My first reaction is caution. We’ve had an employment law structure which has worked for the last 30 years, which transformed industrial relations in this country. It was based on the idea that the baddies were not the guys on the shop floor; the baddies were the big trade union leaders, which was the complete reverse of conventional thinking at the time. And that has worked, so I would say hold hard just a little, make sure that we have got public support, that the public see there is a real problem and that they want something done about it, and so do some of the union members.
That last line is crucial. In the 1980s, a lot of trade union members supported at least some of the government’s reforms. Even among some union reps there was a feeling that things had got out of hand.
As I said a couple of weeks ago, Tory union laws democratised the unions and did away with many of their authoritarian practices. Nowadays, if people join unions and go on strike it is because they want to, not because they are being told to.
The system has indeed worked well for the last 30 years and Norman Tebbit should be given his share of the credit for that. Changing it would be pointless and would only stir things up at a time when the government should be doing its best to calm things down.