Sunday, February 23, 2014

On Demonisation

This article is reprinted from Liberal Democrat Voice. The comments on that article have not delivered any counterexamples to the hypothesis that the government is not demonising public sector workers.

 A fellow councillor recently retweeted in a spirit of irony, something about 'evil' public sector workers. After a short exchange it became clear that the issue was the 'demonisation' of public sector workers by the government.

 Now it almost has the status of received wisdom that Michael Gove hates teachers, Jeremy Hunt hates nurses, Eric Pickles hates local government workers, all Tories hate welfare recipients, that this hatred leads to demonisation, and the Liberal Democrats, while perhaps not directly involved, are quite comfortable with all this.

I was reluctant to get involved, as I disagree often with Michael Gove, and have no desire to defend him; yet I've never heard him demonise any teachers. Disagree with teaching unions and teaching experts? Yes, frequently, though the unions and the experts are not the teachers. But demonise is a strong word, it suggests you are saying that someone is at least deliberately doing a bad job, or making a problem worse in some way. I wouldn't be too surprised to hear a Tory talk in these terms, but for it to be such a common complaint, there must be some good examples of it around.

So I could have left it alone, but I thought it was important to understand a) what ministers are up to, and b) whether this is an area for differentiation, or whether this is in fact an example of lazy and dishonest hatemongering, that deserves to be challenged whoever its target might be.

So I asked for an example of a member of the government demonising, or making out to be evil, a group of public sector workers. There followed a long twitter exchange including plenty of examples of public sector workers complaining that they were being demonised, but none of this demonisation in the act.

So I looked for my own examples. What does Gove think of teachers? There's this, which seems quite positive to me, though he clearly has some disagreements with the mainstream of the profession.

I've even heard it suggested that the Mid Staffs enquiry was done purely to demonise nurses, which shows disgraceful complacency over the standards of care. And is Jeremy Hunt lying when he says "I know that the last year has been difficult and how busy and stressful it can be on the frontline. Thank you to everyone for your amazing efforts to make our hospitals safer and more compassionate."

I guess a cursory google search won't find the unguarded remark or secret briefing, so, dear reader, can you help out my Labour colleague. Share with me, in the comments, ministers demonising public sector workers. Or claims of demonisation that seem to be unsupported by any evidence. Together we can get to the bottom of this, one way or the other.

I am aware that many people feel they are being demonised, but that might just be because they believe the Labour Party and the unions who are constantly telling them that it is the case. Who needs morale in the public sector, when you can generate some politically useful anger?