There is a well-known saying that “all comparisons are odious”. The internet does not seem entirely sure who said it first, though it may go back at least as far as the 14th century. I’ve never been entirely convinced by the universality of application of this particular pithy remark, if nothing else its adoption would sound the death knell for the simile (and man cannot live by metaphor alone).
I was reminded of this when I had the mis-fortune to catch a small snatch of this morning’s news on BBC 6Music. This include a quote from one Frances Maude (a man with two girls’ first names, which seems either greedy or American) commenting on today’s public sector strike. I have no desire to express a view on the sense of otherwise of this activity (or lack thereof), merely to remark on the idiocy of Mr Maude.
He claimed that the unions involved did not have a proper mandate from their members. I feel that any government in Europe or North America should be very careful before claiming anyone else lacks a mandate. Our own government has, in many ways, no mandate whatsoever as no-one at all voted for it. Even if we consider the constituent part to which Mr Maude belongs, I would estimate that substantially less than a third of the electorate voted for it and presumably only some of these did so because they were in favour of its policies in relation to public sector pay and conditions. As a result, it seems a virtual certainty that the unions have a much stronger mandate for their actions than those against which they are protesting.
Going further, it is widely reported that today will see one million workers united in action (or inaction). I doubt our government could unite one million people to do much of anything, even if they were to hand out free money in the streets (which I believe will be a major plank of their forthcoming manifesto – or if not, I’m sure Mr MIlliband will be glad to claim it for the Opposition). I strongly suggest that members of a government with very limited popular support (as measured at the ballot box) should refer to mandates if (and only if) they have been out for dinner and a movie (and maybe more?) with the proud possessor of a Y-chromosome – and even then, should perhaps refrain from comparisons.