“Shadow Chancellor backs strikers”, headlined the Independent on 27 November, reporting an interview with Ed Balls.
The small print of Balls’s comments about 30 November was more fudged. "I have huge sympathy with [the strikers]. The unions still need to give some ground, but I think what the Government is trying to impose is both unfair and very risky... The Government’s been determined to have a confrontation".
In 2005-8 the Labour government negotiated with the public sector unions a deal on pensions which was supposed to settle the issue for decades ahead. Solidarity criticised the deal at the time as conceding too much. Why Balls thinks the unions should now concede even more, he does not explain.
Asked on TV on 25 November whether he backed the strike, Alan Johnson, a diehard Blairite who negotiated the basics of the 2005 deal, said flatly “yes”.
On 29 November, dozens of Labour MPs and councillors wrote a letter to the Guardian backing the strike. John McDonnell, one of the pro-strike MPs, said: "The public and Labour Party members especially are behind these strikes and expect Labour politicians to back our fellow trade unionists. There can be no ifs or buts on this one”.
Greg Marshall, a Broxtowe Labour councillor and co-ordinator of the Labour Representation Committee councillors’ network, said: “This government is attacking the terms and conditions of ordinary workers who deliver our public services, in order to finance the reckless behaviour of the bankers. We should be firmly standing in solidarity with those taking action against the Tory-led attacks on pensions”.
TULO, the umbrella group for unions affiliated to the Labour Party, which usually limits itself to backroom operations, has written to every local Labour Party asking it to back the strike.
What Labour should really be doing is not just backing the strike, but complementing it with an active political campaign for fair pensions for all, including private sector workers and people dependent on the state pension. We are still far from that.
Ed Miliband has been silent on 30 November.