Over the past few months there have been many attacks on democracy in Britain by the coalition government. Today Tory MP Dominic Raab is introducing a private members bill in order to prevent Unions of essential services and transport illegal unless the vote for yes represented over 50% of the electorate able to vote.
This has been talked about for some time by Conservative MP’s and the CBI as a way of taking pressure off employers to keep wages low. David Cameron mentioned this in Parliament as an issue he would look closely at if strikes became widespread. A clear threat to unions to stay in check or face more anti-union laws.
It is unlikely anythink will come of this bill, however, the seeds have been sown as a threat, throwing down the gauntlet to the Unions, showing that those on the right could bring such a bill forward in government’s Parliamentary time.
This is simply an act of vandalism on the rights of people in this country to take industrial action in a democratic organisation. It is fundamentally un-democratic and abhorrent to the liberal nature of our society.
Lets be clear, I do not belong to a union, although I have been in the past, and there are many times people have gone on strike and I have disagreed with either their issue or their tactics. However, that is not the point. Whether I like it or not, I accept the right to ballot members to take industrial action if they so wish.
Quite often, those that take action, at least in the short term lose a lot more than they gain as they have to go several days without pay. No one takes these decisions lightly. People have families to feed and mortgages/rent to pay and the decision to take industrial action is thought about seriously by whoever takes it.
Unions are democratic organisations, they are not monolithic institutions run by Trotskyites who arm wrestle people into striking on a whim. There is too much to lose.
What this bill shows is the gross disregard for democracy and fairness the Conservative Party and the CBI have. It is exactly the same as the call by some for the referendum on AV to only count if it got more than a certain percentage of the vote.
The facts about democracy and especially our democracy in Britain, is that we do not force anyone to vote. No one is penalised for not voting as in Australia or in other countries. Many people think this should be so, but our democracy has a certain amount of consent built into it’s culture. While people have the freedom to chose whether to vote, that is their right.
Very often in democracy in Britain, whether it is in General Elections, Council elections, or European Elections, many constituencies or even throughout the country as a whole, the majority do not vote for the winning candidate or party. Indeed, in the case of council elections and European elections you do not even get a majority taking part at all. By the logic of Dominic Raab MP all of these elections should be null and void.
It would make any government formed since the second World War wince, as no one has managed to get more than 50% of the votes cast let alone the majority of those eligible to vote!
It is a nonsense argument, made up by those with a vindictive nature, who wish to attack unions for the sake of it.
Many of the votes taken in recent times in union ballots for strikes have had an overwhelming majority voting for strike action. If a large number did not vote who were eligible to, that is their choice. I am sure if they felt strongly enough they most certainly would.
Unions are democratic institutions and should be respected in our society rather than simply used as a scapegoat, regardless of whether we agree with them or not. Democracy needs to be upheld, it is more important than petty Tory MP’s trying to make a name for themselves.