Conservatives at Work
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Conservatives at Work, formerly Conservative Trade Unionists (CTU), is an organisation within the British Conservative Party made up of Conservative-supporting trade unionists. It played an important role in expanding the party's membership and influence, particularly in Britain's industrial regions. By building support within trade unions, the party contributed to the reduction of the power and influence of the left. Targeting the working class became a priority for the party, motivated by the idea that revulsion towards Labour's egalitarian goals and redistributive policies would emerge from this group.
The CTU served several purposes. One of these involved being a conduit of communication between the Conservative Party and the workers and unionists. The primary objective was for the group to effectively articulate the party's policies and principles to a working class audience. In this way, both organisations benefited. The workers were able to influence policy-making while the Conservative members, particularly at the parliamentary level, were able to determine which measures would receive support or strong opposition. This was important because CTU held considerable influence on public opinion, especially in the latter part of the 1970s. CTU also influenced unionists on issues such as the right to opt out of paying a political levy.
Under Margaret Thatcher's leadership, there was a drive for recruitment. In 1975 seven new full-time workers were appointed under a new head, John Bowis. By 1978 there were 250 groups, membership of which varied from 20 to 200 members. The 1977 CTU annual conference was attended by over 1,200 delegates.
In the mid-1970s the CTU president was Norman Tebbit (a former official of the British Airline Pilots' Association). He drafted Thatcher's speech to the CTU Conference in 1975, shortly after she was elected Conservative leader.
In the later 1970s and early 1980s the CTU played an important part in guiding the party toward the Trade Union reforms introduced by James Prior, who was appointed Secretary of State for Employment after Thatcher became Prime Minister in 1979.
In the 1990s, with the decline in union influence, CTU membership waned. After the Conservative defeat in the 1997 General Election the organisation was renamed Conservatives at Work, CaW.
- Ball, Stuart; Holliday, Ian (2002). Mass Conservatism: The Conservatives and the Public Since the 1880s. London: Frank Cass. p. 140. ISBN 0714652237.
- Dorey, Peter (2016). British Conservatism and Trade Unionism, 1945–1964. Oxon: Routledge. p. 53. ISBN 9780754666592.
- Dorey, Peter (2006). The Conservative Party and the Trade Unions. London: Routledge. p. 16. ISBN 0415064872.
- Roger King and Neill Nugent (eds.), Respectable Rebels: Middle Class Campaigns in Britain in the 1970s (Hodder and Stoughton, 1979), p. 167.