Mark Steel: Unions just want the mums to pay

Michael Gove believes the strikers want 'mothers to give up a day's work or pay for childcare'

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Sometimes when there's a strike, it's tricky to work out the real issues causing the conflict. So the Government is lucky to have Michael Gove, who's decoded what the unions are really after. The strikers, he said, are "itching for a fight", and "want mothers to give up a day's work or pay for expensive childcare".

Presumably, he's heard secret tapes of union leaders making speeches that go: "Brothers and sisters, we the working men and women of this country must stand united against the people ruining our livelihoods – mothers, the parasites. How much longer will they push buggies and dance to Davina McCall fitness programmes with no regard for the impact on our members?" Then they get the crowd to chant: "Two, four, six, eight, Make it expensive to procreate."

Seventeen unions have held a ballot for the strike, and, in each case, they voted at least two to one to support it. Midwives voted for it, so for years they must have been telling women to push a bit more while thinking: "Hee hee, in a few years we'll make you pay a fortune to look after this little bastard. That'll teach you to let your waters break while I'm watching Cash in the Attic."

Eighty-two per cent of head teachers voted for the strike, the anarchists. Because they spend every day bawling at kids in their office: "WHAT is the meaning of THIS? You do NOT walk down MY corridor without KICKING random people. I'm ITCHING for a fight now. PUNCH someone AT ONCE."

A poll suggests that 61 per cent of the country supports the strike, so Britain must be on the edge of a bizarre revolution, itching for a fight with authority, in order to transform society by making mothers pay for expensive childcare.

The Government also argues that the strike to defend pensions is unjustified, because people who don't work in the public sector have even worse ones. This might be a reasonable argument, if we assume that the money saved by the Government in pension payments will be shared out among everyone else with an even worse pension. The plan must be to take it round in a box for the homeless, and then look after their children for free.

The argument that people should put up with being battered because other people are battered more makes as much sense as the Syrian government saying: "How dare these people complain about being shot at? People caught by the Gestapo for escaping Colditz were shot even more. These protesters are simply trying to make mothers pay for expensive childcare."

But at least Michael Gove is imaginatively surreal. Maybe next week he'll do even better and say the strike was simply an attempt to murder polar bears by getting hypnotists hired by the General and Municipal Boilermakers' Union to bankrupt us by making us want to buy them the most expensive fish.

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