If the Conservatives win the next general election, they will make any industrial action illegal unless a minimum of 40% of eligible members participate in the vote. Fair enough, some will say. I am not against the principle of democratic thresholds per se, but I feel that they can only truly work within a system that is underpinned by equity and fairness. Here in the UK, we have neither. I feel that they can only hold moral and ethical legitimacy, if all public elections are subjected to the same threshold. It is interesting to note that the Conservatives do not plan to impose this minimum turnout requirement on political elections, Police and Crime Commissioners, or elections affecting shareholders. Boris Johnson, for example, was elected on 36% of the vote as London Mayor. Katie Bourne, Police & Crime Commissioner for Sussex was elected on a turnout of 15%, and the PCC in my own area of Humberside Police, Matthew Grove, took office on a turnout of just 19%
The government have two big problems; Firstly, in a world where people are simultaneously becoming politically more aware, and consequently less likely to participate in an electoral system that is as broken as the parliamentary gravy train for which it stamps season tickets, what is required of them is the will to lead by example. Sadly, they, akin to their predecessors of both major persuasions, neither have the ability, the moral compass, or the spine to set such a credible example for the people they are paid to represent.
Thanks to swingeing, and counterproductive changes to employment law, it is now virtually impossible for a worker to initiate tribunal proceedings against their employer. The average working man and woman have been priced out of justice. Contrary to coalition claims, these changes have not added one iota of productivity to the UK economy. Thanks to the same chainsaw approach to legal aid, we now see the poor almost entirely disconnected from legal redress. The deficit has not wilted in the face of these cuts, despite what the enthusiastic headline writers in the tabloid press may tell you. Those suffering in the aftermath of railway fatalities and the like are now forced to sue the family of the deceased, or Network Rail if they endure hardship and trauma. Our national debt, which is historically at quite a low point anyway, has not blinked at this initiative, unlike may rail staff.
All of these policies have nothing to do with solving the issue to which they are connected. The constant theme that flows beneath almost all Conservative policy, is a burning desire to be seen by newspaper editors and millionaire bankrollers as whacking the poor with a stick, and clearing the way for unrestricted free market capitalism, regardless of the consequences, and this leads us onto the second big problem carried forth by this feckless, and beige government of disconnected also-rans.
The Conservative Party cannot help but grind its well worn ideological axe when making policy in a way that ensures counter-productivity is inevitable. It encourages an intolerant, adversarial approach to free trade unions, believing that they, and the workers they represent are somehow plotting the commercial downfall of the nation. There is no better example of Tory folly on the issue of Industrial relations than Eric Pickles' determined campaign to prevent union fees being taken directly from the wages of civil servants, despite it leaving the government at risk of legal action, and saving virtually no money. If the Tories could squint past their own misguided preconceptions, they would perhaps realise that happy, organised and aware employees are productive ones. If you value someone, and invest in them, they will pay you back with a handsome profit, both morally and commercially. If they could see past their seemingly pre-programmed Victorian values, they would know that a progressive benefit system that helps the vulnerable, and incentivises people back into work instead of hounding them, would see a long term fall in overall welfare spending, alongside a noticeable boost to the local high street through individual workers being more affluent. If they could see the true value of leading by example, the Conservatives would instinctively know that any move to place legal restrictions on the right of free trade unions to organise workers could only be legitimised against a backdrop of true equity and electoral fairness. Politics is broken. I see this as a slightly higher priority than tying the arms of those acting as a voice for the British workplace. One way to strengthen the mandate of those making laws on our behalf would be to subject them to these same proposals before any other group or organisation.
We need true reform, not a stitch up that embeds the power of the privileged few. We need leadership, not finger wagging, and we need workable solutions aimed at solving the problem, not excuses to beat the poor with an ever thornier club. I would challenge David Cameron: If you really are committed to fairness and equity, put down your champagne flute and think about this;
Your philosophy does not work if you see yourself as above those whom you expect to conduct themselves to a higher standard than you expect of yourself, your party, or those shady arrangements that subsidise your activities.
Our democracy is not beyond repair, unlike the Conservative Party. For repair to take place though, we need representatives whose first loyalty is the voter, and not the donor. Conservatives are of course, free to prove me wrong. Set an example. If you and your party wish to be regarded as better than the rest of us, you need to do better, legislate better, and govern better, but when it comes to electoral reform, allow me to demonstrate some good manners: You first, Prime Minister.