TFL Could Have Finished Off Workers’ Unfinished Business

London TaxiWorkers have unfinished business with Uber and other gig economy businesses. Getting workers recognised as people, rather than commodities, is a battle they are winning thanks to pressure being brought to bear by politicians, trade unions and campaigners. This ongoing struggle may well have been delivered a fatal body blow by the actions of Transport for London in refusing Uber and operator licence to trade as a private hire company. Their reasons are quite inexplicable in that they cite the actions of drivers as well as Uber itself. The licensing of drivers is completely separate to the licensing of operators and conflating the two is curious. Some are saying this is complicity with the long run and high-profile campaign by London’s black cab drivers. Whether complicity or naivety on behalf of TFL is another debate but either way the impact can be far reaching and very negative to works not just of Uber but in the wider London economy and maybe beyond if TFLs actions set a precedent for other cities.

Uber has been here before. They were challenged in the court over the use of its app, over commercial insurance and on the use of call centres. TFL fought them and lost. On one occasion TFL won against Uber, on the English-speaking requirements for private hire drivers, and even this has been given court permission for an appeal. The lesson here is that TFL’s record on challenging Uber is derisory which makes their latest move to refuse an operators’ licence not only high risk for TFL but just as high risk for workers.

As one of the world’s largest cities where it operates, Uber will stop at nothing to keep hold of this market and have already begun the appeal process and you don’t need a crystal ball to know that this appeals process will be exhausted until they have nowhere else to go or until they win. Based on previous experience they will take on TFL and they will win. In doing so the way they currently operate, for better or worse, will have a legal endorsement in the form of a judgement in their favour. It could be argued that with last year’s landmark ruling that Uber ‘partners’ are employees and not self-employed shows that workers have had far more success when fighting Uber in the courts. With the ruling the workers had a firm foundation to demand rights such as minimum wage, holiday and sick pay, pensions, etc. All this could now well be put at risk with TFLs actions. Workers for Uber are now under immediate risk of a severely reduced income meaning less for them and their families and more reliance in state benefits. Many Uber workers will also have their cars on finance which places yet more angst and worry on them.

Workers outside Uber are also placed at risk. London has an excellent public transport network but not everywhere within TFL boundaries are well served. Ordering a private hire taxi may well be the only means of getting to and from work for many workers in the Greater London area. Uber maybe the only affordable means of transport and is now under threat. Workers may opt to walk or use less secure means of transport.

Toryworkers would prefer TFL to have continued to talk with Uber to achieve the safeguards they need for both workers and passengers. By going for the all or nothing option Uber will have little option but to fight for the status quo in order to exist at all in London and this is not good for workers.

Blue Collar Conservatism in the USA

David Cowan PictureDavid Cowan writes for Toryworkers on the how blue collar conservatism in the US compares with the UK

British Conservatives have been searching their souls since the General Election result. It has been thirty years since the party won a landslide majority, and so the Tory modernisation dialogue is being revived. As blue-collar conservatives think about their contribution to this debate, it would be useful for them to look across the Atlantic. Blue-collar conservatives in America have been grappling with similar questions about how to address the consequences of globalisation and move beyond their old ideological hang-ups.

The beginnings of a new blue-collar conservatism in America came about when two journalists, Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam, co-authored Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream in 2008. Their analysis focused on how working-class Americans were being disadvantaged by weak social mobility and outdated welfare systems, and were also being alienated by the Democratic party’s cultural liberalism. This left blue-collar voters open to voting Republican if the party adopted a new economic message. It was advice which John McCain and Mitt Romney chose to ignore during their failed presidential campaigns.

After the 2012 defeat, there was greater recognition within the party that Republicans would need to change. This led to the formation of a “Reform Conservative” movement (a.k.a. “Reformicons”) made up of blue-collar conservatives as well as compassionate conservatives, green and localist conservatives, and assorted moderate Republicans. They were on a mission to modernise American conservatism and move past the orthodoxies created by Cold War-era Republicanism. But during the 2016 primaries, none of the mainstream Republican candidates had taken in this message. Instead, they were all gripped by “Zombie Reaganism”. In their mind, every election year was 1980, every Democratic candidate was Jimmy Carter, and they were all auditioning to be the new Ronald Reagan.

The only candidate who offered anything new for blue-collar Americans was Donald Trump with his brand of economic nationalism. By winning over Democratic voters in rustbelt states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, Trump managed to take the White House in a stunning victory. Tragically and inevitably, Trump has betrayed his blue-collar base since taking office. The Obamacare repeal bills, the tax reform plan, and the 2018 budget all provide giveaways for the wealthy whilst leaving blue-collar Americans worse-off.

Despite these setbacks, Reformicons are still pursuing their modernisation project. A major part of these efforts is the restoration of Reagan’s true legacy. A new book, The Working Class Republican: Ronald Reagan and the Return of Blue Collar Conservatism by Henry Olsen, a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, is the most significant contribution to this debate. Olsen dismantles the mythologised image of Reagan as a libertarian ideologue. He reminds readers of how Reagan was a New Deal Democrat in his youth who loved and admired Franklin Roosevelt, and was President of the Screen Actors Guild (Hollywood’s very own trade union).

Anticommunism paved the way for Reagan’s conversion to conservative politics, but the liberalism of his youth stayed with him in certain ways. Despite the promise of radical free-market reform, Reagan still pledged himself to the defence of the economic and social safety net created by the New Deal. This allowed him to win over blue-collar Democratic voters, the “Reagan Democrats”, in a powerful winning coalition. It was a far cry from the anti-statist ideology which has prevented the Republican party from adapting to the post-Cold War era.

It remains to be seen how the Trump presidency will change America and the Republican party, but it should be a cautionary tale for Conservatives in Britain. Failure to move on from old doctrines and respond to the post-Brexit landscape can only be disastrous for the party. This makes it essential that the Conservatives continue to craft a positive and inspiring message which can win over working-class voters as part of a broad, new winning coalition.

David Cowan is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Cambridge with an M.Phil. in Political Thought and Intellectual History. He blogs at The Tory Democrat. This blog represents David’s views.

Where was the Conservative heart?

At 9pm last Thursday I was worried. Sat on my own in McDonald’s, having a calorie packed break between a day of canvassing and evening of analysing, I had my first opportunity to reflect on the campaign. I was certain that the Conservatives would end the night with a majority of over 60, but couldn’t shake off the feeling that our victory would be as shallow as it would be big. The reports I’d received from around the country – London excluded – at first appearance were good. Long-time Labour voters were telling our people that they would switch to the Conservatives, most often after dabbling with Ukip in 2015.

When you delved deeper the momentum was less impressive. To near unanimity the reasons these ex-Labour voters gave for breaking their life-long abstinence from voting blue was negativity towards the Labour leadership. None of them seemed to be positive about us. As I finished my chips I’d concluded that ex-Labour voters would only be lending the Conservative Party their votes, and we would have to work hard over the next five years to get them to happily vote for us. At 10pm, when the exit poll was announced, I realised that most of these people had decided to lend their vote to Corbyn.

It is not hard to understand why people who instinctively support Labour, in the end when their pen was hovering over the ballot paper, could not bring themselves to mark a cross next to the Conservative candidate. The Conservative General Election campaign was depressing. Our message was that the world is rubbish but please vote for us as we are best at making rubbish decisions. Those who work in the public sector or have not seen a pay-rise in many years were being asked to choose between a Government that would continue to mange the slow decline of their lifestyles or the chaotic unknown. After almost a decade of austerity the chaotic unknown seemed less of a threat than another decade of 1% pay-rises.

The Conservatives did not show their heart. We did not say why we wanted to govern and what we wanted to achieve for people. What is the point of having a strong and stable economy? What will the best Brexit mean for me? The Party missed a golden opportunity to tell those who would not normally ever give us a chance that we care about them. There are large swaths of the population who mistrust our motives and we did not offer them the opportunity to change their minds.

None of this should have been a surprise. Robert Halfon MP, in a speech at the end of March, warned us that “the Left have an incredible, powerful message, which is very simple when they knock on a door, which is that they want to help the underdog; that they are the party for the poor.”

On Thursday evening I thought I’d be writing a blog warning Conservatives not to get carried away with the size of our victory. Instead, let us not be too despondent at the result. Yes, the Party made big mistakes but we have the chance to make amends. The Party performed badly, rather than Conservatives being bad. Let’s wear our Conservative hearts on our sleeves. At every opportunity we get lets tell people why we are Conservatives – because we want the best for them and their families.

A Ladder of Opportunity

ianprofileLast month I had the greatest pleasure in attending the inaugural conference of the Conservative Workers and Trade Unionists (CWTU), jointly hosted by DEMOS. The Conference theme was on ‘The Future of Work’ although quite a few different issues were discussed.

As a relatively new Conservative Party member with a predominantly business background, but also a passionate advocate of Trade Unions, I was hoping this event might give me some insight and perhaps even reassurance that there were many other like-minded Conservative supporters in existence. I wasn’t disappointed given the numbers of delegates in attendance.

Often the Conservative Party is seen as anti-union, and indeed even some within the Party may not have Union relations top of the priority list. Both perspectives usually stem from misinformation or unfair media portrayal of unions. Like it or not, and I personally like it, there are two key reasons why we should take our union relations seriously. Firstly, there are approaching seven million members of trades unions in this country, the vast majority having a high propensity to vote, many in marginal seats. To be blunt we cannot afford to marginalise such a core group of voters. Secondly, cordial relations, or dare I say it proactive relations, act as a moral and social compass from a policy perspective.  One example is Workers Rights. Pleasingly the Prime Minister has assured us that our exit from the EU will result in better not fewer rights for workers. Comprehensive rights at work should be valued by Conservatives. If we preach things like self-reliance rather than relying on the state, looking after your family and getting on in life then how are such values contradicted by rights giving secure, stable employment with decent benefits and promotion prospects? They aren’t. They are complimentary not contradictory.

One reform that would greatly benefit Trades Unions in the long term, although would be fiercely resisted by some, is to restrict party political activities. The nature of trades unions is that they will always be political beasts. However persistently we have seen member subscriptions wasted on party political grandstanding or initiatives by General Secretaries on subjects far removed from the core trade union function, that of acting for member’s interests in the workplace. The current election for Unite General Secretary has highlighted this very point. There isn’t a Labour or Conservative way of dealing with health and safety in workplace. Why is the status of Trident of significant interest to a shop worker being bullied at work?

Rights of the self-employed are obviously topical given the issues around National Insurance changes and subsequent postponement of them in the budget.  This is a challenging area and always will be. In my experience the self-employed fall into two camps – those who have made a free choice to become self-employed with all it has to offer and those who have been pushed into it, for a variety of reasons. To my thinking none of these issues will be resolved until we undertake some radical reform of our welfare system. There are so many benefits and entitlements now that are not directly linked to contributions history that it is virtually impossible to define who should receive what and why. Entitlement should be driven by what you have contributed not just by your employment status. Perhaps the Government should consider a levy on companies that exceed a certain threshold of self-employed service contractors they engage, that to all intents and purposes are employees?

The other hot potato of ‘zero hours’ contracts was also discussed at conference. There are strong views on either side. Most of the general arguments are polarised – either employees are being ruthlessly exploited by Fagin style employers or else they are a serene ‘marriage of convenience’ enabling no-strings employment. The truth of course is somewhere in-between. My thinking on this is that too often we focus on dealing with symptoms of issues rather than root causes. The issue is not that employers routinely abuse zero hours contracts but that we must do more to support and incentivise permanent employment. If there were scope we need to look at Employer National Insurance (NI) liability and reducing the general tax burden on employers. Perhaps even a lower rate of Employer NI for permanent staff?

The highlight for me at Conference was the keynote speech by our President, Rob Halfon. A mix of positivity interspersed with realism, his thinking on the challenges facing our party is refreshing and engaging. As a Party we do need to be clearer and talk more loudly and convincingly about our key achievements such as in apprenticeships and reducing unemployment. We need to be clearer on busting myths around public spending eg that we don’t provide enough support to those with disabilities when actually our spending in this country compares very favourably internationally.

We are genuinely erecting not just a ladder of opportunity but also on occasion someone to steady the ladder if needs be.

Despite a smorgasbord of achievement to talk about perhaps there’s a danger we become defined as the ‘not Corbyn’ option and struggle to convey our own positive agenda. The medium term reality is that Corbyn will be gone, replaced by someone more able at the dispatch box, albeit probably not more desirable in policy terms. In my opinion the test we should aspire to apply is if it were a Tony Blair type of figure as Opposition Leader where would that leave us?

Fortunately, we have a Prime Minister in Mrs May who is able to tackle issues head on with a positive policy agenda and deliver a fairer and more prosperous country as a result. Not everyone will agree with everything all the time but leadership is not about popularity. Leadership is about doing the right thing.

The opportunities are ahead of us, as they are for trades unions, it is just a case of recognising and seizing the moment. Judging from the CWTU conference I know that we will play as full and as active a role as possible.

Ian Jones is Honorary Treasurer of Conservative Workers and Trade Unionists, an ex-Trade Union representative and an Independent Financial Adviser based in the New Forest. He can be found tweeting @ianajones925

Changing workplace could restore unions’ sense of purpose

syedThings are changing fast in the world of work – in response to advancing technology and social pressures.

Whereas many people of my parents’ generation worked for the same employer in the same sector for 30 or 40 years, this will become increasingly rare.

Even if people remain in the same line of work, it will probably not be for the same company. If it is for the same company, then it may not be under the same arrangement.

Fixed employer-employee relationships will increasingly be replaced by more flexible arrangements. In some firms, workers may well become self-employed contractors instead of salaried staff.

As newer disruptive technology emerges, some sectors may just decline, some may disappear to be replaced by others. Some may adapt…as must we.

As well as changing jobs and roles in the course of our working lives, we can also expect more people to pursue ‘portfolio’ careers. They will have multiple sources of income at the same time, possibly in very different fields and probably into later life.

So we will need to be serious about lifelong learning. We used to think an apprenticeship or degree would equip us with all the training and knowledge we would need to do a certain job for the rest of our working lives. Not any more. Even if we stay in the same job, it’s nature and skill requirements are likely to change.

This is where I believe trade unions and mutual societies still have a major role to play; by doing what they used to do so well, offering their members access to retraining programme, libraries, evening classes, health schemes and mutual savings groups.

Membership of trade unions has declined for many reasons. While some well-paid trade union bosses are seen as wanting to run the country or opposing change, many employees no longer see the relevance of membership.

The changing nature of work offers trade unions a chance to re-focus on the long term needs of their members. As people change jobs or become contractors, unions can advise them how to proceed. They have a history of helping working people and they need to find their true purpose again.

And what does the government need to do? First, government needs to get out of the way and not stand in the way of new, disruptive technologies – either by intent or accident. They must let new industries come forward. They should do what they can to make sure the same encouragement and climate for innovation is available outside London and the South East too.

But then government must think hard about those who lose out from this disruption and from globalisation. We cannot simply leave those who lose their jobs, especially in single-factory towns, to fend for themselves.

We must consider how we can create the space for trade unions, mutual societies and other cooperatives to offer advice and retraining to those who lose their jobs rather than leaving them to a life of benefits and job centre appointments.

Consider the worker who has been laid off by a company but is given a grant or a loan by a trade union to start up a business, along with training and support. Newly empowered entrepreneurs benefiting from this assistance are more likely to be open to retaining membership of a trade union and encouraging their staff to join a union too.

It would be wonderful to see government trade unions and cooperatives work together on lifelong support and training for our workers.

We Conservatives saved this country from the tyranny of the militant trade union leaders in the 1970s and 1980s. An even bigger challenge might be to save trade unions from irrelevance by encouraging them truly to serve their members throughout their ever-changing working lives.

Syed Kamall is Conservative MEP for London – you can find more on his website at syedkamall.co.uk

Conservatives have worked with unions as much as they have fought them

James Worron is CWTU’s Resident Historian who will be writing regular features looking back at the historic relationship between Conservatives and trade unions.

“We were elected to reform the trade unions. With the support of millions of trade unionists, we have passed two major acts of Parliament,” so stated Margaret Thatcher in her 1982 Party Conference speech. This sums up the Conservative party’s mixed relationship with trade unions: sympathetic to the membership but wary of the leadership and the sheer power of these institutions.

This complex relationship has been framed by some enduring conflicts. Conservatives have never liked the closed shop – a clear assault on workers’ freedom, and of course have opposed the political levy, which funds the Labour party. However, co-operation has also been a feature of the complex three-way relationship between Conservatives, trade unions and business.

Many workers themselves were also historically ambivalent about trade unions, and it is worth remembering that at any one time most workers were not members. Historically, unions wielded a lot of power on the factory shop floor, at times with their own agenda only party aligned with workers’ interests. In the graphic words of a respondent to one 1950s study, trade unions “piss in the same pot as management.” Working class Conservatives voters have been amongst the most sceptical about trade unions, thinking they would “keep a man back.”

Near the start of the industrial revolution trade unions were effectively banned under the 1799/1800 Combination Acts, although these were rarely enforced as government wanted to leave that to employers and not interfere. Not for the last time Conservatives were unsure how the triangular relationship between government, business and the unions should work.

The governments of the Earl of Derby and Disraeli in the late nineteenth century were pro-worker and this was reflected in union policy.  The Molestation of Workmen Act 1859 allowed peaceful picketing, and the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act 1875, allowed workers to pursue legitimate trade disputes and not liable to be sued if their actions were lawful. Disraeli’s aim was that these measures should “settle the long and vexatious dispute between capital and labour.” Randolph Churchill warned Conservatives a few years later not to be too sympathetic to capital.

It was not just about “sides” though. Conservatives were working out how the three-way business/union/government relationship would work. In the late 19th century there was talk of enforcing compulsory arbitration, but eventually a voluntary approach was enshrined in the 1896 Conciliation (Trade Disputes) Act.

In the 20th century the idea of partnership of between industry and trade unions began to emerge, and this idea was pushed by all party leaders for the first 40 years of the century. During this period there was the great conflict of the General Strike, which led to the 1927 Trade Union Act, banning general strikes and limiting the closed shop. Nevertheless Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin did not wish to introduce too harsh an act. In the 1930s more radical ideas began to emerge, with Harold MacMillan promoting the idea that the government should itself be part of the partnership.

This idea of partnership reached its peak during the Second World War. Trade unions were at the centre of Britains’s war effort, placed on key committees and in industrial councils. Churchill strongly supported this process, and after the war declared “We owe an immense debt of gratitude to the trade unions, and never can this country forget how they stood by and helped”.  This alone should remind Conservatives of trade unions’ positive potential.

After the war, thrown into Opposition, the Conservatives published the Industrial Charter. This declared that the party was in favour of trade unions, and would “humanise” capitalism. This led to the Conservatives most pro-union period in government after 1951. There were regular meetings at No 10 and anti-union legislation was explicitly rejected. In retrospect, this period seems a prelude industrial anarchy of the 1970s, and even by the early 60s the voluntary approach was proving a bad way to control inflation. The government only had exhortation to encourage wage restraint. Twenty years later Margaret Thatcher took a more robust approach.

Where next then? Trade union power is clearly restrained, and the closed shop is gone for good. Can a new relationship be built in a modern setting? The unions’ political affiliation remains the biggest obstacle. The case for breaking this link is strong, but Conservatives need to be realistic about the scale of this challenge.  Contrary to myth the unions have not been captured by Labour. The trade unions created the Labour party as their Parliamentary vehicle. The cost of this has been making relationships with other parties more difficult and Labour and the unions may well have a better future apart, but this would be a huge and historic sundering.

James is the CWTU Historian and a member of the National Organising Committee. You can follow him on Twitter: @Jamesworron.

My view on Grammar Schools – Why they’re essential for Social Justice

grammar school“Reading To Some Purpose” was the unimaginatively titled lesson we had every Wednesday afternoon at my primary school. It wasn’t the most inspiring part of the week but we just got on with it because as a 9 or 10 year old you didn’t question the curriculum a great deal. It was question after question of puzzles, problems and generally working things out intuitively. Only now do I realise this was probably one of the most important hour of the week.

I went to school in Grantham which was one of the few areas in the UK to retain the grammar school system and although 13th January 1981 started as a normal unremarkable day there was a rumour going round that something was afoot. The headmaster walked into our class, we all stood up as was the rule and he announced that we were about to take the eleven plus. After a practice paper we took the real thing and it was all about “reading to some purpose”. I recognised the style and format of the questions as I’d been doing them every Wednesday afternoon for almost a year. These days we’d call that coaching but every primary school did it as preparation for the eleven plus as every child had an opportunity to try for a grammar education. There may have been some parents who paid for extra coaching but, with a year of coaching week after week during school time this would have made, at most, a marginal difference.

Today’s argument that grammar schools only benefit the well off who can afford coaching is defunct in the Prime Minister’s plan for good school places for every child regardless of background. If Free Schools are able to be selective grammar schools the feeder primary schools will almost certainly be offering classes like the ones I had (but perhaps with a catchier title!). If they don’t I would encourage any parent to make sure they did either as part of the curriculum, enrichment or as an after school club.

It is surprising and bordering inconceivable that the most vocal opponents of grammars are the ones who purport to be the most dedicated to social mobility not least Her Majesty’s Opposition. Grammar schools are the very examplar of social mobility and diversity. My grammar school, King’s School in Grantham, boasted illustrious past pupils like Sir Isaac Newton but during my time there I rubbed shoulders with children of service men and women, some from council estates, some from very well heeled areas and, myself, the son of an office clerk and wallpaper factory worker. Instead of dogmatically searching high and low for an excuse to loathe grammar schools a true champion of social justice and cohesion would welcome an opportunity for the brightest to excel in a school so well suited to a child’s talent. Incredibly opening such a school became banned under the Labour Government, a ban which cannot be lifted too soon.

As someone who has attended both grammar and comprehensive schools I can say from personal experience that it is right to look at lifting this ban. The grammar school is where academically minded pupils can excel in academic subjects, be proud about it and not, as I was in both the comprehensives I attended, bullied for it. As a grammar school pupil you are much more likely to be with others who want to learn in a similar way. Like it or not the comprehensive system fails those pupils who want to excel at academic subjects. At comprehensive school the pool of talent is so broad and the desires for children to learn so varied and inconsistent it is difficult to give children of different abilities the differing attention they need to either excel or to get on at all.

There is a problem with the grammar system, though, that exists to this day. The grammar was seen as the school the whole catchment area aspired to. Attending the secondary modern was seen as a failure when it should have been seen as an equal alternative to grammar for vocational as opposed to academic excellence. It is right, therefore, that alongside the move to allow new grammar schools there is just as much energy in raising the profile of vocational education with the announcement of T levels as the vocational equivalent to A levels. Along with Rob Halfon’s relentless drive on apprenticeships, all routes of learning are being promoted and improved like never before.

Quite rightly the Prime Minister is not looking to dogmatically force every town to have a grammar. This is a matter of choice for the parents and children. This is about not preventing the opening of a new grammar if there is a demand for one. This is about allowing choice and not stifling it. Growing up in the Blair era, my children had no chance to aspire to a grammar education but perhaps if I’m blessed with grandchildren they will be among the first to be educated in a brand new modern grammar school. It can’t happen soon enough.

Richard Short is the National Co-ordinator for Conservative Workers & Trade Unionists. This article contains his personal views.

 

Copeland shows that the Conservatives are the true workers’ party

spencerprofileThe amazing by-election success of Trudy Harrison in Copeland has no end of sub-texts which will be poured over by journalists and political experts alike in the weeks ahead.

Governing parties do not win by-elections in what have been Labour areas – those are the rules. Or rather, it seems, those were the rules.

But rules are there to be broken and you have to ask the question – is the result really so incredible? I would say it is not.

Clearly, there were big local issues at play – the protection of consultant led midwifery services at the West Cumberland Hospital for one which led to one of the most unpleasant and objectionable campaigns Labour has fought with headlines like ‘Babies will die – How can you live with that?’

Another important local concern was about the lack of investment in road infrastructure throughout the region. Many campaigners like myself will have learned the finer details of journey times from Whitehaven to Carlisle – a distance of some 40 miles. As one local resident explained to me at some length, a journey on the A595 can take a ‘very long time’ when you are behind a tractor!

No doubt these campaign issues and many others that came forward during the by-election were of great importance to local residents. But when all is said and done the Copeland result was not determined by these issues.

This by-election came down to just one key issue – jobs.

Which party would support jobs, create jobs, and help to secure even better quality jobs. And perhaps most critically, which party understood that the protection and support of these jobs also necessitated making sure that workers’ rights – in particular hard-earned pension rights – were protected at all costs.

Throughout the campaign Prospect – a politically independent trades union of which I am proud to be a member – fought a high profile and most effective campaign in support of their membership. Many thousands of Prospect members live and work in the constituency, most notably for the nuclear industry based at Sellafield Ltd.

The union actively sought endorsement from all candidates and their parties on two key issues: support for nuclear power production and the proposals to develop a new nuclear power station at Moorside; and support for an agreed outcome to proposed reforms to final salary pension schemes across the nuclear estate.

Anyone who has visited Copeland understands that the nuclear industry and the high-skilled, well0paid jobs the it provides to some 20,000 workers across the region are absolutely vital to local people. In many respects a parallel can be directly drawn between Copeland and Trident jobs at the Faslane naval base on the Clyde.

Jeremy Corbyn’s confused, half-hearted, and frankly unconvincing support for the nuclear industry no doubt resonated badly for him and the Labour Party.

It is important for all Conservatives not to lose sight of the fact that Labour’s woes alone would not have been enough for us to win in a seat like Copeland. Perhaps more strikingly for me is the fact that not only did electors feel that their jobs were safer in our hands, but also that their hard-won employment rights including pensions, would be best protected by voting Conservative.

Early on the Conservative Workers & Trade Unionists signed up to the Prospect campaign listed above, particularly supporting the honouring of promises made to workers in the nuclear industry relating to pension entitlements. We will continue to work closely with all moderate trade union colleagues as we search out a fair and affordable settlement for all parties.

With this great by-election success in Copeland we can quite fairly declare that the Conservatives are now the party of all hard working people in our country today. The true workers party – Tory workers. Labour no longer represent the concerns and aspirations of workers and have been shown to have lost touch with their previously core working-class roots.

We must continue to stand up for the values of all working people, and particularly focus on workers’ rights. Here we must listen readily and openly to our union colleagues – we will not always agree with them, but their values are our shared values.

Our common aspiration is for a country which works for everyone. I have no doubt that if we are able to deliver for the hard working people of Copeland over the years ahead then we will be delivering for all workers across our great country today.

Dr Spencer Pitfield OBE is the Director of CWTU. This article first appeared on ConservativeHome >>

Sajid Javid is talking the talk, now Council’s need to walk the walk

stephencanningThis is one of those articles where I’ll have to declare an interest, multiple interests in fact. The first as a local councillor of six years, who’s seen first-hand how decision makers have ducked big decisions and avoided making the strategic cases necessary to build housing. The second as a young person of 24 who dreams, like so many of my peers, of climbing the first rung on the housing ladder. The third as a Conservative who knows that if we want a society that works, then everyone needs a stake in their community – by renting or owning their own home.

The housing market isn’t just broken, it’s failed. Today Sajid Javid has launched the housing white paper to address this and bring sanity to a system that just doesn’t work. For too long successive Governments have tinkered around the edges of housing, now it’s time for radical overhaul – the clock is ticking to stop a generation losing out.

An important part of this white paper is the removal of the need for every area to have a local plan. This addresses the issue of areas that lack the political appetite to push through needed development, the expertise to ensure it works and the strategic sight to deliver housing, infrastructure and employment in tandem.

Too many local authorities, including in my part of the world, have ducked big decisions and this is a clear challenge from the Government to tell them to up their game. Building the housing our future needs should not be seen as a race to protect as much local land as possible, but as a partnership between multiple local authorities, developers, large employers and the Government. Working together and challenging one another, not adversarial as is traditional but as a partnership, is the way we will unlock the developments we need.

As we look to become more strategic, the Government does however need to look at how County Councils are given a stronger role in housing. At Essex we have already given a Cabinet Member a portfolio responsibility for housing – something the Government should embed into legislation as a statutory responsibility of county-level councils across the country. The days of housing being decided in isolation need to be over, it’s time to think bigger.

Developers can often be a central part of the problem – from land banking, to slow development and not following through on promises. This paper, and the surrounding rhetoric from the Secretary of State, is the strongest and most direct the Government have been with developers. Giving local authorities the power to order developers to finish developers in two years or lose their planning permission is a strong signal that developers who clog the system will not be tolerated.

However these powers do need to be used, and the Government does need to back up those councils who use them. Otherwise this risks being yet more rhetoric on fixing housing whilst people young and old fight to get their own roof.

Not as a councillor, but as a young person who aspires to get his foot on the housing ladder I urge the Government to follow through with its strong rhetoric, my fellow councillors to use their new powers to work together and deliver strategically, and developers to remember that these aren’t just houses, they’re homes.

Stephen Canning is the Deputy Director of CWTU and the Cabinet Member for Innovation at Essex County Council. This piece was originally published on Huffington Post