I’ve had to make some difficult and unpopular choices as the Chairman of the London Fire Authority. I’ve always been straight with firefighters and delivered bad news face to face because even though we don’t agree on a number of issues I have a great deal of respect for them.
Labour in general and Ed Miliband in particular have treated our firefighters with cynicism and disdain.
Earlier this evening there was a debate and vote on the changes to firefighter pensions. The changes that the government are making have led to the Fire Brigades Union calling a series if strikes throughout 2014. During this period Labour politicians have claimed to be shoulder to shoulder with the striking firefighters, with Ed Miliband as the lead sponsor of an Early Day Motion (EDM) demanding the changes be scrapped.
The EDM triggered this evening’s debate and vote on the issue that Ed Miliband felt so strongly about. Although he said he was passionate about it he didn’t feel strongly enough about it to actually take part in either the debate or the vote. I think firefighters have the right to ask him why he failed to back them when it actually mattered. Why all talk but no action?
The reason is simple. Labour doesn’t want to defeat the government over this issue, they want these pension changes to go through. Let’s not forget that Labour changed the firefighter retirement age to 60 back in 2006, something that many Labour politicians conveniently forgot in tonight’s debate. Labour knows the current arrangement is unsustainable, they know it needs to change and they know that the changes will be painful, which is why they want the Tories to do it.
It is telling that at no point has Ed Miliband pledged to reverse these changes if he becomes PM after the General Election. A simple commitment that I bet he won’t make.
Firefighters thought that the Labour Party were on their side. Tonight we see Miliband et al, harvesting their support and the mugging them right off.