Conservatives at Work

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, contributing to the reduction of the power and influence of the left by playing a more active role inside trade unions.[1] Targeting the working class became a priority for the party with the idea that the revulsion against Labour's egalitarianism goals and redistributive policies would emerge from this group.[2]

The CTU served several purposes and 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. In this way, both parties 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.[3] 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 political levy.[3]

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, and by 1978 there 250 groups (membership of which varied from 20 to 200 members) and the 1977 CTU annual conferences was attended by over 1,200 delegates.[4]

Important milestones

In the mid-1970s its president was Norman Tebbit (a former official of the British Airline Pilots' Association) and 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 after Thatcher came to power in 1979 by Employment minister James Prior.

In the 1990s, with the decline in union influence, its membership waned. After the Conservative defeat in the 1997 General Election it was renamed Conservatives at Work, CaW.

Peter Bottomley (a member of the Transport and General Workers' Union) was also its president from 1978 to 1980. Sir Brian Mawhinney was its president from 1987 to 1990.

See also


  1. Ball, Stuart; Holliday, Ian (2002). Mass Conservatism: The Conservatives and the Public Since the 1880s. London: Frank Cass. p. 140. ISBN 0714652237.
  2. Dorey, Peter (2016). British Conservatism and Trade Unionism, 1945–1964. Oxon: Routledge. p. 53. ISBN 9780754666592.
  3. 1 2 Dorey, Peter (2006). The Conservative Party and the Trade Unions. London: Routledge. p. 16. ISBN 0415064872.
  4. Roger King and Neill Nugent (eds.), Respectable Rebels: Middle Class Campaigns in Britain in the 1970s (Hodder and Stoughton, 1979), p. 167.
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