Conservative MP calls to stop the union bashing

Unison members on strike Image copyright PA
Image caption Robert Halfon's report argues that Conservatives and trade unions can be soul mates

Here's a thing..."Trades Unions should be a potential ally rather than a permanent enemy."

You may be surprised to learn that these are the words of the Conservative MP for Harlow.

Robert Halfon has written an essay explaining why and how trade unions can be friends of the Conservative party.

Yes, he writes: "So often unions on the ground embody the Big Society, are community institutions, and offer invaluable services to their members.

"TUC research has shown that trade union officers are 'eight times more likely to engage in voluntary work' than the average.

"Government figures show that the people who join unions tend to come from ordinary households, on average incomes.

"They are strivers, often from middle England."

Both sides now

These are words from Mr Halfon's report, which argues that Conservatives and trade unions can be soul mates and not surprisingly, that they also matter to the Conservative party as a source of electoral support.

Albeit, the support is not unconditional.

The belief that trade unionism can lessen the intervention of the state in day-to-day employment disputes is tempered by the idea that: "It also holds the potential for the rolling back of much blanket legislation already in existence."

And the thought that if every worker in this country was a member of a union, the need for micro-managed, uniform employment rights would be much reduced, might be not universally welcomed by union barons.

They receive a shot across the bows in the warning that higher membership "might also serve to reduce the capture - evident in some unions - of a once mass movement by a small elite of partisan extremists."

But brushing such considerations aside, the general tenet of the report is conciliatory.

Reaching out in a spirit of co-operation is a risky business especially as the report acknowledges, the battle between the Conservative party and trade unionism - which began in the late 1970s has rolled on ever since.

Ending that battle will probably invite blows from both sides.