and Hunt, for their sins, are right that inflation is public enemy number one. Tackle that, and it unlocks so many of our economic challenges.

Lower inflation means cheaper goods, cheaper borrowing – both the government’s and yours and mine - cheaper mortgages, and a boost in the value of the pound in your pocket.

Lose lose becomes win win. So inflation is the main argument against bumper pay rises. We've seen it in recent history, with Harold Wilson, offering 20, 25 and 30 per cent pay rises, to compete with inflation.

You're effectively creating economic quicksand, and it's a race to the bottom. There's also the small matter of over £2 trillion worth of national debt.

Any pay rises will come from borrowed billions – it's deeply unethical that future generations should pick up the tab for this, and it's dangerous to expose Britain to the vagaries of the Rolex-wearing financiers of the international bond markets, upon whose largesse we are now sadly reliant.

Now let me be clear, that millions in the public sector and in the private sector deserve a pay rise. I believe that Britain is underpaid.

The nurses, lecturers, teachers, you name it have suffered real terms pay cuts. They have a case, as to the unions.

Nurses are among those who are striking in Britain
Nurses are among those who are striking in Britain
Victoria Jones

As many are suffering in work poverty, they can even be a case made for the strikes – they are desperate.

And so many of these industries could've had a financial boost, if it wasn't for what was in my view, the catastrophically, expensive and failed experiment of lockdowns, which saw the government pay healthy people to stay at home, covering 80 per cent of their wages – I still can't believe those words are leaving my mouth – we borrowed half a trillion pounds, and we shut the economy down - on and off for 2 1/2 years - and closed once viable businesses.

And I don't remember any of the unions at the time, pushing back on the idea of lockdowns or work from home orders, which damage the economy too. Far from it.

The unions were at the forefront of the hysterical culture of safetyism, which descended upon the public sector. It was the unions that clamoured for restrictions, arguing for the safety of their members, and of course it was the teaching unions, who turbocharged pressure on the government to close schools, a policy very few are now willing to defend.

The government were clearly trying to save lives with lockdowns and other Covid measures, and prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed.

The measures were backed by the vast majority of respected scientists and health professionals.

But as I argued at the time, the cure looked to be worse than the disease, and I believe history has judged that view kindly.

I always argue the worst aspect of the Covid measures was the economic damage. Why? Because no country ever improved the health of its people, by making itself poorer.

So here we are today, with many Brits struggling with a cost of living crisis, and many, shamefully relying on food banks.

Well, I've been very clear since the spring of 2020, this experiment to stop a season respiratory virus non-fatal to most would have dire consequences, and here we are.

Train services across the country have been affected by strikes
Train services across the country have been affected by strikes
Image: PA

Above and beyond the economic madness of what unions are currently asking for, there is a moral case against this industrial action too.

No industrial action by nurses, ambulance, drivers, or firefighters should risk human life, but clearly it has, and will.

How is that acceptable? And no industrial action on the part of teachers, should impact children, but of course, it will.

Have kids not suffered enough from school closures during the pandemic? My kids are in the state sector, they’ve been stuck at home today, like thousands.

The only thing they’ve probably learnt today, is how to murder hookers and gangsters on Grand Theft Auto. How can closed schools, a restricted ambulance service, nurses absent from wards and firefighters off duty possibly be acceptable?

The economic and moral case for the strikes is non-existent. Perhaps we should just bring in the army, to run the whole country. Sadly they’re not big enough these days. Britain isn't working and it doesn't look like that will change, any time soon.

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