Trade unions have an important role in any decent society, but their stranglehold on the Labour Party is something we must fight against.
I will never forget walking the streets of Poland back in 1981, when martial law was in force, and there were armed soldiers on almost every street corner. There it was a trade union, Solidarity, which brought authoritarian Communism to its knees.
In the UK Margaret Thatcher recognised the importance of trade unions in society. Indeed one of her first roles in politics was as chairman of Dartford Conservative Trade Unionists.
But the battle in British politics today is nothing to do with the work done by local union officials or workers struggling for political freedom. Instead it is about the personal ambitions of a small group of union bosses who want to change our country in pursuit of inefficient spending and a larger, ineffective state.
The union bosses want a Britain where hardworking taxpayers are left to foot the bill for unaffordable welfare systems. A Britain where borrowing more and more is the norm and not something we want to stop. Borrowing which, under Labour, would produce more debt than future generations could ever afford to repay. A Britain where entrepreneurship is stifled, not encouraged.
And it is Ed Miliband and the Labour Party who want to walk through the doors of Number 10 to deliver all this. Never has the Labour Party been so reliant on union support. Unite alone has donated more than £12 million since 2010 – that’s nearly a third of all Labour’s donations. Miliband himself and most of his team have been bankrolled by thousands and thousands of pounds from Len McCluskey.
As Len McCluskey himself has said: ‘I’m as keen as anyone, as you’ve probably noticed, on debating Labour policy. But I want to have those debates with Ed Miliband in Number 10, not in opposition.’
The trouble is it won’t be just debates. Of the Labour candidates selected for this General Election, over a third have close ties to McCluskey’s union Unite. And if Ed Miliband were to enter Downing Street, he would be entirely dependent on their votes in the House of Commons.
So when Len McCluskey demands something – Ed Miliband gives in to him. Scrapping the benefit cap. Public ownership of the railways. A tax on the family home. Old fashioned rent controls that won’t work. The restoration of the spare room subsidy. All demanded by Len McCluskey – and all granted in turn by Ed Miliband.
They are policies that would risk Britain’s future. And they come with a price tag. Treasury estimates show that Labour plan to borrow £166 billion more than the Conservatives if they were to win the next election. That equates to £5,500 per head for every taxpayer in the country. It is an agenda that Britain cannot afford.
Last week we had some good news. Our economy has grown back to pre-recession levels. Employment is at its highest ever level with over 2 million more jobs since 2010. We have made good progress, but there is still a long way to go.
So the choice at the next election is clear: between our long-term economic plan that offers real results, and Ed Miliband’s union bosses and their promises of higher deficits, higher taxes and rising insecurity. It’s a battle we have to win.
Chris Grayling is Secretary of State for Justice and Conservative MP for Epsom and Ewell.
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