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David Cameron challenges Red Ed to condemn next week's public sector strikes

By Tim Montgomerie
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Operations that patients have been anxiously waiting for are being cancelled.

Parents are worrying about childcare as schools plan to close.

Emergency plans are being put in place to keep Britain's borders open but secure.

I am, of course, talking about the consequences of next week's planned public sector strikes. The last thing our economy needs is a wave of disruptive action but that is what Britain's public sector unions are planning.


In today's Sun the Prime Minister attempts to drive a wedge between the public sector workers who "do a brilliant job" and the union bosses who "are ordering millions of public sector workers to strike next week — even while talks are under way." Mr Cameron notes that "only a quarter of union members backed industrial action."

The strike action aims to defend public sector pension privileges and the PM uses his Sun piece to say that the Coalition has offered a good deal and it should be accepted: "Anyone who is within ten years of retirement will be able to retire on their current terms." Many people, including pensions expert Michael Johnson of the Centre for Policy Studies, think the Government has been too generous. He has accused Francis Maude of surrendering to the unions.

Mr Cameron's central message to public sector workers is that it's unfair for them to disrupt the lives of private sector workers when those private sector workers receive less generous pensions. He ends his article by challenging the man that the unions installed as Labour leader to join him in opposing public sector militancy:

"And at a time when we are trying to get the economy back on its feet, a strike is the last thing anyone needs. So today I'm calling upon Ed Miliband to condemn this strike action and help stop it."

I suspect David Cameron will be attempting to establish this dividing line at PMQs at noon today. Mr Cameron thinks he already has public opinion on his side. The Sunday Times/ YouGov poll (PDF) at the weekend found that 52% of voters opposed strike action over pensions and only 35% supported it. The Coalition expects that gap to widen if disruptive action takes place.


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