"I'm a Tory, why aren't you?"
JEREMY CORBYN is hardly going to be singing this at Labour Party Conference in 2016. Perhaps because Labour people in the know are already numbering his days. There will be many more after the May 2016 Scottish Parliamentary elections.
This week, Ruth Davidson MSP – quickly becoming the darling of all Unionists across Scotland – set out in the inaugural article for the newly reformed Conservative Trade Unionists group – the case why Tories should also be Trade Unionists.
As a previous representative for Scotland in the Tory Reform Group, holding a fringe event at the Scottish conference in recent years on the importance of greater devolution for Holyrood before it was de rigueur to believe so, I believe the re-establishment of the CTU to be a fundamental move for our recovery in Scotland, and our establishment as the moderate party across the UK, in the Corbynite era.
I have registered support to join the Conservative Trade Unionists group, and would encourage all other supporters to do likewise. My reason for doing so is I found my political feet in a Conservative Association steeped in history with affiliation to the former CTU group. Stalwarts such as the late John Young, Alastair Mackenzie, Marion Kilpatrick, Esme Clark and Archie McIntyre were all involved with the original CTU group, whilst being involved with the Cathcart Conservative Association at one point or another.
The Cathcart Association, of course, had a long established history of 'independent thinking'. Some of your older and more dedicated readers may recall the 1995 Declaration of Cathcart when the Scottish Conservatives last held the annual conference in Glasgow, which called for a multi-option referendum on devolution / independence / status quo. Let's just say hindsight is a wonderful thing and leave it at that...
I remember stories being regaled of resource being provided from a Glasgow-based Conservative office to the Democratic Union of Mineworkers during the Miners Strike in the 1980s. Back then, as now, the Conservatives stood to represent everyday working Britons within a respect for the rule of law, and a framework of rules pertaining to the operation of Trade Unions.
An Association Handbook from the 1970s springs to mind in particular, for the handbook promoted to local members that they should stand for positions within their own works' Trades Unions in order to lock-out the extremists. And many did. But we've somehow lost this along the way. We locked ourselves out and alienated ourselves from many Trade Unions. It shouldn't be this way.
For many years being a Tory and being in a Trade Union were never considered mutually-exclusive points of principal.
It is important Conservatives do join a workplace Trade Union, and more so, it is crucial Conservatives make their voices heard within their Trade Union. That will prevent the polarisation, such as that we saw during 1980s, from occurring in future.
Everyone has a right to a safe workplace and to be treated with dignity within it, and to have a functioning democracy, we do need decent, moderate and balanced Trade Unions. But so too, Unions also need democracy, but that has always been the Conservatives goal.
Remember this – most Trade Union leaders are not representative of the majority of their Trade Union members. Look at how few people participate in strike ballots these days. This is the major disconnect between workers and the Trade Union barons such as Len McCluskey.
Red Len and his ilk seek the overthrow of Capitalism and the installation of Socialism in its place. But for most ordinary Scottish workers, they don't hate Capitalism. In fact, I would say they love Capitalism. Their only problem with Capitalism is they aren't getting enough of it, and will do what they can to get more of it.
While Arthur Scargill thought he was leading a revolution by direct action to rid ourselves of the free market, and roll back the frontiers of Thatcherism, it is fair to say the majority of miners wanted all the trappings of Capitalism. They wanted the extra earnings to buy shares in newly privatised companies, the same as everyone else. They wanted stable employment and a secure future to fund a mortgage to participate in Right to Buy.
That was the major disconnect between the extremists and ordinary TU members, and the Conservative Trade Unionists group can be the group which severs the extremists from decent Trade Unionists, which will be good for employers and employees alike. That is how we build a One Nation society.
As a candidate in Lanarkshire – a region steeped in Trade Unionism and industrial history – I am perfectly aware that in days gone by, there were plenty of Unionised workers here who voted Tory and nobody batted an eyelid about it. What happened between then and now is a mere blip. The drift Leftward by the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn presents an opportunity for the Scottish Conservatives to be the first party of choice for any pro-UK worker who wishes to build a stronger Scotland in a strong United Kingdom.
And as someone from a typical Labour background myself, I faced a tough choice when I became politically aware: be on the right of Labour, where the New Labour project never fully happened in Scotland, or be on the progressive wing of the Scottish Conservatives.
You only need to look at who is winning the battle of ideas and vision, and who is losing, to see which was the best long-term answer. As you could imagine, I go into the 2016 election campaign feeling pretty vindicated...
Andrew Morrison is former Chairman of the Scottish Tory Reform Group, the constituency candidate for Uddingston & Bellshill, and is one of nine candidates for the Central Scotland region, both for the Scottish Parliament elections in May 2016.