The enemy within
in What about the workers?
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After 1974 and under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher, the party reinstituted an extensive and radical rethink of its attitudes and policies towards the organised working class, actively contemplating the measures likely to be needed in order to avoid a repeat of the Heath Government’s experiences. In opposition, therefore, the party undertook a number of extensive studies into the dimensions of the problem and developed a strategy to handle serious confrontations with the unions. The party invested considerable resources in attempting to revive its union organisation. For a time this played an important role in the party. The collapse of the 1974–1979 Labour Government and ‘the Winter of Discontent’ brought a Conservative government to office, which was determined to deal with ‘the union problem’. It did not come into office with a fully developed programme; both union and industrial relations legislation was passed piecemeal, and was an incremental response, and likewise, the countermeasures needed to meet serious industrial confrontation were developed over time and in response to events. Particularly significant for both was the steel strike. By 1990 when Mrs Thatcher left office the unions’ legal, political and industrial environment had been transformed, with the unions effectively excluded, and the political salience of the organise working class ended.

What about the workers?

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

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