Why the Tories will never be the workers’ party

Rebranding efforts will fail until the Tories prove they truly want to make work pay


In an interview with The Sun today, the Conservative party’s deputy chairman Rob Halfon suggests that David Cameron should consider the name ‘The Workers’ Party’. Insisting that the Tories are ‘the party of the ladder’, Halfon says:

“If you’re in poverty, we’ll get you into work. If you’re in work, we’ll cut your taxes… Labour, on the other hand, are the party of dependency and the Welfare State, and that’s why they didn’t get in.”

The appointment of Halfon to deputy chairman may be part of a wider bid by David Cameron to rebrand the Conservatives and shed their elitist image. The MP for Harlow campaigned tirelessly to cut fuel duty for motorists, saying it was unacceptable that the average family in his Essex constituency spent more on fuel than on their weekly shop.

But he’s wrong. The Conservatives will never be the party of workers. Here’s why.

Firstly, after less than two weeks in government the Tories have already made it clear they are on the side of the bosses by carrying on with their bonfire of workers’ rights. Last week the new business minister Sajid Javid, who also voted against increasing minimum wage, proposed tough new anti-strike laws. The introduction of a 40 per cent ballot threshold before a strike is possible has caused alarm among trade unions, with some legal voices saying the proposal would violate international law.

This is the latest display of contempt for workers rights in a long list which includes under the Tory-led coalition:

  • Introducing tribunal fees in 2013, pricing many victims of discrimination or unfair dismissal out of justice. In the first six months since the introduction of fees (£1,200 to have a case heard, £1,600 to appeal, no expenses for witnesses), claims fell by 55 per cent.
  • Cutting the civil legal aid budget in 2013, putting legal advice and representation out of the reach of much of the population. Between 2012-2013 and 2013-14, legally aided employment law cases fell from 16,154 to just six.
  • Reducing the amount of time employers need to consult on collective redundancies from 90 days to 45 days. This has made it easier to sack employees, and eroded job security in an already-fragile labour market.

Secondly, under the coalition the number of people working in low-paid, unstable jobs increased. According to the TUC, four in five jobs created between 2010 and 2013 were in low-paid industries, such as retail, waiting and residential care.

New data released by the ONS today has shows that house prices are rising four times faster than wages. TUC analysis released in April showed that 2010 to 2014 was the worst five-year period for living standards for half a century, based on real disposable income per head.

The Tories have also let down temporary workers, by failing to properly implement the Temporary Agency Workers Directive. The Directive was designed by the European Commission to protect agency workers, who are supposed to be entitled to the same pay as permanent staff after 12 weeks. The TUC lodged a formal complaint with the government for failing to make this the case, and allowing employers to take part in a ‘race to the bottom’, squeezing as much profit as possible from already poorly paid workers.

Meanwhile 700,000 UK workers report being on zero-hours contracts, as well as 820,000 UK employees who report being underemployed on between zero and 19 hours a week.

This list of stats could go on – it is suffice to say that in Conservative Britain, being in work does not, as Halfon claims, guarantee being out of poverty. It is little wonder that over 100,000 people say they have been forced to take second jobs since 2010.

You might think then, that things were hard enough for UK workers. But TUC analysis has shown that the majority of welfare cuts between 2010 and 2016 hit working families hardest. Cuts to in-work benefits such as tax credit, child benefit and housing benefit meant that ‘working people saw an unprecedented squeeze in their incomes’ over the last parliament.

This data from the TUC shows how, far from rewarding work, by 2016-17, 67.3 per cent of cuts will hit working families:


(Click to enlarge)

And with the Tories back in power, workers are facing a two-year benefits freeze across the board.

All this is to say nothing of a system which, far from being a ‘ladder’, essentially locks most people out from the top through creating tax breaks for the super-rich and perpetuates inequality by making the biggest cuts in the poorest areas. Halfon’s claims today are just empty rhetoric until the Tories can offer a convincing explanation for why they have made the above decisions – or repeal them altogether.

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter 

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50 Responses to “Why the Tories will never be the workers’ party”

  1. Gerschwin

    Feeling threatened eh?

  2. Torybushhug

    Tories know that the balance tipped too far in favour of workers rights and tribunals that in the main yet again became a charter for the cunning and the spongers to exploit, same as happened with HR’s, always the cunning and criminal are the biggest beneficiaries, all those that don’t play by the rules and quietly work and plan their lives responsibly.

    This is why there is such a kick back against ‘progressive’ ideals. This relentless rewarding of all those that don’t save for retirement, don’t pay into the pot, don’t plan a family (just breed), that work in the black economy whilst on benefits. Most of us outside of Primrose Hill have personal experience of the sponger culture and we detest it. The liberal establishment brush this off as some sort of induced fantasy spread by the pages of the DM, but the reality is people have become so worn down by the sponger culture through direct personal experience.

    I could set my watch by those I’ve known that would go onto go to employment tribunal. Always the same predictable sponger types like those on reality shows that let everyone else do the work whilst they chill all day.
    When the left grows up and comes to recognise the true nature of the Human condition, only then might it be in a position to proffer solutions.

  3. Cole

    By Mr Halfon? I think not. He’s an inept clown, and will provide us with entertainment, rather like Mr Shapps/Green.

  4. James Chilton

    Talk of “rebranding” is a clue to the mind-set of the Tory PR mandarins who think they can manage the country as if it’s a branch of Marks & Spencer.

  5. Kryten2k35

    Tories are the party of the employers, not the employed.

  6. Faerieson

    The premise remains; the Tories are far too far removed to be able to represent ‘the people’ of the UK. Their major donors would not be impressed! The shame is that the Labour Party hasn’t done such a good job of representing ‘the people’ either.

    The Tories remain ever true to their financial support, and have been able to misrepresent themselves, via their non-dom media propaganda machine. Labour allow the same non-Labour media to ammend or dictate ‘their’ policies, and so have found themselves having to follow a not-very watered-down Tory manifesto, poorly disguised as a ‘real alternative.’ Either choice is not healthy for aspirations towards democracy.

    But choosing to pigeon-hole the so-called ‘left’ entirely through reference to one life experience is unlikely to offer a greater insight into the nation’s fuller political machinations. Currently none of the main political parties is proffering a serious solution.

  7. Seymour

    That’ll be the same type of entertainment you got at the election?

  8. Faerieson

    Also, to pretend that workers rights ever gained the upper hand is absurd beyond belief. Cases of real abuse of power are reasonably well documented, even in some of the Tory press. A nation does not abandon its first tentative steps towards workers having certain rights, simply because one or two wide boys ‘tried it on a bit.’

  9. JoeDM

    The Conservative Party is for those with ambtition, who want to get on and better themselves.

    To have to join a union would seem as if I had failed !!!!

  10. blarg1987

    Traditional Conservatism used to be, modern Conservatism is questionable.

    To encourage people to better themselves you need to give them support, not give support to one generation or one group then pull up the ladder behind them and say to everyone else you got to work hard to be successful.

  11. blarg1987

    The cynic in me believes there is a drive to make everyone self employed without any for of protection then have everyone bid the lowest possible wage to get any form of employment.

  12. Faerieson

    You’ve clearly failed somewhere.

    Maybe your ‘ambition’ should be to read a bit more.

  13. Glen Shaky Shakespeare

    Fuck off you right wing Prick

  14. James Chilton

    A population of self employed serfs would be an ideal condition on which to set up a Tory super state.

  15. Robert

    I worked for many years 1966 until 1966 when i suffered a serious accident.

    Now then with all due respect my best period in work and wages were under Thatcher, yes I know she attacked the miners but so did labour with Wilson, but she did it to get rid of a Union, so what did labour do in power for thirteen years for the workers and the Unions, please do not tell me the min wage, labour controlled wages with that little gem.

    Labour did sod all for the working people, they did a bit for the rich, not to much for the poor, and as I said my best period in work on the larger building site were under the Tories.

  16. Robert

    Which Tories the ones in power or the ones looking for power.

  17. Robert

    Yes seems your parents did not plan when they had you.

  18. Robert

    Then labour did little to return the regulations which allowed Unions to work..

  19. Torybushhug

    ‘Also, to pretend that workers rights ever gained the upper hand is absurd beyond belief’.

    Business people and managers are Dads and lovers, they do not want additional stress and worry and so will tend not to be minded to take on staff when the regulatory burden intensifies and the landscape tips too far in favour of employees. No one wants avoidable stress, would you? Better not to risk taking people on, or take them on via an agency / as self employed contractors, that risk the chance of a drawn out energy sapping tribunal.

    People on the left do not recognise this because they tend not to have run / set up a business. They happily live off the profits of workers via their pensions and ISA’s, but they do not get their own hands dirty.

    If I had my way the only right (apart from common sense safety and courtesy) would be for workers to exchange their time for money, nothing further is needed. Sick pay, holiday pay, paternity pay, all greedy and ridiculous entitlements we’ve somehow come to see as perfectly natural. IF an employee see’s fit to offer such things (as this can boost moral and loyalty) then fair play, but they must not be entitlements.

    The worlds migrants are coming through Europe and not choosing other nations en-route to Britain, so it really can’t be too bad a life here compared with say Italy, Denmark or France. I find the British lefts entitlement greed and spoilt brattism (“whinge, life is soo hard in Britain, we’ve gone down the pan”) extremely infantile and gluttonous.
    Saving £1 in every £100 the Gov’t spends, and the lefty whingers call this austerity, puuurlease. We spend vastly more than we produce yet the greedy left always demands more.

    BTW, I find left wing forums to be similar to extreme Christian forums, alternative opinion is unwelcome, so I fully expect a ban shortly. Of course a good life must be one which includes running with the other tribe no matter how uncomfortable.

  20. Torybushhug

    Tories (btw I voted Labour in 2010, UKIP this time) understand prosperity is a function of enterprise, and that we must sensibly forgo some entitlements for the prize of under pinning job creation and spreading prosperity (the tired old idea the wealth remains in few hands is hideously childish and note millions of self employed earn far more than their tax returns indicate – I see this every day through work).
    The left see’s enterprise as a public good, a public property to be used at will.

  21. stevep

    Any worker who supports or votes for the Conservatives is like a turkey voting for Christmas.

  22. Torybushhug

    Lefty prospective customers of my gardener Brother always try and beat down his price, the sanctimonious, Saintly lefty narrative is vomit inducing.
    These right-on braised endive slurping North London lefty elites do not give a shit what he earns, all they want is lowest price, they care not that he cannot afford a decent holiday for his family. So many of us detest this duality found only in the left. At least a righty does not seek to frame themselves a Saint.

  23. Philip Gosling

    My thoughts are:
    Too many guardian type readers and writers only accept democracy when their party gets elected. If you didn’t realise that the Labour Party had failed its so called ‘working class’ roots then you know nothing about politics. How long have places like Glasgow had labour Politicians running them and does anyone think they have done a great job? Look at the North of England a Labour economic wilderness. It takes the Tory Government to give power to the Great Northern Cites – Manchester first, surely to be followed by Leeds, Birmingham, Newcastle etc. What did Labour do in power? devolve within England – no just throw our money away. I’d prefer a job rather than no job. I don’t want my taxes spent on stupid court cases – if you have a strong case risk your money- you are not entitled to a free ride on my taxes. It is left wing liberals that chatter about re branding – The tory won the election as tories. it is the left wing that needs re branding judging by comments on this leftie article – some lefties never learn -“its about the economy Stupid”. §UK elections are nowwon in the centre and not with the likes of ‘ Len Mcluskie of DisUnite’ and other undemocratic lefties.

  24. Philip Gosling

    Well I guess the election showed that most people prefer the Tory Party to useless Labour – before you can spend taxes you have to get the economy right so people pay tax for you to spend.

  25. Philip Gosling

    Only scum insult someone who has simply put a different view. You should be ashamed and certainly deserve to be banned from writing online. At least he knows who his parents are.

  26. Cole

    That must be why lots of people in places like London, Cambridge, Hove vote Labour. Obviously these places are economic basket cases with people lacking ambition and aspiration.

  27. stevep

    Labour under Blair/Brown could have chosen to empower workers by abolishing the 1980`s Tory/Tebbit anti-union laws. They chose not to. That should tell their apologists a lot.

  28. stevep

    The North East rejected regional devolution decisively in a referendum in 2004. Which led to other, similar regional referendums being cancelled.
    Being left of centre to me means rejecting narrow, self-centred values, no matter how advantageous they are personally, and embracing values like fairness, decency, equality and real democracy. We should not dwell on how the Tories win elections, the stink should be enough to drive decent people away, but instead, focus on decent, principled policies that will reclaim the higher ground and the hearts and minds of Britain.

  29. stevep

    Perhaps Oxfam were “hideously childish” when, in their 2014 report they stated that 1% of the global population owned 48% of it`s wealth and by this year will own over half. It`s patently obvious wealth attracts wealth, that is why capitalism works for the few, not the many. As for enterprise, fair enough to encourage it, but it is sobering to realise that the vast majority of self-employed people in the UK today live below the poverty line, because they can`t get work that will pay enough to support themselves and their families and they are refused benefits. They have little alternative than trying to set up a small business and work for themselves, which few people have the skill or the knowledge to do successfully. As for millions of self-employed people earning more than their tax return suggests, you must know an awful lot of people!
    In reality, large corporations, wealthy individuals, hedge funds etc. are the largest tax burden on the UK economy, because they don`t pay their fair share of it.

  30. stevep

    “Braised Endive slurping North London lefties” I love it! Worthy of Kerouac.

  31. Torybushhug

    ‘it is sobering to realise that the vast majority of self-employed people in the UK today live below the poverty line’,

    Steve I provide specialist services to the self employed. Literally none I’ve dealt with in all these years has a tax return that reflects anything like their true income.

    All the time I see people showing no income / a loss, that in fact lead prosperous lives, staying at Centre Parcs all the time, massive Audi Q8’s with a boat on the back, a villa in Spain, a number of buy to lets.

    Yesterday I had a common example, guy shows £22k net profit (income) on his SA302. In fact he owns a house worth £1.5m, another worth £160k with no mortgage and is buying land to use ostensibly for his skip hire biz, but in fact he will develop into houses. He already has permission to build houses on some of the land on his main home, so there too will make a killing. This sort of thing applies to masses of people, many of whom have few / no qualifications.

    Don’t for a second think this is some fringe rarity. Many SE for example put say 40% of their income into spouse’ name to reduce taxes.
    I get Firemen on their usual employed income of £32k (London) but on the side they tend to run a business. One the other week has a pond business, he takes home £5k pm from this but his taxable income shows as only £17k pa.
    I have agency Nurses, SE making £58 pa, but time their Accountant has done his work, these Nurses show a personal income of halve this.

    Honestly you guys on the left need to get out there, true incomes are much higher than official stats reflect.

  32. stevep

    First of all, good on you if you are helping the self employed. In my own way, so am I.
    I am an unapologetic man of the left, not because I believe in woolly liberal values and despise the rich but because, despite suffering with faults and hypocrisies all of us possess, I truly believe that human beings can aspire to and achieve greater things than we currently think possible, if we want to.
    I`ve been “out there” too, working for 35 years and for a short time, owning and running my own business. That`s why I respect your point of view . I too have seen tax fiddles, people who could be gainfully employed choosing to rely on benefits instead and people playing the system for what it`s worth. That`s their choice. It`s not mine, or yours, I suspect.
    I believe also that whoever is government should limit benefits and other handouts to people who truly need them and that includes the wealthy. But first, any government doing this would have to create full decently-paid employment so people can actually live on what they earn and induce the wealthier amongst us to contribute more via progressive taxation to help the vast majority of less capable and fortunate souls amongst us. I`m not daft, I realise that some people would still try to buck the system, but with a fairer, more affluent society within the reach of all of us, there would be less incentive to do so.
    Everyone should be encouraged to be creative and enterprising, but in a more enlightened society it wouldn`t be for vanity and greed but for how far their talents could take them and how it would benefit society as a whole.
    There are many current examples such as Sir Tim Berners-Lee who invented the World Wide Web, who had he chosen to patent it, could now be the richest man on the planet. He chose instead to give it freely to the world. Linus Torsvalds, the Finnish-American software engineer who invented the Linux kernel for computer operating systems which is used in most secure government computer installations, millions of private PC owners prefer it to windows, and a version of which is used in every android-based phone on the planet, They gave their ideas and inventions freely, for the benefit of humanity. That`s what contributes to a better, fairer society and if we choose to live by such examples we will a little further along the hard, rocky road to achieving one.

  33. Kryten2k35

    Oh, right, how do you work that out, then? 38% isn’t most people. 62% is most people. Most people did not want the Tories.

    The Tories “plan” to recover the economy is failing hard. We should’ve been well into a growth period by now, but austerity has been kneecapping any growth we’ve had, and they’re still carrying it on. Economists agree and the IMF agree – austerity is wrong and is it damaging the economy.

  34. Kryten2k35

    And your comments about spending other peoples taxes have nothing to do with this article, which is about how the Tories are fucking people who work, by handing out huge tax breaks to corporations and allowing them to pay a pittance to their staff, which has forced an increase in the amount of working people requiring welfare from 28% to 38%… 38% of working people are on state benefits.

  35. blarg1987

    How do you know they are lefties?

    You can;t say people on the right are not as bad if not worse. I have noticed and observed people who are right wing in orientation, demanding less government, less regulation etc.

    However demand the state takes on all their liabilities and leaving them to pick up the profit quite literally.

    Yet they are framed as striver’s etc.

  36. stevep

    A tory super state has existed since 1979, New Labour were part of it too.

  37. Faerieson

    How tidily you stereotype the population. ‘What left-wingers think and feel,’ so easily ‘understood’ and ‘pigeonholed.’ Why, they probably no longer even need to think for themselves, with such an insightful substitute to hand.

    Your language has been gleaned wholesale from the Conservative Press, so it would appear that even you are not really thinking for yourself. Perhaps we are all simply characters in a poorly written novel. Something scribed maybe by a less capable Aldous Huxley or Daniel Galouye?

    So, in this brave new world, where might those increasingly poorly remunerated access the healthcare, education, retirement or ability to survive during work-related ill health? More damned selfish acts on the part of the ‘lazy left-wingers?’

    So astute!

  38. stevep

    The Conservative party are the cream of the country. Rich, thick and full of clots!

  39. Torybushhug

    Soooo undergrad. The left owns fairness, err no, it owns naivety.

  40. Torybushhug

    very engagging reply, sorry for typos I’m on amuppet phone.

    Counter to your vision I see in my mind countless lefties such as Ben and Coogan that yes employ the good narrative and yet hoard wealth and entrench it in thier family so I feel your dream is very far away. Most people are greedy no matter what thier politics.

  41. stevep

    There is greed and hate, fairness and decency and indifference in all of us. It is a balancing act as to which comes out on top. Power certainly leads to temptation and corruption. I`m no saint but I do visualise and strive for a world in which everyone has an equal chance to demonstrate their talents and live a fulfilling life.

  42. Kryten2k35

    Workers rights and tribunals are essential to a proper society. Simply because they have been abused that doesn’t mean they should be vanished, or diminished.

  43. stevep

    No, I`ve never been an undergrad, nor wanted to.
    The left perhaps does not have a monopoly on fairness but the the right, for all it`s supposed honesty, certainly doesn`t.

  44. Dark_Heart_of_Toryland

    Yes, but the Tories signally failed to get the economy right, even by their own standards. The election demonstrates that the Tories are very good at lying.

  45. woolfiesmiff

    Fairness decency and equality, really Steve? Really ?

    Which party had the first jewish PM, which party had the first ( of 2 ) gay PM? which party had the first female PM?

    Meanwhile over a deluded left wing central after 100 years STILL every single leader of the diversity, equality party has been a middle aged, white, heterosexual, male. As will the next one be. A party with an all female selection list managed to get a white middle aged man elected instead in the form of jack Dromey. And you wonder why the public won’t vote for you. Your cliché ridden, attack dog, juvenile sloganeering is laughed at by the public who actually live in and experience the real world .

  46. woolfiesmiff

    The vast majority of workers don’t belong to a union so union laws one way or the other are of no benefit to workers. The minimum wage has been a disaster for the low paid.

  47. woolfiesmiff

    The average wage in the UK is £27,000 per annum which puts the average worker in the top 7% of the worlds wealthiest people. 31 million people are now in work the highest number in history, how come the Labour workers party never managed to do that?

    There are 5.6 million business owners in the UK. Which tax breaks would that be then? Auto enrolment oh no thats a worker benefit, VAT MOSS oh no thats a government benefit, paternity leave hmm worker benefit, flexible working time directive? Nope worker. Come on Kryton tell me, I’ve only got 9 businesses employing 100’s of people tell me what the tax breaks are I really need to know.

  48. Kryten2k35

    Ha, you know you get a good deal out of it. And you’re damned fucking right there should be more workers benefits. Who makes all your money? Your employees.

  49. Robert

    That is now it was once the only way you could work was being in trade Union, the closed shop.

    No not all the laws should be repealed but some should, but you have a labour party which is now not needed, they decided to go towards the Tories when the Tories were in a bad state, but the Tories are back now and labour is finding it hard to find a leader.

  50. chazwyman

    The Tories are the workers party. It’s the workers who have lost the plot and read the Mail and the Telegraph.

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