UK Politics

Conservative Party to launch own trade union movement

Union members demonstrate outside the TUC Congress earlier this month Image copyright PA

The Conservative Party is to launch its own trade union movement in an attempt to win over members unhappy with "militant" leaders.

Deputy chairman Rob Halfon said the Conservative Workers and Trade Union Movement would provide a voice for Conservative-minded trade unionists.

"There will be a voice for moderate trade unionists who feel they may have sympathy with the Conservatives," he told Parliament's The House magazine.

Most of Britain's biggest trade unions are affiliated to Labour.

The trade union movement played a pivotal role in the foundation of the Labour Party in the early 20th Century and remains Labour's largest financial backer.

In contrast, the Conservatives have historically had a troubled relationship with the unions, with former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher fighting a long battle in the 1980s to curb union power and overhaul industrial practices.

The current Conservative government is locked in a dispute with the unions over proposed legislation to introduce strike ballot thresholds and tighten picketing rules, which opponents have described as a "declaration of war" against the unions.

Announcing the new organisation - which will operate within the Conservative Party but which workers will be able to join - Mr Halfon said he wanted the party to have a new relationship with the many trade union members who he claimed did not share their leaders' views.

"Trade unionism should be for the many, not the few," he told Parliament's The House magazine. "And at the moment, so much of it, you see it through... the prisms of a few militant leaders who I believe don't represent the thousands of ordinary trade union members."

The initiative would give a "voice for moderate trade unionists who feel they may have sympathy with the Conservatives or even just feel that they're not being represented by militant trade union leaders".

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