After achieving their first parliamentary majority for 23 years, the Conservatives are consolidating their advantage. The Trade Union Bill published on 15 July was the clearest attempt yet to do so. Under the legislation, strikes will be outlawed unless 50 per cent of members turn out to vote; members will also be required to opt in to paying the political levy, rather than being automatically enrolled. The aim is not only to restrict the activities of members but also to reduce the funding available to Labour and to the unions for campaigning (not least against the government’s spending cuts).
By acting in this partisan manner, the Tories have breached the convention that changes should be introduced only on the basis of cross-party consensus. It was no accident that the proposal was not announced during the general election campaign. The consequence will be a strengthening of the Conservatives’ formidable funding advantage. The Tories continue to benefit from unlimited donations, predominantly from the City of London and hedge-fund managers. David Cameron’s attempt to tilt the funding system even further in his party’s favour must be resisted.