The Tories would limit strike action. Photo: Getty
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The Tories pledge a 50 per cent strike ballot threshold

The Conservative Party has pledged that if it were to form another government next year, it would ban strikes if less than half of workers back them.

As has been rumbling beneath the surface for a while, the Tories have now pledged to implement a 50 per cent turnout threshold for strikes, alongside a three-month time limit on the duration of industrial action mandates. If the party makes it into office after the next election, it will introduce these measures.

The PoliticsHome website is reporting this morning that the Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude told House magazine that the case has been made for these reforms due to unions causing “serious disruption” by “consistently coming again and again, on the basis of very low turnouts, and deciding to call their members out”.

The TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady told the same magazine that the proposals are “out of touch” and questioned why there should be “one test of a democratic ballot for trade unions, and an entirely different, easier test for politicians”.

The Lib Dems have blocked these reforms while they’re still in government, but it’s more interesting to see how Labour can respond to such a pledge from the Tories.

The reality is that strike action in recent years in this country has not been devastatingly disruptive, and is also relatively rare. The Tories’ move is an ideological one, and also one that could gain quite a bit of traction with their voters, and perhaps those floating into Ukip territory. It is a politically-driven decision rather than one responding to any walkouts putting the country to a standstill.

This makes Labour’s position more tricky. As although it rightly does not see the case for change in strike laws, it will nevertheless need to respond in a nuanced way to the Conservative party’s pledge. It can’t just attack the Tories on ideological grounds, as it has already made some headway in weakening the influence of the unions over its own party and decision-making.

If it all-out attacks the Tories, it may undermine some of its intentions there, which were forged in such tricky, sensitive circumstances, almost risking “a civil war in the Labour movement”. So Ed Miliband should tread carefully when responding to these plans.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

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Donald Trump promises quick Brexit trade deal - but the pound still falls

The incoming President was talking to cast out Brexiteer, Michael Gove. 

The incoming President, Donald Trump, told the Brexiteer Michael Gove he would come up with a UK-US trade deal that was "good for both sides".

The man who styled himself "Mr Brexit" praised the vote in an interview for The Times

His belief that Britain is "doing great" is in marked contrast to the warning of current President, Barack Obama, that Brexit would put the country "at the back of the queue" for trade deals.

But while Brexiteers may be chuffed to have a friend in the White House, the markets think somewhat differently.

Over the past few days, reports emerged that the Prime Minister, Theresa May, is to outline plans for a "hard Brexit" with no guaranteed access to the single market in a speech on Tuesday.

The pound slipped to its lowest level against the dollar in three months, below $1.20, before creeping up slightly on Monday.

Nigel Green, founder and chief executive of the financial planners deVere Group, said on Friday: "A hard Brexit can be expected to significantly change the financial landscape. As such, people should start preparing for the shifting environment sooner rather than later."

It's hard to know the exact economic impact of Brexit, because Brexit - officially leaving the EU - hasn't happened yet. Brexiteers like Gove have attacked "experts" who they claim are simply talking down the economy. It is true that because of the slump in sterling, Britain's most international companies in the FTSE 100 are thriving. 

But the more that the government is forced to explain what it is hoping for, the better sense traders have of whether it will involve staying in the single market. And it seems that whatever the President-Elect says, they're not buying it.


 

 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.