The unions will exploit any weakness to get their way - Bernard Ingham

Over the years I have grown old on the hypocrisy of politicians.

It is nowhere to be seen more clearly than when they are paying tribute to a fallen leader. The performance of the Tory party on Boris Johnson’s farewell appearance at the Dispatch Box really took the biscuit.

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You would never have thought that 148 of the blighters had voted their lack of confidence in him and over 50 resigned posts in his government. And ex-PM Theresa May got clobbered for not applauding him. She was at least consistent.

Ditching Mr Johnson has brought a potentially dangerous hiatus in Britain’s governance, says Bernard Ingham.Ditching Mr Johnson has brought a potentially dangerous hiatus in Britain’s governance, says Bernard Ingham.
Ditching Mr Johnson has brought a potentially dangerous hiatus in Britain’s governance, says Bernard Ingham.

But their two-facedness is not the worst of it.

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Ditching Mr Johnson has brought a potentially dangerous hiatus in Britain’s governance while they have whittled down the candidates to the final two. Now more than a month will elapse before they are offered to the Tory party membership.

If this is not a culpably leisurely approach to the interests of the nation, I do not know what is.

Were they not faced by Sir Keir Starmer leading a deeply fractured Labour opposition, they must surely pay for it at the next election.

Let’s hope we don’t suffer in the interim, faced as we are with Vladimir Putin’s shocking war on the Ukraine, an expansionist China, a cost-of-living crisis, an economy weighed down by debt, sundry social problems and a fair amount of chaos in the EU and the USA. Frankly, the whole thing appals me. Nor can I honestly say that either of the finalists fills me with hope.

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Ex-Chancellor Rishi Sunak has proved his treachery in contrast to Foreign Secretary Liz Truss who stayed faithful to Mr Johnson.

Sunak has the financial and economic background needed at this time and is commendably cautious about splashing any more cash around.

On the other hand, Truss has a reputation for getting things done – e.g. more than 60 post-Brexit trade deals – is encouragingly tough towards the Kremlin and the vindictive European Union and may be more economically realistic.

She knows we cannot quickly rebalance our finances, ravaged by the pandemic and now Ukraine, and wants to go for growth at the price of extending the length of our indebtedness.

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She exhibits some of the realism of my old boss, Margaret Thatcher, who brought to government the principles of a strict, non-conformist grocer’s shop in Grantham with a fierce work ethic, strong sense of public duty and a consistency that brought three election victories.

All this means that Tory party members will be flying on a wing and a prayer as they vote.

So far they seem to prefer Truss. But one thing worries me about both the finalists. We do not hear much, if anything, from them on the trade union menace.

Bearing in mind how they dragged Britain down to the “sick man of Europe” level in the 1970s, the unions’ determination to give us a summer of discontent is a serious threat to our economic recovery.

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It may be argued that they are half their strength of the 1970s and concentrated in the public sector.

But they are already disrupting our daily lives or threatening to do on the railways and tube, in the Royal Mail, Post Office and BT along with teachers, civil servants, doctors, dentists, nurses, midwives and NHS paramedics.

How long will it be before there is a groundswell of public opinion for revoking the award of the George Cross to the NHS in recognition of its performance during the pandemic?

Ostensibly, the unions are trying to use whatever weight they have to protect themselves from inflation.

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In fact, they are displaying an appalling “gimme, gimme” selfishness and economic illiteracy that is doomed to failure, however much they extract from the taxpayer.

Indeed, it is a betrayal of the interests of the wider working class that they piously claim to represent.

All their ill-gotten gains will achieve, assuming a lily-livered management, is a further twist to inflation and a worsening of our economic position.

In short, their stand is as hypocritical as that of the Tories they despise and hope to drag down to political defeat. They are self-obsessed to the exclusion of the public interest and politically motivated with it.

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It may be that Sunak and Truss are playing it long in the hope of avoiding a confrontation that will worsen our economic position.

But just as Putin’s threat cannot be ignored, neither can the unions’ strike bandwagon. They will exploit any weakness.

Sooner or later, strikes in defined public services will have to be outlawed.

What are we waiting for? Utter chaos?