Cameron’s strike ban proposals are deeply anti-democratic

David Cameron's support for a clampdown on public sector strikes is the latest sign of an increasingly authoritarian streak at the heart of the Conservative party.

Under the plans, trade unions would have to prove that more than 50% of their members have taken part in any ballot for strike action before it could be approved by the government.

And it is this prior approval which should worry anybody who cares about the future of our democratic rights.

The freedom to decide where and when you work without interference from government should be protected at all costs.

The UK is bound by several international treaties to defend our rights to withhold labour. Any attempts to erode these rights should be held with the contempt they deserve.

The prime minister's claims that the thresholds would protect "essential service users" are laughable. These proposals have little to do with helping the public and everything to do with attacking trade union members and their rights.

Proof of this can be found in the originator of these proposals, London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Johnson was first elected on pledges to protect Tube jobs and reject ticket office closures. He was even pictured signing a petition to protect Cameron's "essential service users" from these cuts.

In an even bolder move, he also pledged to negotiate a "no-strike deal" with the Tube unions in good faith.

Yet so far he has failed to sit down even once with union leaders to negotiate any such deal.

He has however announced plans to axe hundreds of jobs on the tube, close all ticket offices and has now proposed the most authoritarian anti-strike laws this country has ever seen.

The brass neck of Johnson's position is astounding. When the idea of strike bans first occurred to him he backed a "turnout threshold" of between 30% and 40% on all strike ballots.

He has since raised that threshold to 50% and would no doubt raise it again once the principle was established.

Yet this principle of turnout thresholds is not one that seems to have bothered Johnson before.

In fact there was no obvious protest from the London mayor in 2008 when he was elected on a turnout of just 45% and the votes of just 19% of registered electors.

Nor was there a squeak from City Hall when he was re-elected in 2012 on a turnout of just 38% and the votes of just 16% of electors.

But then this has never really been about enfranchising union members. This has always been a naked attempt to disenfranchise them.

Thankfully David Cameron has so far failed to convince the Liberal Democrats on the merits of strike thresholds.

Labour meanwhile also remain publicly opposed to any change in the law.

But with the chances of an outright Conservative majority government now less unlikely than they once were, we should not be complacent.

Britain already has some of the toughest restrictions on strikes, anywhere in the western world. History has also shown that once these rights are lost, they can be very hard to regain.

Cameron's pledge to restrict union rights remains a worrying new development. It also betrays a dangerous new authoritarian streak in a prime minister who once pledged to lead the most liberal government in living memory. It should be resisted at every turn.