James Forsyth

These strikes are a gift to the Tories

These strikes are a gift to the Tories
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It is rare that a political party is handed an issue that enables it to rally its base, appeal to swing voters and put the other side on the back foot. But that is how much of a gift to the Tories these strikes are.

There has been a bit of an enthusiasm deficit amongst Tory activists and traditional Tories more generally ever since David Cameron recalibrated the party's European policy following the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. But the strikes issue, and Cameron's strong position on it, is, I'm told by those out in the country, rallying these voters to the cause.

At the same time, I suspect it is helping the Tories with swing voters who don't like the idea of their train journeys being disrupted or a big British company being grounded by an industrial dispute no one really understands. It also keeps the issue of Labour's reliance on Unite in the news, something which illustrates just how much Labour has changed from the heyday of New Labour when it could declare that it was nothing less than the political arm of the British people as a whole.

My understanding is that there are several policy options been discussed in Conservative circles which would make it harder for unions to call strikes. For instance, Boris's office has pushed for a minimum threshold for strikes. If strike action, for example, required an absolute majority of those eligible to vote then the RMT would not be able to go ahead with its proposed strike http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8576346.stm. It'll be intriguing to see if the Tories do adopt this as a policy if more strikes are called.