For those who have followed the twists and turns of Leicester’s slippery City Mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby, there is much cause for celebration: the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) have forced Soulsby to back down over cuts to fire services! Details of this victory can be found in the article “Soulsby and Rushton signal major rethink on Leicestershire 999 fire cuts” (Mercury, February 23).
Written in reference to the latest city Council debate on the fire service cuts consultation, in the article Labour Party councillor Patrick Kitterick correctly points out that Labour “owe an apology to the fire brigades union and we owe an apology to those firefighters for ever having embarked on this consultation in the first place.”
Kitterick said our firefighters “have had their personal lives and their working relationships strained to breaking point” in their outstanding efforts to oppose what he decribed as a “nonsensical” consultation process. The needless strain placed upon the firefighters lives was an issue similarly touched upon by fellow Labour councillor Susan Barton.
Yet, when I congratulated the FBU (on Facebook) for having successfully forced Soulsby to back down from supporting the proposed fire service cuts, Councillor Barton was quick to remind me of Soulsby’s official line on this matter. Apparently, Soulsby has “consistently” opposed the proposals “from the start”.
This argument neatly ignores the fact that it was Soulsby himself who forced the nonsensical consultation through the Fire Authority in the first place, without consulting with the firefighters or their union in any meaningful way.
At the meeting where Soulsby helped to launch the consultation process (on September 24 last year), the FBU respectfully requested that the proposals not go out to public consultation. Adding that “There is ream of unanswered questions and concerns with all of these proposals that have not been addressed and to progress them further in that knowledge is dangerous.”
But Barton, in posts subsequently deleted from facebook, went on to justify Soulsby’s so-far unforeseen reasoning for supporting a consultation he allegedly knew was flawed from the start. Barton wrote: “The consultation was important to show the Tories the strength of feeling on this.”
Little did the FBU know that Soulsby was trying to help their campaign.
Apparently Soulsby’s plan was to push through a consultation with the aim of forcing the FBU to devote the next four months of their lives to running a stressful time-consuming campaign to educate the public about the dangers of the proposed cuts, thereby creating a groundswell of public pressure which would force the Tories to backdown over public spending cuts.
As the consultation could not have started without Soulsby’s support, there can only be one explanation for Labour having adopted this counter-intuitive strategy: Soulsby must believe that by passing on Tory funding cuts to front-line services, Labour can force workers to campaign against the Tories, thus ensuring victory for the Labour movement.
Extending such “reasoning” to the rest of Council’s activities, this provides one explanation for why Soulsby’s Labour Council has been so dedicated and passive in passing on Tory cuts.
Instead of refusing to implement Tory cuts to local services and then helping organise local resistance to such attacks, Soulsby has a more complicated plan.
By slashing £100 million from the city’s budget, and promising to cut another £45 million more, Soulsby is merely trying to goad the public into fighting back. His genius is truly inspired!
Arguably this strategy was employed just last month by 66 Labour MPs (including two from Leicester), who supported the Tories air-strikes on Syria.
Call me simple, but wouldn’t a more effective anti-war, ant-cuts strategy be to actually oppose the Tories, rather than parodying their immorality?
This letter was emailed to the Leicester Mercury mailbox on January 23.
Below is the screenshot taken (on Saturday night) from the facebook page on which I had my brief discussion with Councillor Susan Barton (on Friday night) after she decided to delete all her comments.