Backbench MP’s appeal for union members to join Conservative party dismissed as attempt to ‘hoodwink the people whose jobs and pensions they’re cutting”
Trade unions are “bastions of capitalism” and can be “soulmates” with the Tories, according to one of their MPs.
Robert Halfon – whose website carries a photo of him meeting Tony Benn immediately below a picture of him sitting next to Prime Minister David Cameron – has called on his party to embrace the movement, claiming one third of members are Conservatives and more public sector workers voted Tory than Labour at the last election.
In Stop the Union Bashing, published by think-tank Demos, the Harlow MP urges Tories to look beyond union leaders such as Unite’s Len McCluskey or PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka, to court grassroots members instead.
He says of nearly 60 unions currently members of the TUC, just 15 are formally affiliated with Labour.
A spokesman for one of the non-affiliated unions, PCS, told UnionNews: “It shows we’re having an effect, but also that some Tories still laughably seem to think they can hoodwink the people whose jobs, pay and pensions they’re cutting.”
The report – which opens with a quote from former TUC general secretary John Monks, saying ‘Labour are our friends and often disappoint us. The Conservatives are our enemies and often pleasantly surprise us’ – recommends discounting Conservative party membership to 50p for union members as well as staging appearances at their events.
It says Conservatives and unions already agree on some areas of Coalition policy, in particular on boosting apprenticeships.
In opposition, Tory leader David Cameron appointed a trade union ‘envoy’, Richard Balfe, who made a number of approaches to union leaders and was a regular visitor to union conferences and other events.
However, more recently Tory backbenchers have attempted to propose still tougher anti-union legislation and Coalition ministers have threatened to withdraw union facility time from reps working in the civil service and elsewhere.
Conservative MPs linked to the Trade Union Reform Campaign (TURC) include Aidan Burley, its controversial chairman who was sacked from his job as a parliamentary private secretary after organising a Nazi-themed stag night in France for a friend.
On his pamphlet, Robert Halfon admits that this proposed new relationship ‘will not be an easy sell’ in the atmosphere after the 30th November 2011 mass pensions strike, but writing in the Daily Telegraph, he says: “I want Conservatives to campaign in the union movement again, standing for election as officials, just as they did under Mrs Thatcher.
“This way we could oppose subsidies and funds to the Labour Party, and work for tougher strike laws, but do it standing shoulder-to-shoulder with millions of union members that agree.”
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