Sunday, 20 November 2011

Police and thieves

I listened to this programme on Radio 4 before about the police strikes of 1918 and 1919 in Liverpool and London, presented somewhat imcongruously by the Tory ex-Cabinet minister Michael Portillo.

One thing it blew out of the water was the idea that in the past everyone respected the police and private property. In Liverpool, there was mass looting of shops when the police struck for higher pay and recognition of their trade union.  The strikers also found that the support they expected to get from trade unionists wasn't forthcoming as dockers, railway workers and seamen remembered the beatings they'd had at police hands in the 1911 transport strike.

Although large numbers of strikers were sacked after the walkout (and then blacklisted by MI5), the police did get higher pay as a result, albeit not trade union recognition - the Government instead set up the Police Federation and expressly forbad it from striking.  As Portillo noted, the reliablity of the police to the State came in handy when the Tories were beating down the miners and printers in the 1980's.

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