Housebuilding is a great Conservative tradition that we must develop today

spencerprofileThere are too many families in Britain who want to buy a home of their own – but are currently priced out of the market. It is one of the great social problems of our age, and we must rediscover the Conservative Party’s historic support for housebuilding if we are firmly to establish our position in the centre ground of British politics today.

In the nineteenth century Benjamin Disraeli made it a priority to clear the Victorian slums and fund new housing and sanitation for ordinary British workers. Later, in the twentieth century’s post-war years, Harold Macmillan was called upon by Winston Churchill to build a record amount of houses for the people. As Housing Minister he oversaw the building of an average of over 300,000 homes per year – an extraordinary achievement by any set of standards.

More recently there has been a number of very encouraging signs that we are moving in the right direction. News that the Government will employ direct commissioning to build thousands of homes should be greeted with much enthusiasm. These are homes for working families across the country and will contribute to a wider strategy of housebuilding and home ownership – and importantly, they will be homes that people want to live in.

Dr Spencer Pitfield is the Director of Conservative Trade Unionists. Read more of his article on Conservative Home.

Industrial action solves nothing in junior doctor dispute

richardprofileSo the junior doctors have had their strike with a threat of more to come. Not all doctors were on strike yesterday as emergency cover was maintained. In other words the junior doctors, under the direction of the BMA, decided that to press their argument home they were to impose on the patient weekend conditions on a weekday.

Throughout the day there were conflicting versions from striking doctors as to why they are on strike. One version complains that they will effectively get a pay cut with the new contract, another complains that they will no longer get higher pay for unsociable hours.

Most follow what is the quasi-official line of the BMA that this is all about patient safety. This is where the argument completely unravels. Study after study shows that discharge rates at weekends reduces massively (my personal favourite study is from the 2003 paper from the Emergency Medical Journal).

Reducing delayed discharges is not only crucial to the welfare of the individual patient but also to the patients waiting for admission and patients waiting to be seen in A&E only to be delayed by, you’ve guessed it, a delayed discharge elsewhere in the hospital. It is no coincidence that A&E sees its highest backlogs on Mondays when doctors resume non-emergency work and go about releasing patients who could otherwise have been set free to go home 24, 48 or sometimes 72 hours earlier. While the frantic bed unblocking goes on there are patients being denied the care and treatment they need.

In my own personal experience I have been told to come to hospital on a Sunday to collect a patient who was discharged only to wait for over 4 hours while nurses frantically searched for a doctor to sign a prescription. A consultant was found who was worked off his feet. If junior doctors were on shift his job would have been less exhausting, my friend would have been discharged a great deal earlier and the bed would have been free, for example, to an A&E patient.

Ironically it is in A&E where a junior doctor may well be working at the weekend and frustrated with weekend bed blocking due to lack of junior doctors on the wards. This account is repeated in the BMA’s own publication ‘Hospital Discharge: The Patient, Carer and Doctor perspective’, where patient “Julie” spoke of hours of delay due to not being able to find anyone to sign the paperwork. In this same publication a former chair of the BMA Junior Doctors Committee says of delayed discharges: “When done poorly patient care can suffer, with distressing consequences for the patient and their family.”

Jeremy Hunt has called on junior doctors to follow nurses, technicians, caterers, engineers and all the other people that make the NHS tick to work a regular weekend shift to nail the problem of delayed discharges. They have been persuaded by the BMA not to answer that call and go for the emotive argument of patient safety.

The actions of the highly qualified, dedicated but poorly led junior doctors have not only continued to leave patients at greater risk at weekends, but have exacerbated this by recreating these conditions on a weekday through industrial action.

Richard Short is the Northern Coordinator for Conservative Trade Unionists. This article contains his personal views and it does not necessarily reflect the views of Conservative Trade Unionists as an organisation.

Employment figures boost for Working Families

Conservative Trade Unionists (CTU) welcomed the latest employment figures, which show that the number of people in work is at its highest since records began.

For August to October, 73.9% of people aged 16-64 were in work, with the UK unemployment rate falling to its lowest in almost ten years, at 5.2%.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics also show that there were 505,000 more people in work than a year earlier, and a total of 31.3 million people in employment.

With a record rate of employment and wages continuing to grow, the Conservative Government is delivering the high wage, low welfare society that offers security to working families across the country.

Andrew Stephenson, MP for Pendle and a member of the CTU advisory board, said: “The latest employment figures show once more that it is the Conservative Party that stands for getting people into work and out of poverty. We are the real party for working people.”

He added: “At Prime Minister’s Questions, not one Labour MP welcomed the best employment figures in a decade. Their priorities are elsewhere.

“Meanwhile, the Conservatives recognise our responsibility to get even more people into work.”

Dr Spencer Pitfield, Director of CTU, said: “Behind every statistic is the great news that someone has got a new job, and as a result they and their family are in a much better position.”

He added: “In my own region of Yorkshire over 5,000 more people were in work in the last quarter, with 31,000 more people in work compared to the previous year.”

Let’s Support Bolton Wanderers’ Workers

richardprofileBolton Wanderers Football Club is in such serious financial difficulties it is unable to settle a £600,000 tax bill and has been served a winding up petition by HMRC. This has obvious ramifications for the club but our first thoughts must be with those who are ordinary workers at the club – the members of staff who now face an uncertain future.

Two weeks ago the club announced that its first team were not going to be paid but that ordinary employees with bills to pay and mouths to feed would not be affected.

It is now looking increasingly likely that wages for all staff may not be paid before Christmas.

I came to hear of the plight of the workers at the club through my fellow lifelong Bolton Wanderers’ fan, Gavin Clements.

Mr Clements has set up a fund to help ordinary employees of the club, most of whom are not high earners and could be facing a bleak Christmas without being paid this month.

He said: ‘I am a season ticket holder and love our club. I know thousands of others who feel the same way so I hope we can now support the fantastic loyal staff this Christmas.’

He added: ‘The best news would be for a buyer to come in and make sure the staff are paid. If that happens the money raised will go to local Bolton charities.’

I contacted the Conservative MP for Bolton West, Chris Green, and he has also pledged his support for the hardworking staff at the club, which is at the heart of his constituency.

Chris Green said: ‘It’s great that fans are coming together to support ordinary workers. I’ve written to both the FA and Sports Minister, Tracey Crouch MP and working to make sure the staff are paid this month. I’m grateful to the Conservative Trade Unionists for giving their support too.’

I shall continue to work with Gavin and Chris to make sure the ordinary members of staff get a fair deal and bright future as employees of the football club.

It is easy to dismiss large football clubs as being full of high paid celebrity types but anyone who knows football will know that the heart and soul of any club are the hardworking staff.

The groundworkers, caterers, cleaners, technicians, and office workers are not high earners and I’m pleased that the Conservative Trade Unionists group is able to raise awareness of and fully support Gavin Clements’ campaign.

Richard Short is the Northern Coordinator for the Conservative Trade Unionists and a Bolton Wanderers fan.

You can support the campaign by donating here.

Why the Conservatives are the real Workers’ Party

spencerprofileThis article was written for Conservative Home

In September, Robert Halfon announced the rebirth of the Conservative Trade Unionists movement – or CTU for short.

“We are recreating the Conservative trade union workers’ movement. There will be a new website and people will be able to join. There will be 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.”

I’m pleased to let you know that Robert Halfon’s vision has now become a reality.

The work that trade unions have done since their creation in terms of helping the plight of workers, insuring that workers get a fair deal from employers and providing special services to their members should not go unrecognised by any Conservative. It is something all Conservatives should be proud of. Indeed, it was a Conservative Prime Minister, Lord Derby, who in 1867 set out to decriminalise trade unions.

Conservatism has throughout history been on the side of workers, and continues to be so today – from William Wilberforce campaigning against slavery to great philanthropists such Lord Shaftesbury fighting against poverty; from Sir Robert Peel repealing the Corn Laws to cut food prices to Benjamin Disraeli funding new housing and sanitation for workers; from Stanley Baldwin, who brought in the widows’ pension and holiday entitlements, to Harold Macmillan’s great housing revolution; from Margaret Thatcher’s right to buy to John Major’s mission to make public services responsive to the public’s needs.

And now, it is this Conservative Government, under David Cameron, that is extending right to buy, cutting taxes for lower earners, creating more than two million jobs and two million apprenticeships.

During the 1960s and 70s, there were a large number of Conservative Party members who were also active trade union members. Some of the Party’s biggest beasts came from the union movement – Norman Tebbit, for example. Indeed, in 1950, a certain Parliamentary Candidate named Miss Roberts got her first political role as President of the Dartford branch of the Conservative Trade Unionists – or the CTU as it was better known then.

In 1975, soon after, as Margaret Thatcher, she became leader of the Conservative Party, she addressed a thousand-strong rally of the Conservative Trade Unionists. She said:

“As you well know, for over 100 years, ever since Disraeli’s day, since before the Labour Party existed, it has been the belief of the Conservative Party that the law should not only permit, but that it should assist, the trade unions to carry out their legitimate function of protecting their members…

You, as Conservative trade unionists, are part of the force for reason and responsibility in the movement. You are part of the majority which is both reasonable and moderate.”

These words are just as relevant today as they were in 1975. While some union leaders are helping the Labour Party to indulge in grumpy old Socialism, many trade union members – most of whom are moderate – are looking for practical and sensible ways to create the best possible environment for all workers.

To really understand what trade unions are about, we need to look beyond the caricature. There is a difference between the one-dimensional political rhetoric that comes out of the mouths of just a few militant union leaders and the support and activities of members.

Trade unions are first and foremost grassroots organisations, rooted in their community, providing much needed and appreciated services to their members. Members interact with their union on a local level. The value unions give to their members is based around the practical issues people come across in their day-to-day working life.

As Conservatives, we have always believed that it’s best to solve problems at the grassroots level in our communities; and that social capital is as important as economic capital and that they should go hand in hand. Collectively, the unions represent a huge swathe of social capital across the country. They are the largest body of volunteers in the UK. Some surveys suggest union members are eight times more likely to engage in voluntary work than the average person. The work that thousands of union members do is a great example of Big Society in action.

The creation of our new officially affiliated organisation within our Party, the CTU, is a direct link to our very proud history.

During the 1970s and 80s, the Conservative Trade Union movement was very strong: by 1986, it had 70,000 members and, in 1979, 4,000 Conservative trade unionists attended a rally to support Mrs Thatcher in Wembley. In 1986, a CTU conference was held with banners “Trade Unions for Tory victory”. ABrian Mawhinney, David Trippier, Robert Atkins, John Lee and Norman Fowler were some of the speakers.

Although the CTU was disbanded in early 1990s it was kept alive by the fantastic efforts of “Conservatives at Work” colleagues.

In the months ahead, and with your support, our team will build a modern CTU for Conservative-minded and moderate trade unions and all working people, so that they too have a strong voice in the future of our party. Please do visit Our website, sign up and join our new organisation, and help us to work even harder to reach out and support all trade unionists and all working people in our country today.

Ruth Davidson MSP – We stand in solidarity with Scotland’s workers

ruthdavidsonScottish Labour’s decision to abandon the 6,700 workers whose livelihoods depend on the future of Faslane and Coulport is a gross act of irresponsibility.

Never mind that the world looks more dangerous now than it has done for decades.

Never mind that there are thousands of Scottish jobs at risk.

Labour has decided that weakening our country’s defence is a price worth paying to try and woo SNP voters back into the fold.

This is a decision opposed by many decent Labour-affiliated Union members and by thousands of loyal Labour supporters.

The GMB union has warned that it “makes no sense” to abandon our defence strategy “solely for political reasons.”

Shop stewards at both Faslane and Coulport, who represent more than 800 Unite and GMB members, have attacked the Unite leadership for treating members “like mugs” by taking union subscriptions while “failing to support their future livelihoods.”

Labour has suggested that so-called “diversification” could help replace the jobs sustained by Trident. But the shop-stewards say Labour “would be as well telling us to apply for jobs in Brigadoon.”

Such a policy would, instead, lead to “yard closures, job losses, the rise of unemployment or low skilled, low paid jobs with zero hours contracts,” they have warned.

We in the Conservative party agree. The GMB and the shop stewards at Faslane and Coulport are right. Our promise to you is that we will always stick by your workers and your members.

The Conservative UK Government has already promised to invest a further £500m in the Clyde bases to ready them for the next generation of successor class submarines.

With Scottish Labour abandoning this commitment, and with Jeremy Corbyn at the helm in Westminster, it is only under a Conservative government that this investment will continue, allowing the West of Scotland economy to thrive.

The truth is that the Scottish Labour establishment and the Unite leadership have let down the very workers whose subscriptions pay their wages.

As Scottish Labour cuts them loose, we in the Conservative Trade Unionists (CTU) movement pledge to stand in solidarity with them to protect their livelihoods.

Let’s ensure Scottish Labour’s out-of-touch establishment hears our voice loud and clear – no to Labour’s threats to jobs, no to poverty wages on the Clyde, and yes to a future for Faslane and Coulport.

Ruth Davidson MSP is Leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party and a member of the Conservative Trade Unionists Advisory Panel. She is on twitter at @RuthDavidsonMSP

Welcome to Conservative Trade Unionists

spencerprofileWelcome to Conservative Trade Unionists (CTU) – our mission is to reach out to all workers and trade unionists in our country.

We are focused on improving employment rights, tackling low pay, helping to raise productivity and supporting even greater employment satisfaction for all. I very much hope you will join us in our important work in the coming weeks, months and years.