Unions need an iron fist, not an open one

Thatcher's legacy is not one of negotiation and arbitration with the unions and revising her legacy will not dupe us into dealing with the unions

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The lady's legacy is not for revising
On 21 October 2012 09:39

The argument is often made in some conservative circles, that Mrs. Thatcher was once a union member, and believed in the benefits that unions could bring to the country.

Perhaps this was true in 1979, alas it was not true even in 1984 let alone today.

The fact is that if Mrs. Thatcher was back at the Tory helm today, she would not seek to open Conservative Trade Union offices around the country. She realised the difference between union members and the militancy early on - but this independent, contractual relationship soon synthesized into the illegitimate and unwiedly trade union movement that has re-emerged today.

And it has happened with the consent of union members - whether they voted Tory at the last election or not. 

It's true that Thatcher's pragmatism is often forgotten. Instead of being remembered as a calculating leader who took risks only when the potential benefit outweighed the cost, Thatcher is remembered as a gung-ho zealot whose hard-headedness both won arguments and political battles. Neither is exclusively true.

But Thatcher's pragmatism would not have manifested much differently today regarding the re-emerging British disease of strike fever (or march fever, as it has more recently become). 

Rather than attempting to use Tory Trade Unions to destabilise the movement, Thatcher destroyed their legal protections, ended the closed shop and made it impossible for unions to blockade places of importance.

Her finest tactic however, was her political trickery. She duped the unions repeatedly, culiminating in her defeat of Scargill. When have we seen any such efforts to tackle the trade union bosses today?

Collective punishment can only be justified when the membership of an organisation has been complicit in the activities of their bosses.

The same is applicable in any major corrupt organisation. So why are some Tories so keen to excuse union members who financially, politically or otherwise support the militant movements? Because we can grab them at the ballot box?

The rationale is rather perverse. For a quick few votes and the outlying chance of a majority, Conservatives should abandon principle and allow the rot to set in? These are not conservative values and Thatcher would abhor them in this circumstance.

If trade unions are to be confronted effectively, and members are to be released from the shackles of an all-round degenerative relationship with the state, then we need to take a leaf from Thatcher's book. The time for negotiations is over. Now is the winter of our discontent. 

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