Tories appear to be thrilled that BA has pulled out of talks with Unite, which means a three-day strike will go ahead. They are in full cry against Unite, convinced it's just like 1979 and bashing the unions will mean they soar in the polls again.
However, it's 2010 and some things are different. For instance, in 1979, most union members voted Labour. That's decidedly not the case now.
Populus did a poll of Unite members between 10th March 2010 and 16th March 2010 [update: that should have said 2009 - but the rough proportions should be correct, give or take a few percent, the point is that only about a third of Unite people vote Labour]. Here's the voting intention:
And 79% of Unite members said they were either very satisfied or reasonably satisfied with how Unite represented their interests (amongst the Tory Unite members, this was 74%).
Tory union bashers should ask themselves why Tory and LibDem voters have voted in favour of this strike: and the answer is that they have a predatory employer, they don't want a pay cut and they are frightened. These union members are also taxpayers who helped bail out the Tory bankers (many of whom are now trying to become Tory MPs).
The smart thing to do would have been not to politicise the dispute - after all it is taking place in the private sector. All aristocrats like Cameron prove when they attack them is that they are out of touch with people who work.
The 31% Tory Unite members on the receiving end of the Tory venom (probably for the first time in their lives) will also be rethinking their vote. Nobody likes being singled out and attacked by a political party when all you are doing is legally defending your job.
As the Tories found when the Sun endorsed them last autumn and they promptly plummeted in the polls, this is not 1979. Heroes of that era such as Murdoch, are now villains. Villains of that era such as union workers, are now weary taxpayers who are bailing out the bankers, while trying to defend their pay and prospects against demands made on the management by those very same bankers in the City (who then rewarded themselves tax-payer funded bonuses).
Update 22nd Mar 2010. Latest YouGov poll shows:
Con 36% (38%)
Lab 32% (31%)
Lib 20% (19%)
The figures in brackets show the YouGov figures from 19th March, just before the strike. Look at the direction of travel. And no wonder - the Tories went straight from defending Ashcroft's tax evasion to attacking taxpayers earning considerably less, some of whom had been intending to vote for them just a few weeks ago.
When Thatcher attacked the unions in 1979, it was risk-free for her as she knew union members didn't vote for her in anycase. The situation is completely different now. If Tories can't even recognise what century we're in, let alone how different things are now compared to 30+ years ago, they arn't fit for governing.