If you are a public sector worker, you must be thrilled to hear that senior Tory Party figures now think you deserve a pay rise. Even the self-styled clown himself Boris Johnson says that the public sector pay review bodies should now be respected, as does his former partner in crime (and I think Brexit is little short of a crime) Michael Gove. Heartwarming, isn’t it? The party of millionaires and billionaires caring for the little people on the frontline of society. The nasty party is dead. Except for one thing: it isn’t.
The man who is actually in charge of the purse strings has a very different view. Chancellor Philip Hammond says “nothing has changed”, meaning that the pay freeze in the public sector carries on. He was quite clear about this in the House of Commons last week. You may wonder what is actually going on here. Allow me to tell you: it’s called politics.
With Theresa May fatally wounded after her disastrous election campaign, the disagreement over public sector pay is actually about much more than that. All parties mentioned so far have an interest in the succession to May and both Johnson and Gove’s sudden conversion to supporting better pay for public sector workers are because they want to undermine Hammond’s position and, indeed, isolate him. They see Hammond as three things: a former EU remainer, a soft Brexiteer and, more importantly to Johnson and Gove, a credible candidate to succeed May when the Conservative Party decides it is time for May to go.
Tory grandee Ken Clarke spoke tonight to explain that actually none of those calling for the end of the pay freeze without the caveat that the country must be able to afford it. This, of course, is more politics because if governments have the will to spend money, as the Tories did when they bribed the Democratic Unionists in order to stay in power, they can find it.
Another thing is that you cannot believe a single word Boris Johnson or Michael Gove say. Neither of them have had a road to Damascus experience over the plight of public sector workers, having in their different ways, especially Gove, trampled public sector workers into the ground throughout the years. It is hard to believe that politicians could be so utterly cynical, given the heroism shown by public sector workers during the recent terrorist atrocities and the fire at Grenfell House, but a politician’s ambitions will always come before everything else.
Downing Street reaffirmed its position tonight by saying “while we bow to no one in our support and admiration for frontline public sector workers, they can go and whistle if they want a pay rise” (these may not be the actual words, but this is what the spokesperson meant).
Johnson and Gove are two politicians I could not think any less of. When you think they couldn’t sink any lower, they manage it with ease.