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uk) The Problem of Intimacy--relations between Labour governments and the trade unions: 1945-51, 1964-70. I have the temerity to speak to you about this important subject this evening for three reasons. Firstly, as a labour historian of threescore years I know something about it. It is well known that historians, unlike other academic disciplines, have a tendency to become more skilled and proficient as they get older. We are able not only to accumulate more knowledge about our subject, but also have the precious advantage of greater reflection time. We are constantly sifting the known details and t juxtaposing them with the new details we are acquiring from archives. Secondly, it is an especially propitious time for Labour MPs and members of the trade union movement to reflect. After ten years of successful Labour government, 2007 is likely to see a change in the leadership of the Labour Party. It is a good time to pause and ask ourselves some fundamental questions about the problems of intimacy. At the end of my talk, I intend to take off my historian's hat and doff my citizen's Phrygian bonnet. I want to leave you with a clear outline of how I think the intimate relationship between unions and Labour governments can be successfully managed for both partners. The third reason I decided to go public about a subject I have been privately thinking about for a decade or so is more immediately pressing. A new version has recently emerged of relations between Labour governments and unions in the 1960s and 1970s, which I consider to be profoundly flawed. It has gained currency amongst many unions’ officials, activists, and some Labour MPs, and bids fair to become the new conventional wisdom. It can be briefly summarised: the high point of British union power was in the period 1968-74. Not only was union membership at its height, unions were able to win consistently against employers through reliance on their own strength. Union power ensured the withdrawal of the Wilson government's trade union legislation in 1969 and the victories of the NUM in national strikes in 1972 and 1974. The prospect of the second NUM strike had compelled the Heath government to call a general election in February 1974 as a result of which Labour was returned and the Tory Industrial Relations Act repealed. These victories were all achieved because of the solidarity and strength of British unions. The conclusion drawn by current union activists is that unions can regain their former strength if the Labour government will only repeal legislation restricting 'trade union freedom', and return to the status quo ante of 1968, with regard to unions' and their members' immunity from civil prosecution for engaging in any kind of 'trade dispute'. Those of you in the audience who are labour historians yourselves, particularly those familiar with The Miners' Next Step and Noah Ablett, will recognise the resemblance between this view and syndicalism, the strategy which argued that unions could inflict total defeat on employers by eschewing any form of political activity and concentrating instead on massing workers' forces and fighting a total war against capital. However, it is not my intention to examine the deep cultural and historical reasons for the enduring appeal of syndicalism to British union activists tonight. My concern is to provide a contrasting view, which sees the period 1968-74
2 as when British unions made a most tragic mistake regarding their relations with the Labour government in particular and the state in general. The reasons union leaders made this certainly fateful and possibly fatal mistake are complex, and I propose to examine most of them this evening. At their core lies the consistent, wilful refusal to recognise that without the continuing active support of the state, neither national nor shopfloor collective bargaining could have proceeded. The assertion that British industrial relations were absolutely 'free' and 'voluntary' was always an ideological sleight-of-hand, only sustainable by wilful mis-remembering the pattern of industrial conflict and the state's response, a pattern which was unmistakeably clear from the late 19th century until 1979. Mrs. Thatcher broke the mould which Gladstone and Disraeli had laid down, which Attlee and Bevin had further refined, and which Wilson and Castle had tried to modernise. The Iron Lady was able to withdraw her government's support for collective bargaining precisely because union leaders clung to the illusion that the British state played no part in the British system of industrial relations. We will commence our Cook's history tour with a Rough Guide to industrial conflict in Britain from the late 19th century. From the 1870s, economic and social change occurred slowly in Britain compared to Germany, Russia, Italy or North America. We therefore need to start then in order to examine the important contour lines, canyons and valleys. By the 1870s, Britain was an overwhelmingly urban, industrialised society. She was however, neither a republic nor a constitutional monarchy underpinned by universal suffrage. Unlike the Wilhelmine Reich, the USA and the Third French Republic, manhood suffrage was severely restricted. The rationale was the British political establishment's view that democracy was a privilege to be accorded only to those who were capable of exercising it responsibly and maturely. It was, of course, the responsibility of property-owning which was the principal criterion by which British men's fitness to vote was decided (unlike a literacy qualification in Italy for example). Nevertheless, the developments on the continent and the success of the young American republic in overcoming Civil War impressed the political establishment. They were also mindful that when ably led, property-less coalminers and cotton operatives had exhibited strong collective discipline and courage in self-organisation. Through sustained political agitation and tactical skirmishes, they had persuaded successive Liberal and Conservative governments to enact legislation limiting working hours in factories. In coalmining, probably the fastest growing sector of the economy at this time, Gladstone and the future Lord Aberdare piloted a bill through the House of Commons which accorded miners the right to elect a checkweighman from amongst their number for whom the owners would have to provide weighing apparatus to check that each miner’s tubs had been accurately weighed and whom the owners were also legally obliged to pay a weekly wage out of deductions made from the other men's wages. In 1884, when Gladstone significantly enlarged the electorate entitled to vote in parliamentary elections, it was not surprising that the two working men's MPs elected were from constituencies dominated by coalminers--nor that one of them, Thomas Burt, elected for Morpeth in Northumberland, had been a checkweighman. The increasing density of mining trade unions and their success in winning statutory concessions from Parliament were based on checkweighmen, (the Eight Hour working day won after a national strike in 1892; the minimum wage won after a national strike in 1912).
The role of the state in industrial relations increased significantly as a result of the total war economy which evolved in 1914-18. In the political sphere, total war compelled a hitherto reluctant political establishment to concede universal manhood suffrage and votes for women, (the higher qualification age for women, twenty nine, was because women outnumbered men under the age of twenty nine in 1918 and increasing the electorate by vast numbers of potential hot-headed, revolutionary feminists was frightening to most politicians). In the economic sphere, the pattern of the state's intervention developed along pre-1914 lines. Accepting unions as legitimate representatives of working people, the Liberal and coalition wartime governments sought to maximise labour productivity and production of war materiel, coal, and food by promoting co-operation between unions and employers. In the engineering sector, where before 1914 industrial conflict had been intensifying without yielding the same advances as miners' unions had won, the government's intervention was critical in establishing the legitimacy of shop stewards to negotiate fair prices for piece-work. Before 1914 stewards, where they existed, were typically appointed by the geographic branches of their respective craft engineering unions, and usually acted merely as collectors of subscriptions and putative enforcers of a union shop. During the war, with the government's encouragement, new practices evolved, whereby stewards were elected by operatives in each of the large number of workshops in a large engineering factory. Moreover, the various shop stewards began to meet together in a works committee which negotiated with engineering employers about factory-wide issues. Many engineering union officials found these new lay officials threatening to their unions' institutional structure, which was based on geographical branches. Others, however, welcomed the new power accumulated at the workplace as a portent of industrial democracy--a counterpart of the new universal manhood suffrage. In coalmining, the literally infinite demand for coal enabled mining unions to extract an equally significant concession from the government--the payment of miners according to national mininum rates. For the first time, coalminers received equal pay for equal work. This concession was made despite the fact that the government was compelled to take coal into temporary public ownership in order to ensure its effective operation. It is usually forgotten that the experience of the Great War also provided significant impetus to professional and white collar trade unionism. Unions in these areas had begun to emerge as part of the ferment of democratic ideas, including New Unionism of course, in the last years of the 19th century. They had made comparatively little impact until the experience of total war empowered active citizens to view themselves as having rights and responsibilities in all parts of civil society, including the workplace. Participating in the war had placed all belligerent states and societies under great strain. In 1916, there was a general collapse of morale and willingness to fight in the French infantry. Although Marshal Foch was able to restore a formal equilibrium, he took great care not to place his men in serious combat situations under pressure of which they might lose military discipline again. The various institutions of the Russian state were unable to cope with the stress. The spectacular collapse of the Tsarist state in February 1917 was not unexpected, and initially welcomed by the Allies as a portent of Russia's new beginning. There were great expectations that the
4 provisional government would prosecute the war against the Kaiser with renewed zeal and effectiveness. Alongside the new democratic republic, workers' councils, (British socialists called them by their Russian name soviets), enfranchised Russian citizens at their workplaces. Not only engineering shop stewards, like the future MP, Davey Kirkwood, but also ILP activists and future MPs, like Jimmy Maxton and Manny Shinwell, and even Ramsay MacDonald, began to speak of a parallel development of industrial democracy for Britain. The seizure of power by the Bolsheviks in October 1917 was unexpected and, for seasoned political observers, unsettling. (Bolshie entered the general discourse as the description for unruly, insubordinate behaviour.) Nevertheless, British union leaders and Labour Party leaders were clear that the Russians had to find their own way, and opposed any signs that Lloyd George and Bonar Law might be planning to send British troops to intervene in the civil war, which commenced in the summer of 1918. In Germany, the demands of a total war economy compelled the General Staff to sanction the major concessions made by their most liberal member, the Badenese General Groener, to German unions in return for their co-operation. Unlike their British counterparts, German capitalists were loathe to acquiesce in these changes. However, under duress, they did so, despite fears that they might be ceding essential managerial prerogative to their employees. By the autumn of 1918, the effective blockade of Germany mounted by the British Navy, the competent performance of the British conscript army, stiffened by the draft of fresh American troops into the western theatre precipitated a pervasive mood of anarchy in the German troops and German society. Individuals of all classes concluded that they had a far better chance of surviving outside the state than continuing to act as loyal citizens, according to its strictures. The General Staff formulated a plan to safeguard the army by sacrificing the Kaiser. They confidently expected the leaders of the Social Democratic Party, (SPD), to be incapable of riding the waves of civil unrest. They calculated that Ebert, Scheidemann and Noske would collapse, like Kerensky, and that both the monarchy and their own authority would be quickly restored. To their surprise, the SPD politicians proved equal to the task of restoring order and equilibrium in German society. With the active co-operation of liberal and Catholic, (Centre Party) politicians, the German Republic was born in unfavourable conditions, and survived despite the gloomy prognoses of most observers. An integral part of the Republic's constitution was the legitimation of the wartime Betriebsrate, (works councils), established by Groener. German capitalists who had hoped to roll back this advance were frustrated, and the German unions emerged from the war greatly strengthened. In these circumstances, it was hardly surprising that the British political establishment feared the worst for the post-war period. Although the British had not been subjected to such material deprivation as the Germans, there had nevertheless been a general shake-up of British society under the pressure of total war. The sharp upsurge of industrial conflict during 1917 was intimately connected with the 'combout', the conscription of engineering workers who had been hitherto immune, and the belated application of the draft to South Wales miners. The German General Staff's decision to end hostilities in November 1918 was unexpected, but welcome. Sufficient news was coming back from the army to warn civilian workers about their
5 likely fates. Few seasoned politicians, however, believed that British society could return to the status quo ante. Like their German counterparts, British unions emerged from the war substantially strengthened. Membership had increased and the state-sanctioned encroachments on managerial prerogative were making a significant impact on workplace conditions. The most far-seeing union leaders moved quickly to regularise the wartime changes. In coalmining, the President of the MFGB, Robert Smillie, recognised that the only certain way of maintaining national wage rates and hours of work was to continue to keep the mines in public ownership. Understanding that the coalowners were incorrigible individualists, as an ILP socialist, he preferred public ownership to the capitalist routes by which uniform wages and conditions might have been achieved, cartelisation or oligopoly. Ernest Bevin, aged thirty nine in 1920, used the new Industrial Courts Act of 1919 to ensure the acceptance of a scheme he had drafted in 1918, but which the Ministry of Labour had failed to adopt, for a guaranteed minimum weekly wage and registration of dock labour. Bevin proceeded in 1921 to draw the mixed bag of transport unions together into a centralised national unit, prudently adding "general" to the title to enable future growth. Union leaders in manufacturing industry outside textiles and engineering, (e.g., pottery, boot and shoemaking) and professional unions, local and national government, took advantage of the 1917 Whitley Committee Report to push ahead with works councils at local, regional and national levels. Cotton textile union leaders already presided over such significant union density and well-developed collective bargaining, that they could conceive of no further accretion of managerial prerogative which they required. For opposite reasons, engineering union leaders were unwilling to contemplate works councils. Their workplace and national procedures were under serious threat from an offensive in 1922 by the Engineering Employers' Federation (EEF), anxious to re-take much of the sovereignty they had ceded during the war. They were not interested in breaking the unions, but merely re-consigning them to their appropriate place in the workplace order. Lloyd George's 'coupon election' resulted in a stunning victory for the wartime coalition government and its supporters. The Labour Party, nevertheless, gained 21 seats, increasing its representation from 42 to 63, despite the departure of 10 Coalition Labour men who drew on the Old Goat's coupon. This was, of course, the formative period for Labour Party constituency organisation. The 1918 constitution enabled individual membership for the first time, and a beginning was made, slowly and often haltingly in founding constituency organisations. (There is much excellent new historical research on constituency party organisation which supplements GDH Cole's classic history. Some authors to google are Mike Savage, Duncan Tanner, and Matthew Worley.) Interest in holding political office abounded in trade union branches. The promise of what might be gained from doing so was tantalising. In some regions, notably County Durham, e.g., the miners' unions had already led the capture of a majority on county councils. Other counties, including Glamorgan and Monmouth fell to miners' union onslaughts in the 1920s. The Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU) joined the mining unions in giving Labour Party affiliation at ward, local, and constituency level and candidate sponsorship a high priority.
6 The Labour Party benefited from the strong and continuing democratic impetus which had been underpinned by the extension of the suffrage and was sustained by the collective and individual memories of participating in total war. In 1922, Labour won 142 seats. That number went up to 191 in the 1923 general election, making Labour the second largest party. Although the snap election called by MacDonald in 1924 was coloured by the smear of the Zinoviev letter and the bungled Campbell prosecution, Labour still retained 151 seats. The stunning Labour victory in May 1929, winning 288 seats to become the largest party in the House for the first time, (with 28 more seats than the Conservatives), was due in part to the public's perception of the Tories as aggressive and class-based, whose government had exacerbated the conflict between the coalowners and the coalminers. MacDonald and other PLP leaders had stressed their view that the miners could only gain justice through political means, i.e. legislation which would compel the coalowners to pay national wages and conditions. And, indeed, it is usually forgotten that the minority government fulfilled its obligations to the miners with the 1930 Coal Mines Act, repealing the legal 8 hour day and laying the groundwork for the pooled selling scheme by district--both important reforms of an industry in which too many capitalists were short-termist. (There was also the creation of the London Passenger Transport Board, a public monopoly, piloted through parliament by Morrison.) The 1927 Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Act had been passed by the Conservative government in the aftermath of the General Strike. The TUC General Council pressurised MacDonald to repeal it, viewing the Act as an unmerited retribution meted out by a Tory government unwilling to accept the trade union movement as a responsible, legitimate part of the body politic. MacDonald duly introduced a watered-down version of the 1927 Act in 1930, hoping it would receive Liberal support. But the Tories combined with a Liberal rump to fiercely resist the change. Firstly, because they viewed the 1913 arrangement of contracting out of the political levy as unfair and an infringement of individual rights. Secondly, because they viewed the 1927 Act’s provisions circumscribing secondary industrial action as an essential limitation on unions' immunity from civil prosecution. There was a clear case for amending the 1906 Trades Dispute Act, (the first significant legislation concerning unions for over thirty years) in relation to its provisions regarding civil immunity for unions. Mindful of the infant Labour Party's impressive performance in the recent general election, Prime Minister Asquith had unexpectedly accepted all the amendments proposed by trade union sponsored MPs. Labour intellectuals, including the Webbs, were taken aback and disquieted by the unions' unprecedented lack of legal accountability. Amendments which had been proposed by the new Labour MPs in the expectation of only getting half a loaf, were wholly incorporated into statute law. (And indeed the extraordinary upsurge of national militancy between 1910-1914 was underpinned by unions' new immunity from civil prosecution.) Nevertheless, after the General Strike and miners’ Lock-Out, thoughtful trade union leaders made no attempt to return to their pre-1926 approach to industrial conflict. They also cited the need to observe the 1927 Act as part of their defence against militants' plans for waging total economic war. The cumulative experience of major national strikes and lock-outs in the postwar period, (the 1919 engineering strikes, the 1922 engineering lock-out, the mining disputes in 1919, 1921, 1925 and 1926, the tramworkers' strike in 1924), had reinforced the pervasive tendency towards total war in industrial conflict. The 1927 Act had belatedly corrected this imbalance.
7 Nevertheless, the circumstances of its passage--when rightwing Conservatives and a large part of the political establishment were still wringing their hands over the insubordination and gall of the TUC for waging a General Strike--made it difficult for the trade union movement to view it as anything other than punitive and vindictive. The tendency towards escalating industrial conflict towards national conflict had been marked since the 1890s. Nevertheless, governments had taken care to intervene in order to pre-empt the chances that the conflict might drift out of control. The problem for governments behaving with comparable emollience after the postwar slump in 1921 was that no mutually agreeable settlement could be achieved without a) a significant injection of government funds and/or b) legislation compelling one or both sides of industry to adopt behaviour they found unacceptable. The 1930 Coal Mines Act was an example of the second kind of legislative action; MacDonald's government lacked the funds for the first. Having witnessed the bleak spectacle of coalowners and coalminers waging total war against one another in 1926, those union leaders and employers who were sufficiently flexible and reflective recognised the need for a fresh approach. The result, the Mond-Turner Talks emphasised the importance of seeking areas of agreement and compromise. Industrial action, (for both sides), had to remain the option of last resort. The union leaders, including Arthur Cook and the engineers' President, Jack Little, who opposed this new turn in industrial relations, accused Mond-Turner supporters of emasculating the movement by 'surrendering' the right to strike. In fact, those union leaders who were committed participants had no intention of surrendering their unions' independence and ability to take industrial action. The steadily improving level of wages and conditions from 1933-39 evidently showed that the assessment of the Mond-Turner union leaders was accurate. Because there was such unanimity inside the PLP and even the Cabinet, it is unnecessary to dwell on the political crisis which engulfed the government in the autumn of 1931. Most MPs and ministers were unwilling to reject the unanimous view of the TUC General Council. Their reasons were transparent: the unfair distribution of Snowden's planned cuts, requiring greater financial sacrifices from those least able to make them; and the government's failure to consider alternatives to financial stringency, i.e. Keynes's Yellow Book for Lloyd George. MacDonald took a very small minority with him into the wilderness of the National Government, making no real effort to persuade Big Hitters to leave the Labour fold, and positively discouraging young, ambitious men from following him. He evidently had no illusion that a National Labour Party would prove a permanent innovation. He believed himself to be acting in the national interest, and was permanently ostracised by the Labour Movement for so doing. (It is worth remarking that MacDonald was reluctant to jettison's Snowden's orthodox monetary advice not only because Keynes and Lloyd George had favoured it, but also because Oswald Mosley had espoused it. His New Party stood in the 1931 election on a contra-cyclical deficit financing programme.) From the vantage point of the 21st century, one is moved to wonder whether economics has evolved sufficiently today to preclude the possibility of future governments becoming martyrs to the prevailing economic orthodoxy. As an avid reader of Sam Brittan, I am not willing to conclude that such progress has in fact been made--a point to which I intend to return at the end of this talk.
8 In the 1935 general election, Labour representation in parliament increased from its 1931 low of 52 to 154. Although still 134 less than they had achieved in 1929, Labour was clearly on the way back to political recovery. This fact was not lost on either Baldwin or Neville Chamberlain. Both Tory Prime Ministers continued to make moves which were either pro-union, (as in the case of Baldwin's intervention in the 1937 Harworth strike in Notts. against the coalowners), or involved the promotion of the further rationalisation/cartelisation of outmoded sectors of British industry, (the 1936 Spindles Act, providing legal support for reduction of excess capacity; the 1939 Cotton Industry Re-Organisation Act). Union membership increased as the British economy continued its steady recovery. Union leaders, notably Ernest Bevin and Arthur Horner (as President of the South Wales miners), concluded comprehensive No Strike/Lock-Out Agreements with employers associations. When negotiations broke down and arbitration failed, however, they were ready to invoke the final step, a national or regional strike. They knew that for this threat to be credible, and therefore effective, it was essential for both employers and the government to believe that the TGWU and the Federation were capable of the maximum response, which could wreak havoc with employers' profits and production schedules. (They accepted, equally, the employers' right to attempt a counter-attack in the form of a national or regional Lock-Out.) The government was a constant, although silent and sleeping partner, to national industrial relations. The miners' unions quest for a national increase in their minimum wage, for example, was successful because Baldwin's Secretary for Mines was willing to intervene, providing sufficient emollience and encouragement to the coalowners to raise their selling prices for domestic coal. The government's rearmament programme gathered increasing visibility and momentum after the 1935 general election. Ministers took great care to try to involve the unions in making it a co-operative effort. Given the TUC's anti-fascist stand, it was plausible for them to expect a positive response. Although Citrine, (TUC general secretary), was keen to accept with conditions, (about safeguarding union practices and conditions), few General Council members were willing to sanction co-operation with a Conservative government. They remained unconvinced that the Tories were a national party, above class. At the Labour Party's conference at Whit 1939, Bevin proposed a a way to avert the war which was patently looming on the horizon. He was convinced that it would be another imperialist conflict, and believed that this time it could be averted by supra-national regulation of essential raw materials, e.g. coal, iron and oil. The wartime coalition government took office in May 1940. Churchill's appointment of Bevin as Minister of Labour was not surprising. What could not be predicted, however, was Bevin's assiduous appropriation of ministerial prerogative in relation to the total war economy. There was no logical or a priori reason that the arrangements for the supply of raw materials, war materiel and food should have been made after Bevin's manpower planning. Nevertheless, Bevin consistently took the lead, compelling the ministers for supply, aircraft production, agriculture and food, transport and fuel and power to work around his dispositions. He was able to manoeuvre so successfully partly because as general secretary of a large union with members in virtually every sector of the economy, he was accustomed to thinking and calculating from a national and holistic perspective. In addition, as a habitual socialist he had long reflected on problems of the rational distribution and use of resources. No historian has suggested that Bevin's pre-eminence adversely affected the
9 performance of the total war economy. On the contrary, it is likely that the government benefited from having such a pre-eminent minister, with no need to be prodded or cued by his civil servants. An important and unintended side effect of Bevin's dominance was the increase in the sense of self-importance at the Ministry of Labour. From having been very low down in theWhitehall pecking order, the permanent secretaries, under secretaries and assistant secretaries at the Ministry's offices in St. James's Square became Very Important People. Because of its lowly status in the hierarchy, most of them were not from the mandarinate; they were grammar school men and women from respectable working class, professional, or lower middle class families. They appreciated Bevin's dominant persona and enjoyed basking in his reflected light. Their own positions were greatly enhanced by his rising star. He even colonised the diplomatic service, installing his own civil servants as Labour Attaches in important embassies. Bevin constructed a statutory framework, Order 1305, for collective bargaining in 1940, based broadly on the no-strike agreements he had negotiated in manufacturing industry. (Its full title was 'Conditions of Employment and National Arbitration Order 1940 (SR & O 1940) No.1305'). In coalmining, Bevin took a highly interventionist role in the War Cabinet, supporting and supplementing Arthur Horner's moves at the Ministry of Fuel and Power to re-introduce national wages and conditions. Because of the continuing acute shortage of coal, Horner was able to use the miners’ improved bargaining position to ratchet themselves back up to near the top the wages table. The mining unions were able to re-assert their control over the workplace, enabling union density to recover and union authority to revive. Under Order 1305, unions and employers were charged with the legal responsibility for notifying industrial disputes to the Ministry of Labour. If the local conciliation officer was unable to achieve a satisfactory settlement, they could refer the dispute to the National Arbitration Tribunal, an industrial court, which would hear the case and award a settlement. Article 5 of the Order compelled employers who did not recognise unions to observe wages and conditions which had been duly negotiated for their industry by unions and employers' associations. Conciliation officers to whom a dispute was reported by a union official using Article 5 always tried to persuade the employer outside the agreement to recognise unions. They argued that by placing their company within the formal ambit of collective bargaining, employers would have greater influence over their working costs and better relations with their employees. The impact of Bevin's tenure as Minister of Labour was thus to greatly increase the state's influence in industrial relations. Union recognition and collective bargaining were disseminated through the Ministry of Labour's good offices. Collective bargaining remained formally free and voluntary; in practice it was neither. If a union could report a mere one individual member in a workplace, the conciliation officer would enforce Article 5 and apply strong pressure on the employer to conform to the recommended norm by granting recognition. By the end of the war, union membership had reached historically high levels of density. There was renewed enthusiasm for democratisation, engendered by the waging of total war in which the whole of civil society was mobilised. Bevin was careful to involve women in war work to a greater extent than in 1914-18; he also promoted feminist ambitions for
10 filling skilled jobs on an equal footing with men and receiving equal wages. In this atmosphere, there was great enthusiasm for promoting union membership and extending collective bargaining to unlikely enclaves of the establishment, such as the Savoy and the Ritz--not covered by Order 1305. The importance of Order 1305 for both the state and employers was that it provided a basic foundation from which industrial relations could peacefully proceed. The National Arbitration Tribunal was called upon to deal with large, national conflicts. Although its remit formally extended down to local firms, disputes at the grass roots were routinely resolved through the good offices of the conciliation officer. Neither Bevin nor his officials at St. James's Square expected Order 1305 to be universally observed. Nor did they expect to prosecute workers who offended against it. The notorious decision to prosecute the Betteshanger strikers in 1942 was taken by the Ministry of Fuel and Power officials, not the Ministry of Labour. Bevin notably refrained from using Order 1305, and chose to enact another statute, Regulation 1AA, to deal with the outbreak of what he viewed as malicious, politically motivated strikes in 1944. The TUC General Council expected the repeal of the 1927 Trade Dispute and Trade Union Act to be a priority for the Attlee government. They viewed it as a matter of political honour for the first majority Labour government to remove the imputed stain on trade unions and erase all traces of the humiliating circumstances of this law's enactment. The practical implications of the 1927 Act's repeal in autumn 1946 were delayed, however, until the mid-1950s. Attlee's Minister of Labour, George Isaacs had invited unions and employers to agree that Order 1305 should continue in legal force for an indefinite period. He had no difficulty in gaining their consent. The final political debt which the Attlee government paid in full to the trade union movement was to nationalise the coalmines on 1 January 1947. The structure of industrial relations in the National Coal Board replicated the agreement which Horner had concluded in South Wales in 1937. Harold Macmillan taunted the government front bench on the second reading of the Coal Industry Nationalisation Bill with the observation that the NCB was state capitalism, not the syndicalism and industrial democracy of the Miners' Next Step. His point, however, failed to hit its mark. NUM leaders had been compelled to recognise the limitations of the early 20th century ideas after 1926. They were interested in practical advances, and were well satisfied by the comprehensive institutions for joint consultation which Horner agreed with Shinwell, Ebby Edwards and Lord Hyndley. Despite the severe financial constraints imposed by postwar reconstruction and then rearmament, the Labour government was unwilling to impose substantial cuts in real wages and living standards, unlike its French socialist counterpart. Although working class consumption was severely restricted by physical shortages of domestic consumer goods, middle class purses and wallets were equally constrained. By 1948, the disillusion felt by union activists was palpable. They had expected to construct socialism, but were instead having to justify rationing and continuing scarcity to their members. Although union leaders remained enthusiastic supporters of the Labour government, they were unable to counter the general impatience and had nothing to counterpose to people's pent-up frustrations.
Nevertheless, it was clear that the government must seek the TUC's co-operation to achieve voluntary wage restraint. Such a move proved impossible, however, whilst Bevin was active in the Cabinet. His opposition was based not on political motives, but the reflexes of a union official anxious to keep what he viewed as an essential function of trade unions formally inviolate. The officials at St. James's Square were also viscerally opposed to any form of wages policy, arguing disingenuously that any national agreement would be impossible to enforce. A national wages policy would have had the same exemplary function as Order 1305. None of the corporate participants would have expected it to be observed to the letter by all employers and trade unionists. The origin of the Ministry of Labour's opposition was, in fact, similar to Bevin's. They feared that an effective wages policy would render their conciliation functions redundant. The advocacy of a wages policy had originated in the Treasury. The top echelon at St. James's Square embarked on a protracted war of attrition to defend their turf. Having effectively spiked Cripps's move from the Treasury in 194551, they engaged with both Roy Jenkins at the Treasury and George Brown's Department of Economic Affairs in 1964-68, and again emerged victorious. The Ministry of Labour was assisted in resisting any form of wages policy by the General Council. In 1950, when the Special Conference of Trade Union Executives rejected the General Council's case for voluntary wage restraint by a large majority, these activists believed they were representing for workers and their families who had endured eleven years of unremitting hardship. The General Council allowed the conference to go ahead, even though its negative result was wholly predictable. Its rejection of the government's arguments about the need to moderate wage claims significantly dented government morale at a critical juncture. The employers' associations were not concerned with the government's withdrawal from this terrain until the mid-1950s. They were pre-occupied with finding sufficient labour to maximise production. Order 1305 was rescinded by the Labour government as a result of mounting pressure from the TUC General Council, exerted with increasing intensity from the autumn of 1950. Employers' associations had remained keen to preserve it. The General Council's over-riding concern, however, was to outflank a very few militants, who were inciting industrial conflict with the evident intention of 'causing trouble'. Because British trade unions remained politically unitary, communists, leftwing socialists and Trotskyists were able to court martyrdom through the assiduous cultivation of real material grievances in factories, docks and mines. Aneurin Bevan had become Minister of Labour in January 1951, and he exerted his formidable powers of argument to persuade the General Council to change their mind. Having experienced the baleful situation in the South Wales coalfield from 1926 until 1937, when Horner signed the no strike agreement, he had learned to appreciate the perils of total industrial conflict and the desirability of orderly systems of industrial relations. After Bevan's resignation in April 1951, his successor, Alf Robens, was more concerned to placate the General Council than to consider what was best for British industry. There was significant opposition inside the middle ranks of the Ministry of Labour to his determination to placate the TUC; there was also serious disagreement from many middle-ranking union officials who had experienced the importance of the framework provided by the Order.
12 The February 1950 general election had been narrowly won by Labour. The Conservatives had taken great care to emphasise their union-friendly intentions. The Conservative election manifesto stated, 'We have held the views from the days of Disraeli, that the trade union movement is essential to the proper working of our economy and of our industrial life. Conservatives should not hesitate to join trade unions as so many of our Party have already done, and to play their full part in their union affairs. As soon as possible we wish the trade unions to regain their function of obtaining for their members a full share of increasing productivity through free collective bargaining [i.e. the rescinding of Order 1305]. We shall consult with all engaged in industry on how to make more effective the machinery for consultation between industry and the Government.' The newly formed Conservative Research Department, whose bright young men included Iain Macleod and Reginald Maudling, was intended to produce radical ideas to modernise the party and broaden its appeal to 'ordinary' voters. The Industrial Charter was one of their most potent ideas, and was included in both the 1950 and 1951 election manifestoes. It promised an improvement in working conditions, enhanced individual employment rights and a greater public role for unions. The Conservatives' narrow victory in October 1951 cannot be attributed to Labour's desertion by trade union members. (The Labour Party received 13,948,605 votes to the Conservatives 13,717,538.) Nevertheless, Labour did not take the trade union vote for granted. Their campaign emphasised and stressed that only Labour could be relied upon in relation to trade union issues. The Times House of Commons 1951 described the Conservative attitude to the trade unions as a 'thorny issue of controversy...during the election'. Patrick Gordon-Walker suggested that 'they [the Tories] had it in mind to reintroduce parts of the  Trade Disputes Act. This, and other attacks on similar lines, drew from Mr. Churchill a statement recalling an earlier declaration of his own that the Conservative Party had no intention of initiating any legislation affecting trade unions. "We hope," he said, "to work with the trade unions in a loyal and friendly spirit, and if this is disturbed by party politics the fault will not be on our side."' (p.19.) Churchill installed Sir Walter Monckton, a prominent barrister, as Minister of Labour. Although formally a Conservative MP, Monckton was not a party political person. He had entered parliament in a by-election earlier in 1951, in response to friends' urging to direct his talents to public life. He was a man of immense charm, who related to union leaders without condescension or paternalism. (Like Eden, Attlee and Macmillan, he had been permanently affected by his experiences as a young officer in the trenches in World War I.) His appointment was evidence of Churchill's pledge not to play party politics with industrial relations. Churchill's brief for Monckton was to keep the industrial peace, and pre-empt situations in which unions and employers would engage in bruising national conflict. Monckton performed his job admirably, and it was not until 1955 that there were significant outbreaks of industrial conflict. Nevertheless, the Conservative government inherited three significant structural problems from Labour, none of which were addressed because Churchill and Monckton judged that to do so would endanger their over-riding priority, industrial peace keeping. The trio were: i) the absence of any statutory framework for collective bargaining, constructed with the aim of avoiding disputes; ii) the absence of any consensual institutions, either
13 statutory or voluntary, within which agreement on wage and price levels could be reached; iii) the legal vacuum left by the repeal of the 1927 Act, whereby unions were the recipients of virtually open-ended corporate privileges in civil law without being obliged to accept any countervailing responsibilities. In industries where employers and unions had established their own comprehensive corporate institutions, (e.g. coalmining, boot and shoe-making, pottery manufacturing, flour milling), the disappearance of Order 1305 had a minimal impact. But for millions of working people in engineering, the loss was significant. In conditions where employers were determined to resist, unions had no option except industrial conflict to achieve meaningful concessions. For Churchill and Monckton, the rescinding of Order 1305 proved an unwonted political advantage. It enabled them to disengage the state from shouldering any responsibility for enforcing routine collective bargaining. (Monckton had been engaged in 1949 by the AEU's solicitors, Thompson's, to appear on behalf of the Beckton gas fitters who were charged by Hartley Shawcross with infringing Order 1305. Thompson's had recommended Monckton as the best available, and the AEU Executive had agreed to pay his high fees. Monckton, however, gave his services pro bono because he believed in their cause.) The Ministry of Labour conciliation officers ceased to pro-active, and their role was confined to trouble-shooting. By 1955, the top civil servants in the Ministry of Labour had air-brushed the wartime advances in corporate framework out of the picture. Narratives of the development of the unique British system of industrial relations now stopped with World War I. Despite its popularity with Conservative trade unionists, Churchill and Monckton took no action to promote the Industrial Charter. Permanent, assistant and personal secretaries at the Ministry of Labour were probably significant in reinforcing their inclination to do nothing very much. There was, moreover, no pressure from the trade unions on Conservative ministers to fulfil their election pledge. The point for the TUC General Council was not to be seen to be treating the Conservative government too cordially. Correct relations were observed; but they were wary of going beyond these bounds. Both Vincent Tewson, TUC General Secretary, and Arthur Deakin, Bevin's successor, were concerned to guard their left flanks. Conspicuous loyalty to the Labour Party and and constant recitations of faith in future Labour government were more important to them than any pragmatic calculations about what positive measures could be gained from a susceptible Conservative Prime Minister. Until 1955 British industry was producing for a sellers' market. Because of the slow recovery of manufacturing in West Germany, the dislocation in international currency markets, and difficulties in financing trade with the U.S., British ships, heavy engineering, motor cars and consumer goods encountered few competitors in their traditional domestic, commonwealth and imperial markets. British employers were constrained to make wage concessions by the conjuncture of favourable market conditions, a Conservative government anxious to avoid industrial conflict, and chronic labour shortage. In these circumstances, the General Council could afford to keep the government formally at arm's length without fear of adverse consequences for their members’ wages and conditions. The one union which had conspicuous need to treat the new government seriously was the NUM. And despite gloomy prognostications and veiled threats from Horner and Lawther, Horner soon concluded
14 that not only the NCB but also the de facto co-determination which the NUM enjoyed were safe in Tory hands. When Gaitskell succeeded Attlee as Labour Party leader after the 1955 general election, he was anxious to establish his credentials with the trade union movement. Strongly supported by Deakin and Lawther, he nevertheless felt vulnerable to being perceived to be elitist. He adopted the expedient of colluding with the Labour left's and Communists' caricatures of the Tories. He signally failed to engage with the practicalities of industrial relations. His own priorities remained international politics and the orthodox Fabian concerns of equality and re-distribution. Perhaps because he felt intimidated by a world of which he knew so little, he remained remote from the realities of British industry, (on both sides). Gaitskell encouraged the General Council's resolute determination not to be seen consorting too cordially with the Tories, and made his view clear that only a future Labour government could be relied upon to safeguard working people's liberties and prosperity. Gaitskell's tactic was ill-considered and proved counter-productive. By 1955, the British electorate had experienced four years of gradually improving standards of living. Trade unionists had not been oppressed, harassed or prevented from engaging in unofficial strikes. The increase in the Conservatives' share of the vote, (from 48.0 to 49.7 per cent), and the decline in Labour's, (from 49.2 to 46.4 per cent), was compelling evidence that a critical mass of trade unionists were willing to take the Tories at face value. Eden and Macmillan were keen conciliators of the trade union movement. Between 1955 and 1958, there were the first serious outbreaks of national industrial conflict. With one exception, Eden and Macmillan were conspicuous in encouraging/badgering employers to make significant concessions. (The exception was the June 1958 London Bus Strike in which Tewson covertly encouraged Macmillan and his Minister of Labour, Iain Macleod, to resist Frank Cousins on the grounds that he was a dangerous militant.) The government, the Ministry of Labour and the TUC colluded in maintaining the fiction of free, voluntary collective bargaining. Despite their continuing public distrust of Conservative governments, trade union leaders still expected the state to intervene on their side in industrial disputes, and wilfully forgot that the absence of any statutory framework for collective bargaining made such intervention merely optional. The Ministry of Labour was increasingly pre-occupied with protecting its own territory from potential encroachments from other departments. Its top civil servants cultivated good, informal relations with the trade union leadership, and declined to think more widely about structural problems. They apparently believed in the narratives they were writing for their ministers about the peerless British system of industrial relations, and were confident that the palpably intensifying industrial conflict would not put the system under intolerable strain. And as long as governments proved willing to apply pressure on employers to make concessions, St. James's Square had good reason to continue its rosily optimistic view. Employers' associations were still negotiating with their union counterparts, and most employers who recognised unions were committed to working with them. Nevertheless, British industry faced increasingly difficult conditions in the international economy. The West German economy continued to grow at impressive rates, and other western European countries were proving unexpectedly vigorous
15 competitors. Macmillan's response was to try to engage the TUC General Council in serious discussions about a wages policy, whilst still 'persuading' employers to make wage concessions. The employers, particularly the engineering and shipbuilding employers in 1957, felt profoundly aggrieved. Not being accustomed to taking a high political profile, however, they contented themselves with genteel pamphlets within which comparisons were made between Macmillan's conduct in the 1957 national engineering strike and Chamberlain at Munich. Macmillan's policy of appeasing the British working class was well-informed and well-judged. Conservative central office received regular reports from their corps of 'industrial organisers' whose brief was to encourage Tory thinking amongst trade unionists. In the week ending, 29 June 1957, Mr. A. Kirk reported from Warrington, "There is very little actual grumbling from trade unionists against the Government's industrial policy, everybody is doing well, the trade unionist has got the money, he can afford holidays, cars, television, etc., his adherence to Socialism entirely comes from Socialist propaganda. To a great many trade unionists Tory propaganda is too detached, it is always defending and never attacking, propaganda bills are left on hoardings and notice boards for months on end with no re-newal. I have heard the following expression a dozen times this week, on buses, trains, clubs and pubs. I have not joined in the discussions, but have thought what a slogan it could be with, it is 'We have never had it better'." Macmillan's autobiography recorded, "On 20 July  I had to make a speech at Bedford to a large crowd in a football ground. This was well reported in the Sunday Press and helped to steady things. My chief purpose was to warn the people of the dangers of inflation, however prosperous things might appear at the moment. It was here that I first used, without exciting any particular comment, a phrase which afterwards became notorious. Let's be frank about it; most of our people have never had it so good. Go around the country, go to the industrial towns, go to the farms, and you will see a state of prosperity such as we have never had in my lifetime--nor indeed ever in the history of this country. What is beginning to worry some of us is Is it too good to be true? or perhaps I should say Is it too good to last? For, amidst all this prosperity, there is one problem that has troubled us--in one way or another--ever since the war. It's problem of rising prices. Our constant concern today is--can prices be steadied while at the same time we maintain full employment in an expanding economy? Can we control inflation? This is the problem of our time. "At this time the phrase 'we have never had it so good' was not misrepresented, misquoted and taken out of its context, as proved its fate in subsequent years." (Harold Macmillan, Riding the Storm 1956-1959, Macmillan, 1971, pp.350-351.) Macmillan's victory in the 1959 general election campaign was decisive. The size of the House of Commons increased from 625 to 630. Conservative MPs increased from 344 to 365; Labour MPs declined from 277 to 258. It was a remarkable performance. In seeking an explanation, Macmillan's diary noted that the 1958 London Bus Strike, in which the government had prevented the Ministry of Labour
16 from settling by conciliation, had 'seemed to be a turning point'. Richard Crossman noted in his diary in July 1958 that Roy Jenkins 'who was one of the great addicts of the theory that we were bound to win, now admits that we are faced with a possibility of defeat.' (Macmillan, Riding the Storm, p.721. Janet Morgan (ed.) Crossman, Backbench Diaries, 1981, p.689.) Peter Clarke observed that the pamphlet written by Philip Abrams, Must Labour Lose? was misplaced. 'It is simplistic to regard Labour's electoral decline as predetermined, least of all by sociology. A crude economic explanation works somewhat better, since organized workers, notably in the currently prosperous motor trade, could become affluent under the free collective bargaining which the Government offered....[T]hey remained militant in their commitment to their unions, which were viewed instrumentally as the means of securing fatter pay packets. Government was increasingly judged by the same criterion: whether it held out the prospect of a better standard of living, through its impact on jobs and prices (in that order).' (Hope and Glory, Britain 1900-1990, Penguin, 1997, p.271.) Whether Labour would have won the 1964 general election had Gaitskell continued to lead the party, remains a fascinating but insoluble counter-factual question. What is clear, however, is the difference between Gaitskell's and Harold Wilson's attitude to trade union leaders. Wilson found it easy to socialise with General Council members and the union officials in his Merseyside constituency. He could understand their concerns and also conduct meaningful political business with them. Not surprisingly, they responded in kind. He was a popular speaker at union gatherings, where he was welcomed with genuine affection. Wilson had another exciting ingredient to add to the party pot, big ideas. Belying his reputation as a merely acute tactician, he also had a sincere vision of a modernised Britain, in which economic planning and neo-corporatism both had important parts to play. He was willing to let George Brown have his head because as a serious economist, (not merely a statistician), he could see that British capitalism was increasingly decrepit and in need of some powerful injection of life. He approved of George Brown's plans as providing an opportunity to re-invigorate industry and promote co-operation between unions and employers. Wilson's appointment of Frank Cousins as Minister of Technology is further evidence of his commitment to this vision. The continuing strong performances of western European economies had apparently provided serious pause for thought. Labour's victory in 1964 produced great euphoria amongst trade union leaders and activists. Those who were thoughtful could see that Wilson had a serious point to his white heat of technology. They were also willing to acquiesce in George Brown's grand project for planned economic growth. So, notably, were the CBI. A significant number of British capitalists knew they were being left behind and welcomed the government's promises of having solutions. They had been impressed by the French government's success in transforming a predominantly rural and agricultural society to an efficient, urban industrial complex. The wafer-thin majority in the House of Commons acted as a powerful tonic for union leaders to continue to co-operate with the Department for Economic Affairs. (To capture the atmosphere and Brown's unbounded optimism, it is worth consulting his memoirs, In My Way, chapter 5.) George Brown's Big Project remained remarkably credible until after the general election at the end of March 1966, which produced a thumping Labour majority over
17 the Tories of over a hundred seats. The problem, perhaps the tragic irony, was that it was being incubated in a society which was accustomed to an apparently secure, and increasingly prosperous existence without making any great changes or sacrifices. Thirteen years of Tory rule, within which unions had apparently conducted themselves freely and voluntarily, had permanently altered workers' expectations. Faced with the prospect of asking their members to forego customary wage increases, many union activists abandoned their socialist principles, and responded instead to their 'rank-and-file'. Most union leaders were equally unwilling to face these activists, and acknowledge their own failures over the previous decade to take account of the need for a wages policy. (When Macmillan had established the National Incomes Commission in 1962, the General Council had boycotted it.) Peter Clarke concluded that incomes policy 'set a conundrum during the Wilson Government similar to that set by conscription during the Asquith Coalition: how to appease the tender consciences of its backbench supporters by giving an ostensibly voluntary policy the force of law'. When the voluntary wages freeze 'duly proved ineffective, the freeze itself was finally given legislative backing for twelve months, creating the further problem of what to do when the twelve months were up'. (p.311) Frank Cousins, who resigned from the government in July 1966 over incomes policy, might have provided an example. He could have told his members about the serious long-term prospects for British industry, and invited them to accompany him and the Labour government on a much-needed step change. But he had returned to the TGWU a chastened man, and also a spent force, wishing the government no ill, but lacking the will or the creative intellect to lead the union onto a radical new course. TGWU members, particularly those in Jack Jones's Region 5, had gained hugely from free, voluntary collective militancy. For both Cousins and Jones, asking their members to take a self-denying ordinance would have been complex and risky. After the devaluation of the pound by 15 per cent against the dollar in November 1967, the Labour government faced an uphill struggle. With Roy Jenkins providing a self-confident, reassuring influence at the Treasury, Wilson and other Cabinet members displayed surprising sang froid. They were assisted by the fact that the Conservative opposition, led by Edward Heath, declined to take advantage of the government's embarrassing position. In the circumstances, Wilson decided to use the report of the Royal Commission on Trade Unions and Employers Associations, known as the Donovan Commission after its chairman, as the government's next Big Project. Appointed in April 1965 by the then Minister of Labour, Ray Gunter, the Commission had engaged in protracted deliberations, finally delivering a report in June 1968. Members of the Commission had accurately reflected the wide range of opinion in British society about their subject. They found such great difficulty in framing their report that it was only the opportunist determination of Hugh Clegg, a very junior member, which had enabled a majority report to emerge. This is not the place to consider the Donovan Report in any detail. What is notable is the coincidence between the Majority Report and the presumption of free, voluntary collective bargaining in the evidence offered by the Ministry of Labour and the TUC. (The government's support for peaceful, orderly industrial relations was presumed, without any consideration of why this should be expected to continue in its present form.) The Report was well received initially by many trade union sponsored MPs, including Charles Pannell, AEU sponsored MP for Leeds West, and James
18 Hamilton the chairman of the Trade Union Group of Labour MPs, who spoke in the debate in July initiated by the Shadow Employment Secretary, Robert Carr, on one of the Opposition's Supply Days. It was the first time the House of Commons had an opportunity to consider its contents. Hamilton was candid. 'This is the centenary year of the trade union movement. Unfortunately, the Trades Union Congress at national level is devoid of teeth. In September, it has a Congress when a resolution will come before it from a certain union. Once it has been carried, the unions which do not agree with it can walk out of the conference hall and do as they like about it. The trade union movement must have a reappraisal of the situation. This is one of the big weaknesses of trade union structure. Until such time as we do something about it, we shall not make the desired progress.' (Hansard, vol.768, no.156, 16 July 1968, col. 1326.) John Horner MP, the former general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, was typical of a leftwing triumphalism which nevertheless continued to protest victimhood. 'The trade unions are the greatest voluntary organisations which this country has ever established. They are a great contribution to civilisation. My right hon. Friend...has spoken of the golden age of Ernie Bevin. The golden age of trade unions has never existed. There has never been a time when the trade unions have not been under attack.' (col.1336.) This tone was also reflected in speeches from Russell Kerr, Sydney Bidwell, Stan Orme and Eric Heffer. Even Pannell had intoned it. 'The right hon.Gentleman [the Tory MP and trade unionist Ray Mawby] referred to the attitudes of the nineteenth century, but it does not go as far back as that. We are up against the attitudes of the 1930s. When I look at right hon. and hon.Gentlemen opposite and remember some of my earlier life in the trade union movement, I like to be just to them [but] I always tinge justice with memory.' (col. 1295) Along with Wilson, the new Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity, Barbara Castle, was keen to use the Commission Report as a springboard. Her White Paper, In Place of Strife, was presented to parliament in January 1969. Instead of supporting the Clegg/TUC/St. James's Square version of free, voluntary collective bargaining, her contribution reflected the underlying tripartite relationship in which unions, the government and the employers had mutually dependent obligations and responsiblities. She did not, of course, move towards outlawing industrial conflict. She rather sought to regulate it and keep it within bounds acceptable to all the participants. After an initial hesitation, most union leaders deemed it prudent to oppose the White Paper root and branch. Led by the new TUC general secretary, Victor Feather, the General Council were confident of being able to defeat Mrs. Castle on what they considered to be their own home ground. Despite Castle's spirited resistance, it was Feather who won. He played for high stakes, and was willing to seriously embarrass the Labour Government and damage their chances of winning the imminent general election in order to win his prize. His comparatively easy victory was due in large part to James Callaghan's decision to play against the Cabinet side. He chose to view the White Paper and Castle’s proposed legislation as an unwonted infringement of the trade union movement's independent sovereignty. In adopting this interpretation, Callaghan followed his old mentor in the Inland Revenue Staff Federation, Douglas Houghton MP, now chairman of the PLP. They colluded with a TUC General Council which was unwilling to consider changing any of its ways. There is no other description but hubris for this state of
19 mind. The two significant intellects in the movement, George Woodcock and Bill Paynter, had retired and gone to work at the Commission for Industrial Relations (CIR). The Heath Government's 1971 Industrial Relations Act and the statutory incomes policy which accompanied it followed directly on from Castle's White Paper. The evidence shows that there was a serious likelihood that the Tory initiatives would succeed. Although Heath narrowly failed to win a majority in the general election in January 1974, the Labour government which followed continued along a similar course, the same course which Wilson had determined to follow in 1964-70. Wilson repealed Heath's 1971 Industrial Relations Act, but replaced it by a comprehensive framework of union rights in the 1974 Trades Union and Labour Relations Act (TULRA). Significantly, however, the union rights in the 1974 Act were not counterbalanced by the responsibilities which the Tory legislation had included. Until 1957, Conservative governments had promoted co-operative relations with unions, whilst declining to establish any statutory framework within which unions could operate. Eden, after a momentary hesitation in May 1955, had followed Churchill's path of withdrawing from this terrain. It was not until 1958 with the publication of the pamphlet, A Giant's Strength, by the Conservative Inns of Court society that the vacuum of unions' responsibilities in civil society was publicly addressed. (Conservative Central Office notably refused to provide facilities for publishing A Giant's Strength, unlike other CIC pamphlets, including one advocating the abolition of capital punishment.) In 1957 and again in 1972, union leaders refused to co-operate with Conservative governments when Macmillan and Heath sought to extend the areas of unions' public accountability in return for enhanced corporate privilege. In 1983, Mrs.Thatcher took the calculated gamble of removing any form of state approval for unions as a central public institution. She succeeded because the union leadership had long ago abandoned the ideological space and discourse to defend their role. Having refused to accept responsibility, they could no longer make the case for deserving rights and privileges. There is no other explanation for the TUC General Council's willing support for Scargill in 1984-5. The election of a Conservative government under Mrs. Thatcher in 1979 did not precipitate an immediate assault on unions' enhanced positive rights. It was not until after her government's re-election in 1983 that she calculated the circumstances were propitious to finally dismantle unions' special position. Even then, it required the impolitic and inexpeditious behaviour of the entire union leadership to enable her to succeed. Rather than be seen to 'betray' the coalminers, the TUC General Council followed the NUM President, Arthur Scargill, to certain defeat.
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