Item 1: today's public sector strike. Without going into all the details, it is sufficient to say that the public sector was the growth industry in this country throughout the Labour years with unemployment being kept low by the public rather than the private sector hiring and money going on various projects that kept young people especially off the unemployment register. As for pensions, let us not forget the repeated raids on the private pension funds in order to raise money for the public sector.
We can no longer afford this and the screws are slowly, far too slowly, being tightened. So we get strikes about pensions that are above what most people in the private sector can afford. The rest of us have to work and manage as best we can.
Yet the moment this is said one gets people (not many but some) who shriek about the public sector workers saving lives and being poor. Nurses and dinner ladies are favourite examples. Just how many in the public sector save lives? And how many of them get paid as badly as dinner ladies? How many, on the other hand, have very nice, safe (less so these days but still safer than in the private sector) well paid jobs which consist of creating ever more forms to fill in and making life difficult for the rest of us? Oh, and let's not forget those nice safe pensions at the end.
Then there are the teachers and class assistants. Apparently I have to feel for them because they work so hard for so little money. Are these the same people who while pocketing a not inconsiderable salary fail to teach our children to read and write, as well as other subjects?
Item 2: the strange hysteria surrounding some unpleasant and probably unwell woman who produced a truly disgusting racist rant on the Croydon tram. These things do happen: rants and rows are not uncommon on public transport and the woman should have been asked to get off as she was a nuisance. Instead, we got what Brendan O'Neill has called a twenty-first century Twitch Hunt, started by some self-righteous little ... oh never mind ... who decided to film the event and put it on YouTube. The rest can be read here.
Rather than showing that ‘racism in Britain is as rife as ever’, as one person tweeted, the #MyTramExperience Twitch Hunt actually reveals the rise of a different backward trend: the tendency for herds of intolerant Twitterers to act like coppers’ narks, to make a massive deal out of their own shallow moralistic indignation, and to be utterly contemptuous of the idea that the public is more than capable of dealing with isolated incidents of racist abuse when they arise. The hounding of this woman was not a great act of anti-racist activism – it was the virtual equivalent of children chasing the local crazy lady through the streets and shouting ‘Nutter!’ or ‘Cow!’.Of course, one could argue that this is the curse of the social media, which has many good aspects as well. People seem to lose all sense of proportion in their comments and reactions because it is done from a computer or some other electronic application.
ADDENDUM: The Taxpayers' Alliance has published a helpful guide to public sector pay and pensions. Read it if you have time.