Tory commentator Charles Moore speculated in his Daily Telegraph column that the leadership of his own party is deliberately seeking a high-profile confrontation with the labour movement in order to contrive its own “miners’ strike moment”.
In Moore’s own words, “all hell broke loose” after the speculation (which spoke of a “private message” being handed down from Tory HQ to constituency activists) was misinterpreted as Moore leaking an actual document. He has since issued a public apology.
But the government’s response to the threat of strike action by fuel tanker drivers, including Francis Maude’s advice to stockpile petrol (despite the fact that no strikes had even been announced), certainly suggests a strategy of brinkmanship and attempted escalation. The advice quickly led to a woman suffering serious burns (stockpiling car fuel in domestic garages is not exactly safe) and Maude and the Tories were widely criticised for scaremongering.
What really prevents this or any current dispute from becoming a “miners’ strike moment” is that the labour movement is neither strong nor combative enough. Unite have held off naming strike dates in the tanker drivers’ battle because “talks” have resumed — the basic trade union principle of using industrial action to put pressure on ongoing negotiations apparently lost on them.
We can create a “miners’ strike moment”, with a different outcome, by reclaiming our unions from the cautious and conservative officials who currently run them and turning them into weapons we can use to take on the Tories.