Confronting the British disease?
in What about the workers?
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By 1964 the party leadership and membership seemed to be converging on a common diagnosis of ‘the union problem’. The failure of Conservative experiments in government with tripartism stimulated further the existing interest in legal reform. This was reinforced by the bitter conflicts over incomes policy and union reform that characterised the 1964–70 Labour Governments. Drawing on a trend in Conservative thinking that emerged in 1958, by 1968 the Conservative Party seemed committed to the extensive legal reform of unions and industrial relations as part of its determination to address ‘the British disease’. When the Conservatives entered government in 1970, this, and a seeming commitment to a more free-market approach, appeared to herald a radical departure from post-war governance. However, under the pressure of events the essentially pragmatic Heath Government speedily changed course in a number of key policy areas and also found itself in direct conflict with the trade unions, first over the Industrial Relations Act and then over incomes policy. This culminated in the ‘who governs’ election of February 1974 that precipitated the fall of the Heath Government.

What about the workers?

The Conservative Party and the organised working class in modern British politics.

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