On Monday night parliament debated firefighter pension regulations and an early day motion, 454, laid in prayer against it. It went to the wire. I sat with friends who will be affected by the decisions taken and watched as result came in. It was not what they were hoping.
MP’s voted 316 – 261 in favour of the governments current firefighter pension regulations. I can’t say that I wasn’t gutted about the vote result for my friends, but I was not surprised that people in the House of Commons put the value of their own careers ahead of the reality of the debate put in front of them and the risks posed to all as a result of an ill thought and dangerous set of pension regulations that started in 2006. The debate had been made a three line whip whereby defying the party line may have meant they (MPs) would be disciplined and ejected from the party but would retain their seat as an independent until restored. The MP’s seem to have missed the idea of unity and sticking together because the Tory party would not have ejected their MPs this close to a general election if they had voted against the party in big enough numbers.
The debate of firefighter pensions was as one-sided a debate as you will be likely to see. The government have an academic report which has thrown serious doubt over the ability of firefighters to remain operationally fit and safe to carry out rescue duties into their late 50’s, with the only chance of this being achieved being a reduction in fitness requirements leaving firefighters and the public at great risk every time they are called upon. This seems to be the preference of Westminster and was highlighted time and again by concerned MPs on both sides of the house.
MPs have sat and heard over weeks and months some of the very real and personal way these changes will affect people, some being very close friends of mine and it is those people I feel for the most right now – the ones that poured their hearts out and betted on a political system that proved once again who it really serves, the banks and corporations. Perhaps they should have been listening and in particular Kate Hoey who pleaded with MPs to vote on what their conscience told them, not their party whips. Many thought we had moved on from the days when people blithely followed orders without engaging their own moral compass, apparently we were all mistaken.
Their fight goes on and it is important that we do not become demoralised, cynical or divided. George Osborne wants to return public spending to the 1930’s, Francis Maude has started work on making all work streams provided by the NHS and the Fire and Rescue Service outsourced or privatised. What we do and how we react will define the lives of our children for a generation.
Be passionate and rise to the challenge.