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Good choice! I think Richard Balfe will do a good job at this. Yes, it is quite right there used to be CTU and they used to be extremely active within our Party. They are now called "Conservatives at Work", I think in order to broaden the appeal and make themselves welcome to all those who take an interest in workplace issues but are not necessarily members of a trade union. Unfortunately one hears less of them these days - apart from their excellent jazz reception at Party Conferences!

Thank you Woodentop. I've added a link to Conservatives at Work.


Rats! I wish I'd got here in time to read Margaret Hemmings' offering. Her thoughts on trade unions would have interested me enormously :)

@ asquith

My comments were honest and direct as usual.

I am sorry that the editor, who usually is very fair minded and open to debate, has chosed to prevent my opinions from being viewed by the wider public.

I hope The Editor isn't following the example set by the Chinese regime.

It is nice to see I have admiring fans out there asquith.

Although I am no fan of the unions, I believe that a better relationship with the movement could be beneficial to both parties. If the Conservatives were to highlight how the working people of the UK have been betrayed by the nuLieBore regime and how the trades union movement have been made fools of by them then one of the core funding sources of nuLieBore can be undermined.

Combine this with a pledge to hold a full public enquiry into corporate and large personal donors and the relationship to policy decisions and those sources will distance themselves too.

"Around 30 per cent of trade union members vote Conservative,"

Gosh, that's higher than I thought it would be.

It's a fair move.

"I hope The Editor isn't following the example set by the Chinese regime."

[Falls over laughing]

Is he there to sell Cameron's post-ratification strategy to the unions ? A strong advocate of Turkey's EU accession and a Labour defector he may face an uphill task.Yet another past-world EUphile pulling Tory strings.

I don't know who you are Margaret but your comment at 08:24 was beyond parody - advocating an almost a Dickensian approach to workplace relations. Perhaps you really are genuine but your comment seemed more like that of a Labour troll.

By way of postscript I really welcome this. Richard Balfe is a genuine guy, very thoughtful and a Conservative Party should be talking to all sections of society. If 30% of union members are Conservative we should be engaging with them. Although the trade union movement is increasingly public sector, there are many union members who are facing a real squeeze in their incomes because of Labour policies. Let's include them in the Conservative coalition.

A wise and judicious appointment. Richard Balfe is a principled man. Unlike most defectors - Alan Howarth, say, or Emma Nicholson, or the cringe-making Shaun Wooodward - he never sought a pay-off. He had become increasingly uncomfortable with some of Labour's policies and, in the end, took about the bravest and most thankless decision a politician can take. He is now an officer of his local Association and his wife is (or at any rate was) a Tory councillor. But no baubles ever came his way. It was, in other words, that rarest thing in politics: a defection prompted by genuine conviction, without careerist calculations.

Balfie is not exactly my kind of Tory ideologically: he's a pro-European and a great admirer of Stanley Baldwin. But he is a good person and a good politician, and he'll be brilliant in this role. Many congratutlations to him.

It is great news that almost a third of all trade unionists vote Conservative.
We should be able to increase that percentage, considering the apparatchics that are currently leading the Labour Party.

I beleive that the vast majority of trade unionists are decent people, but that they have been unfortunate with their political leadership, both in the TUC and the Labour Party.

I had the honour and pleasure of meeting Mr Balfe on a number of occasions and he will be an excellent ambassador for us. Creating this direct interpersonal link with the Unions is one of the best ideas from Cameron so far. As it is clear that we can form the next government we need to show the Unions that we are engaging with them.

Congratulations, Richard. I agree with Dan Hannan (a first!) that Richard Balfe is a genuine, decent, principled and thoughtful man. We in Tottenham are extremely fortunate to have him as our President.

Good luck with the appointment!

I am an active trade unionist within the NHS and proud of it, but also “right wing” in my views on a number of issues, as are indeed many trade unionists. This should not come as a surprise as it has always been so. The Tories should, in theory at least, be a natural home for many of them now that the Labour Party has abandoned common sense on a number of issues, and incorporated the mantra of PC into its policy making. In fact, the Tories could have been a natural home for many more in the past had it not been for the way the party alienated so many people.

It is only a small of number trade union members (usually found among the hardcore fulltime leaders and activists) who are on the left wing loony side of the political spectrum.

Most trade unionists are the ordinary people that make up many of our vital public (and in some cases private) services, and who have the same concerns as most of the population. The reason many are in a trade union was as a result of many Tory policies not least of which was to leave many on the breadline depending on benefits to make up their wages. An utter disgrace.

However, seeing some of the comments on this website from time to time, reminds me of why many of them will still not vote for us. They will not vote for Labour anymore but we will not have their vote either. Some of the comments towards public sector workers by certain people on this site are still occasionally patronising and insulting.

I remember some years back, despite having a string of university degrees and diplomas, looking at my friends who had left school with fewer qualifications but decided to work for material gain. They could afford to live in a nice house, in a nice area, and so could send their children to a nice school, and of course owned a nice car. I wondered what I had done wrong in my career choice. The icing on the cake was having finished an exhausting 15 hour shift one day, in which my colleagues and I had battled in vain to save the life of a much loved 10 year old boy, coming home to hear Ann Widdecombe and Ken Clarke telling people how greedy health workers were for wanting a pay rise. Up until that point I was not very active in the union but I was from that day onwards. No wonder many others turned to the trade unions and for the first time in my life I was ashamed to be a conservative. Many of my colleagues vowed never to vote for this party again.

Many of us have worked hard, and have gained considerable qualifications, but rather than work for material gain we have dedicated ourselves to helping the weak, sick and vulnerable in society. It is only recently (and no thanks to the Tories I am ashamed to say) that many public sector workers are now enjoying the average working wage – not an enormous wage – just an average one. If this has taken several hefty pay rises to achieve then that you gives you some idea of how badly paid some of us were beforehand. This government finally woke up to the fact that skilled public sector staff were leaving in droves for better paid jobs abroad or in the private sector.

It is a simple fact that if you want certain services in a hurry the private sector is not going to provide it, so it is down to the public sector. The public sector has to have sufficient staffing to enable this to happen. (Cue the predictable howls about the bloated public sector and how it can be cut back, in my experience often from people who pay for private education, private health care, or who are the first to bitch and moan about the delays in services etc.).

The Tories have treated many public sector workers – read trade union members - with contempt in the past, making many of them the object of bile filled vitriol. At one time we were as bad as single mums in ruining society according to this party.

There will always be a need for the public sector in this country like it or not, and accordingly there will always be a need for people to work in it. By definition they will probably join a trade union because of the way that many are used as a political football. But without their votes this party simply cannot win an election – not now, not ever. I think, therefore, it is time that the party started to try to heal some old wounds and I think this initiative is a very sound move. Not only are there votes to be had but by persuading apathetic trade union members to vote Tory, these people are more likely to insist that their union donations are not given to the Labour Party, thus depriving them of funds.

Overall a win – win situation.

Hardcore Conservative

You must be having a laugh. If you are not a 5th columnist then I am a monkies uncle.

If the Edior had allowed my original comment you would have learnt a thing or two about trade unionism.

Unfortunately I have a memory and remember the 70s. I also remember how Margaret Thatcher dealt with them and still won 3 elections. So please don't tell me we need their votes.

Was it not Mr Prescott who said we are all middle class now.

Of course I welcome votes for us from all backgrounds. But we must stay true to our Conservatism and not becom wishy washy liberals to attract a few lefties.

Margaret Thatcher stood firm. Thats how she won. We must do the same and we will win.

What a wonderful contribution from Hardcore Conservative. Labour's stealth taxes hit low-income earners the most. I think many in the public sector and trade unions would support the idea of a 'flat tax'. This would take many out of tax altogether. We need to simply the tax system and abolish Brown's complicated and hated tax credits. Small tax cuts could be made - by cutting down on waste (see the James Review) and taxing big polluters (see the Quality of Life Report). This is how will broaden our appeal.

Margaret Hemmings has nothing positive or productive to say, so, Ed, I suggest we ‘send her to Coventry’.

Justin Hinchcliffe

Margaret Hemmings has nothing positive or productive to say, so, Ed, I suggest we ‘send her to Coventry’.

I have been advocating a flat tax for ages! How can you say I have nothing positive to say?

Some people seem to have gotten out of the wrong side of bed today.

"I also remember how Margaret Thatcher dealt with them and still won 3 elections. So please don't tell me we need their votes."

We can not afford to allienate the trade unionists. We could in the 1980s, because people like Tony Benn, Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock drove everyone else from Labour.
As someone else pointed out earlier, more than 20 years have passed since Margaret Thatcher won her last electoral victory.
Times have changed.

That's what I love about Dave and Gideon. They make all this effort on trade unionists and tell business last week. that unless they divert their attention to irrelevant green / social issues, they'll get some sort of ASBO. Plus all we greedy sods who work hard in the city, get a decent bonus (and pay a boat load of tax on it), we have to give more of it away to what they allege are 'worthwhile' causes.

Where the hell did the old Conservative Party go?

Buckinghamshire Tory rightly says that times have changed. The reason why the Conservative Party is the oldest political party in the world is that we have always changed and up-dated our messages while keeping small government, liberalism, self-responsibility and freedom at the core of our agenda. Thatcher was a radical - ahead of her time in many respects. Harking back to a bygone era that never was isn't sometime we Conservatives do. We move with the times.

As someone else pointed out earlier, more than 20 years have passed since Margaret Thatcher won her last electoral victory.
Times have changed.

Feels like yesterday to me.

I wish people would stop apologising for Mrs Thatcher. We did win elections under her remarkable leadership.

Margaret Hemmings maybe a little to the right of centre but we are a broad church.

I know that times have moved on but I know in my heart that if Margaret Thatcher was able once again to takeover at the helm we would be governing this country once again in a way that only Conservatives can.

Whether or not you agree with Hardcore Conservative read what he/she says and recognise how a lot of voters think. I am tempted to say something insulting about Margaret Hemmings but I will settle for pointing out that there is always a, and often a very large, difference between trade union members and trade union leadership. One of the great put offs of the Conservative party has been its inability, (or indeed its refusal Margaret) to distinguish between trade unions and members. This has lead to comments on important issues looking thoughtless.

An extreme example, The Fire Brigades union cooked up a claim for a 30% increase, the Tory spokesman dismissed it out of hand, he never wondered why stolid types like fire men were calling for someting on the face of so daft. The union had a technical justification which might have applied to a small proportion of Fire Fighters and had just applied the claim to everyone. What a missed oportunity to show up the union, not just generally, but to its members.

By the way I am Chairman of a trade union committee. The last three chairmen were Tories (can't remember any further back) and the last but one was a Tory parliamentary candidate! Please can we all grow out of Margaret Hemmings attitude.

Then Margaret Hemmings you are indeed a “Monkeys Uncle”.

Your comments personify how some in this party see public sector workers, and by definition “trade unionists”, as some inferior sub specious of the human race. Like I have said, bile filled vitriol – thank you for supporting my observations by providing an excellent example in this regard.

By the way I fail to see the relevance of the “5th Columnist” insult, especially as you do not know me. I am someone who has actually done more than you will ever know to support the institutions of this country, anyway on with the debate.

I remember the 1970’s and I also remember the worse excesses of the 1980’s to the present day as well. I do not suffer from selective memory block. Whether it is some over powered trade union official pressuring people to stay away from work by the use of bully-boy pickets, or some over powered company bosses treating their staff with absolute contempt, refusing to pay them a decent wage while using the law to destroy whole communities, is all the same to me: unjust and an abuse of power.

Marxist union leaders had their way in the 1970’s and used one form of oppression, while bosses had their way in the 1980’s and to a degree in the 1990’s and used another. All the time, the people who I have been alluding to – that is decent and hardworking, who had no choice but to belong to the union in the 1970’s because of the closed shop, and felt compelled to be in a union in 1980’s & 1990’s because of managerial bullying and incompetence, suffered many injustices.

Many, who deserted this party in 1997, including many of my colleagues, were lifelong conservative supporters and members of a trade union. They were heartily sick of seeing bosses and Tory politicians with their noses in the trough, just like I suspect the electorate, many of whom were again in a trade union, were sick of seeing mountains of rubbish in the 1970’s.

Oh, and straying off the point somewhat, talking of wish-washy liberals who was it that:

Abolished corporal punishment in state schools?
Introduced the 1989 Children’s Act, that has done so much to undermine the authority of parents, teachers and others in authority (or not as the case now is) over children, leading to many of the problems in today’s society?
Paved the way for greater integration into the EU?
Introduced legislation that began to tie the hands of the police and introduced lots of paperwork?

Etc, etc.

Wishy-washy liberals probably, trouble is they were Conservative Ministers at the time.

Before the Tory Party can begin to repair the damage to itself and its reputation, it first has to confront some uncomfortable home truths. Truths that some on here simply cannot, or will not, face up to.

Hardcore Conservative

I welcome your comments and feel that we can all engage in a mature debate. What is at stake here is the direction of our party and the future of our once great nation.

1) "Your comments personify how some in this party see public sector workers,...... as some inferior sub specious of the human race."

I have nothing against public sector workers, I simply believe that the market is superior. 40% of the nations economy is public sector. Any fool can see this is too high... much of the nhs/education could easily be outsourced saving frankly billions. Nor do I see anyone as a sub species (although on a recent visit to a comprehensive I do sometimes wonder).

2." I am someone who has actually done more than you will ever know to support the institutions of this country"

You sound rather like Heather Mills with that comment. I don't suppose the worl would stop turning without your input.

3"Marxist union leaders had their way in the 1970’s and used one form of oppression, while bosses had their way in the 1980’s and to a degree in the 1990’s and used another"

Are you saying you disagree with Margaret Thatchers union reforms. Its true I would of gone further. Management knows best, we can't have the tail wagging the dog!

4) "Many, who deserted this party in 1997, including many of my colleagues, were lifelong conservative supporters and members of a trade union."

Just one comment here, isn't the Labour Party the political wing of the trade union movement? I have never understood how trades unionists could be Conservatives. I think you are trying to have your cake and eat it!

5) " who was it that:
Abolished corporal punishment in state schools? etc....)

I don't pretend that Margaret Thatcher was perfect. These kind of measures were imposed upon her by wets.. Remember entry into the ERM. Mrs Thatcher was forced by wets into that dreadful position

6) Truths that some on here simply cannot, or will not, face up to.

I will admit I am a traditionalist, I have victorian values. If we all stood firm our country could be great again. Please do not reject Mrs Thatcher. She was a true conviction politician and we badly need her kind again today!

"I have never understood how trades unionists could be Conservatives.

Sorry Margaret Hemmings if you can't get your head round this fact you can't make much of a contribution to this debate. Re trade unions and Margaret Thatcher; she took a large amount of power away from trade union leaders and handed it to members. Please keep up, you just look silly. (and umpleasent by the way, or - nasty)

Back to the thread now please!

"I wish people would stop apologising for Mrs Thatcher. We did win elections under her remarkable leadership."

I don't think anyone here are apologising for Margaret Thatcher. I think Mrs Thatcher was the greatest peacetime Prime Minister in the 20th century.
I consider myself a Thatcherite.
However, I also know that the 80s are over. The Tory party can not be relevant in todays world if we offer the same solutions as we did in the 1980s.
When Mrs Thatcher rose to power, she did not look to Macmillan, Eden or Ted Heath for a blueprint to solve the problems facing our country.
Just as Mrs Thatcher, we should not look to the past to solve today's challenges.

First a minor correction as the Press release got it wrong. I have been a Union Member since I left school at 16 years of age in 1960. I have been in my present Union UNITE/AMICUS since 1983. I have been a COOP member since around the age of 21.
When I first went to work in the 1960s Civil Service there were a large number of Conservative Trade Unionists. Indeed it was a Conservative VSH Mitchell Conservative Member of the GLC for Bromley and a fellow employee at The Crown Agents who advised me to join the Labour Party as "Our Party is not ready for you yet".
The world has changed a lot in these last 48 years and the Conservative Party with it. Indeed the secret of the Conservative Party is precisely its ability to change and adapt.
One or two of the comments on this website show a misunderstanding of what Trade Unions are. They are a part of Civil Society who's main job is to defend their Members interests. If you go to the average Union conference what you notice is the lack of political ideology and a concentration on "Bread and Butter" issues.
In 1983 I was invited to join AUEW(TASS) which spelt out was the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers Technical Administrative and Supervisory Staff. In the election of that year the majority of Members voted Conservative!
Today the typical Trade Unionist works in a white collar often Public sector job. The Doctor, Health Visitor, Airline Pilot, Teacher and local authority worker are not only Trade Unionists but also likely to vote Conservative.
So we need to get real about these people. They matter and they deserve to be listened to. Mondeo man who is credited with putting us in power in 1979 is also often Trade Union man.
Finally many Trade Union Members have the same inherent sense of fairness that all the rest of us have. They are unhappy at the huge amounts of money made by people speculating in Hedge Funds and the like. Their pensions are invested in shares like HBOS which was nearly derailed a few weeks ago. They want a better fairer Britain and they do not see it coming from this Government.
Our reaching out to the Trade Union movement is timely and shows we are intent on building an inclusive Britain.

Hardcore Conservative makes a number of very accurate points. I fully agree that we need to recognise the value, and reward the loyalty, of a very large number of essential and dedicated public sector employees. However, at the same time, it is certainly true that, even before the advent of NuLab, which has merely enthusiastically magnified the problem,the public sector bureaucratic administrative baggage, including local government (as opposed to the sharp end workers) was becoming ever more bloated and unproductive. I think that Hardcore Conservative would probably agree that many DoH 'target initiatives', involving additional meetings, paperwork, clerical staff, reports and audits, have actually hindered, rather than helped, the delivery of clinical care.

It is therefore becoming increasingly difficult to classify and differentiate between those who may happen to be a member of a trade union and those who are not, let alone to assign a political label to them.

There is no doubt that NuLab, in spinning the concept of full employment, created a massive increase of non essential posts in the "public" sector, ranging from Quangoes, Commissions, Arms Length Bodies, Consultations,etc; many of which involved the employment of unecessary, under-peforming and overpaid 'jobsworths'. Doubtless some of these, having nothing better to do, will be politically active, through their trade unions, in trying to perpetuate their privileged positions.

Cameron therefore faces a real challenge,
Persuade ordinary union members that he is on their side, but against bloated bureaucracy, even if this involves some (maybe quite a lot) of their members, or admit that his only real ambition is to get himself elected.

I feel Mr Balfe has vindicated much of what I have said and for that I am grateful to him.

Whether we as a party like it or not, a large number of the population now work in the public sector. Many of these people may be the very same people who last elected a Tory government into office, and may be prepared to do so again if they are treated with respect and their concerns taken seriously.

It also has to be recognised that there will be a generation of public sector workers who were too young to vote in the last GE but who will be able to vote in the next one. Do we ignore them and allow the traditional assumption to prevail that if you are a trade unionist then you have to be a labour supporter, thus allowing this self fulfilling prophecy to come true and loose thousands of votes. Or, do we challenge this assumption and reach out to encourage people in the trade unions to vote for us.

Basically this country is dying on its knees and it will take people from all walks of life to help repair it, and that means engaging with the public sector that have a lot of expertise to offer. Often in the public sector it is the workforce with the real expertise while managers are often just facilitators. This means if you wish to harness the expertise within the public sector then you have to talk to, and engage with, the workforce. In other words trade union members. The Conservative Party leadership have, to their immense credit, grasped this fundamental fact after opening their eyes and waking up to reality.

The days of the “working class” being labour and the “toffs” being Tory have gone and are not coming back. Contemporary problems often require contemporary solutions.

Some people will be able to accept this while others will not do so. In my view those who cannot do so are naïve and living a life of yesteryear. There is no reason to believe that once our society is repaired we cannot once again live by a moral set of rules, but this can only happen by engaging with as many people as possible from all walks of life.

"Cameron therefore faces a real challenge,
Persuade ordinary union members that he is on their side, but against bloated bureaucracy, even if this involves some (maybe quite a lot) of their members,"
Posted by: David Parker | March 23, 2008 at 19:32

In the public sector I would suggest this could be quite easy. It is clear, from things like lost discs, that the civil service organisation is crumbling. In schools and local authorities the continuing reorganisations create unnecessary work and personal anguish (and by the way, some of the public sector pension schemes arn't as good as others). Workers are looking for some stability and a losening of central controls. Both of which one would expect from a Conservative government. Frankly it should be easy to get a high proportion on board.

The trouble is, as Margaret Hemmings demonstrates, there is a section in the Conservative party who arn't really sure they want them on board. In my experience even controling Conservative councillors don't understand how things work, perhaps don't want to understand. Getting public sector trade unionists to vote Conservative would seem to require convincing them that Conservatives understand, and want to understand, their circumstances and that, I suspect, could be the difficult bit.

“I think that Hardcore Conservative would probably agree that many DoH 'target initiatives', involving additional meetings, paperwork, clerical staff, reports and audits, have actually hindered, rather than helped, the delivery of clinical care”.

Indeed I do sir!

I am not saying that the public sector could not be improved, God knows the NHS certainly could be (leaving it alone politically would be a good start). What I am trying to say is its members and other public sector employees are not the enemy either, and many could be useful allies to our party.

On that note I think I have taken up enough space on this debate!

A very good move. Also it's no suprise at all that many trade unionists vote Conservative as Richard Balfe admirably explains. Furthermore we are on the side of ordinary trade unionists because a future Govt will need to improve public services and that will involve empowering staff down the chain and cutting management bureaucracy. The system would work better with less tiers of management at the upper level and better rewarded staff further down the chain being allowed to get on with their job and get some feeling of success from it.

First of all let me try and win over Margaret Hemmings. Trade unionist could be deemed a wholly natural part of the Conservative coalition. In the words one of one Conservative MP. - "There is nothing more Conservative than a union shop Steward". Both Conservatives and many trade unionists have that natural pride in insititions.

Mts. Thatcher was a trade unionist when she worked as a Chemist and she very much trumpeted this fact in elections.
Her reforms in the 1980s were about setting a responsible framework for trade unions and to empower union members viz-a-viz union leadership.

I fully agree with Margaret's points about the 1970s and so would the majority of union members. And the best assurance against a return to 1970s is for all good Conservatives to join their relevant reciognized unions. Mrs. Thatcher said 'Conservatives are the voice of moderation within their unions'.

Am sure Margarat Hemmings would not disagree with the other Margaret on that point.

Also unions are a good form of social enterprize on the best Victorian principles, providing services like insurance type/sickness benfits for oneself and one's family. - Not relying on the state.

Finally one trade union the Union of Country Sports Workers was set up in part to help fight against an attack upon their own livelihhods from the Labour government, namely the Hunting Ban.

And my own trade union USDAW was helped by a lot of Conservative MPs in successfully resisting a Labour proposal to length Sunday Trading hours. You see Conservatives and trade unionist support traitional family values.

Have I won you over Margaret?


Congratulations to David Cameron on this very sensible appointment. Richard is a decent man and will carry out this job with charm and skill.

Good luck Richard!

I have been a Trade Union member since about 1978 - in those days it was 'no union membership - no job!' Happily the ultimate protection racket of the closed shop was done away with (by us not the Lie-bour party), but I remain a member as the union belongs to us as members, not the reds.

Certainly the Conservatives should seek dialogue and support from the Trades Unions, especially their members not the general secretaries. Every time the Conservatives beat Labour in a general election because of that small irritation to the socialists - the decision of the people - they then switched their battle to a different dimension namely industrial relations. Why should we triumph in a general election simply to have to face the same opponents again in strike actions, which bring about instability and confrontation and eventually give Labour a reason to oppose us in a subsequent election.

If unions saw uas as potential allies then why pay Labour millions?

Hardcore Conservative @ 20:17 is absolutely right and this is why it is important to foster links between the Conservative Party and the Unions. Many of the industrial relations difficulties in the public sector arise where there are trade unions which have militant leaders (such as Bob Crow of the RMT) who are constantly flexing their muscles with an eye to future elections. They feel confident of re-election because in the main it is only those employees who are hard left-wing who bother to turn up for meetings and vote in elections. The remainder feel disenfranchised and simply "keep their heads down". If more Conservatives could engage with the day-to-day political matters of their workplace then the dynamics might shift and we would see more moderate leaders elected who had the genuine interests of their members at heart.

About the political donations.

It is imperative that the Conservative Party gets the language right on it. Caps on all political donations, including union donations are good for trade unions. The reason is simple. They have more money available for servicing their members. Any Conservative MP who attempts to apply an anti-union veneer to the debate needs to be firmly 'roped in'.

About the public sector. I feel that the last 11 years of Labour has seen a contraction in the right kind of public sector and the expansion of the wrong kind. For example Royal Mail has been very much undermined in terms or manpower, particulalry to detriment of rural areas.
On the other hand we have seen a a major expansion of the 'politically correct' positions advertised in the Guardian on a Wednesday. So therefore reversing Labour decisions to take away services from post offices and downgrade the Royal Mail monopoly would go down well with rural votes, not to mention CWU members.

The fastest growing union is my own USDAW and that convenes in the most dynamic sector - retail. The Chancellor last year elected to scap the 10p starting rate and double it to 20p. This could be a campaign issue for the Conservative Party. The 10p starting rate could easily be restored by reapply the basic rate to 22p.

Congratulations to my former London MEP colleague Richard Balfe and I am glad David Cameron has found Richard an important job to do and knowing Richard's diligence he will take it up with vigour. Although no fan of Unions having refused in my previous profession to ever join the BMA they are still a force to reckon with and Richard is the ideal man in this liaison role. I campaigned with others to get a seat for Richard in the Lord's unsuccessfully and feel we treat senior defectors shabbily compared to other parties, and I was astonished with his experience he was not even interviewed recently for a seat in the Eastern Region MEP selection process. He deserved far better and this appointment may go some way towards compensating him!

Charles, I couldn't agree with you more. Cameron should put him into the Lords and make him a front bencher.

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