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I find that difficult to believe, and I would like some evidence from the hon. Lady that she knows what she is talking about.
I know what I am talking about. In a previous debate, I told the House that I am a national officer of my trade union, of which I have been a member for more than 30 years. I was an active member from day one.
I saw nothing wrong in the method used by unions, including mine, of conducting internal elections by the branch system. I did not consider it undemocratic. Ever since we came into existence 97 years ago, we have had elections. That may surprise Conservative Members, because they have not had much experience of democratic organisations. It took years and years for the Conservative party to get round to electing even its leader. The first such election was in 1965.
There is no election for the position of chairman of the Conservative party. His election is decided by whoever happens to be leader of the party at the time. That is why we make a valid comparison between the way in which the Communist party in the Soviet Union operates and the way in which the Conservative party operates.
I do not know whether the Communist party in the Soviet Union wants to lecture us on how to conduct our affairs, but the highly non-democratic organisation that now governs the United Kingdom certainly wants to lecture us and to pass legislation governing trade unions, which have always held elections. We did not have to be pressurised into holding elections. I challenge the House to name me a single trade union that did not hold elections from its inception. I certainly do not know of one. I am sure that the Minister will tell us if he has any such information.
My union is APEX—the Association of Professional, Executive, Clerical and Computer Staff. I have often strongly disagreed with its policies, but those policies are decided at the annual conference. If I disagree with them, I campaign, as I have done over the years, for different policies. I have sometimes succeeded and sometimes not. I was elected to the executive as a result of campaigning; at first I did not succeed and then I did. But I could not for the life of me see what was wrong with the branch system,.
Each year I would go along to the annual general meeting of my branch, where genuine elections took place. We would discuss the names to be nominated and ask each other, "What do you know of him or of this?" Two months later, when people had been duly nominated, we would have another branch meeting to decide how to cast our vote. We might spend 15 or 20 minutes on a particular position such as president or vice-president. Differing views would be expressed——