THE Police Federation has refused to rule out strikes in their war against Government plans to impose job and pay cuts that could leave almost half of them £4,000 a year worse off.
Chief constables warned 28,000 staff could be axed and a Home Office review said pay should be cut for at least two out of five of those left.
Police are banned by law from striking but who would enforce that law if they decided to withdraw their labour?
And it makes you wonder what might happen if they did go out on strike.
The last time it happened was almost 100 years ago. At midnight on August 29, 1918, 12,000 men of the Metropolitan Police came out on strike over pay and pensions. Two days later the Government gave in to their demands and police forces up and down the country benefited.
But pay and conditions were still bad and another strike was called in 1919. This was a period of nationwide worker unrest.
In 1918 six million working days were lost to strikes and in 1919 it was 35 million.
After four years of world war, the working class remained rooted in poverty and exploitation and the establishment feared the country was ripe for revolution. It might have happened too, except that no one co-ordinated the unrest.
Or perhaps we Brits were not cut out to be revolutionaries. It is not for nothing that we have a world reputation for being polite, waiting our turn and forming queues.
Only in Liverpool was there a four day period of anarchy. Half the city police came out on strike, public order broke down and the Liverpool Post reported an “orgy of looting and rioting.”
Armed troops and tanks patrolled the streets and only a bayonet charge dispersed one group of rioters. A battleship and two destroyers sailed up the Mersey in a show of force.
But even in Liverpool this was hardly the seeds of revolution. The poor looted shops for clothes and food but many rioters targeted booze warehouses – and you can’t run a revolution with drunks.
Order was imposed, the strikers were sacked and police pay was improved.
But it makes you wonder what would happen today if the law and order that we all take so much for granted was withdrawn and the hooligans were allowed to run free.