Conservative Diary

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On Saturday Cameron promised to tackle the vested interests (today we learn he may will continue to subsidise them)

On Saturday I gave a warm welcome to David Cameron's speech promising to take on the nation's vested interests, particularly the unions.

I was a bit disappointed to read this morning, therefore, that the party is likely to continue with the Labour government's taxpayer-financed union modernisation fund. The FT has the full story. I've asked CCHQ for a confirmation of the FT's story but haven't heard back yet. 10.30am - CCHQ has confirmed the story IS true. The Trade Union Modernisation Fund will continue if Cameron becomes Prime Minister].

After a long strike-free period when Labour gave them all they wanted in terms of higher public sector pay and protected pensions, the unions are already awash with money and have a £25m warchest with which to "unleash hell" on any Tory government. The trade unions don't need extra funding and they are unlikely to be bought off with even more.

It's sensible that Conservatives pursue a constructive dialogue with the unions (and Richard Balfe's outreach to union leaders was a wise initiative) but, in 'the age of austerity', we cannot afford to continue these subsidies for what have rightly been described as vested interests.

If the Tories win the General Election there is already a risk that we'll be in office but not fully in power. Throughout the country people of the Left will be running quangoes and are planted through the state-funded third sector. Paul Goodman has warned that many plan war on Conservative ministers.

It's true that we can't fight every opponent at once but the Tory leadership needs to have a strategy to take on the vested interests throughout the 'appointment-land' that Labour has colonised. Giving even more money to the union movement is a discouraging sign.

Tim Montgomerie


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