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The parliamentary Labour right and the ‘trade union question’
Stephen Meredith

5 In Place of Strife? The parliamentary Labour right and the ‘trade union question’ Awareness of Britain’s relative economic decline led Social Democrats to a series of economic questions, each of which involved trade unionism . . . It was in seeking answers to these questions that . . . ‘The Old Order’ – the post-war consensus – ‘crumbled’ and the first crack occurred in its weakest area – namely over the role expected of trade unions . . . Where once Gaitskell and Crosland had urged that legislation should be kept out of industrial relations, now a significant

in Labours old and new
Labour, the trade unions and 1969’s In Place of Strife
Author: Peter Dorey

This book examines the 1969 attempt by Harold Wilson’s Labour Government to enact legislation to reform industrial relations. There was a particular concern to curb strikes by the trade unions. Published in the 50th anniversary of this ill-fated episode, this scholarly study makes extensive use of primary sources, many of them previously unpublished, most notably the archives of the Labour Party, the left-wing Tribune Group, the TUC, and the personal papers of the three key political figures involved, namely Harold Wilson, Barbara Castle and James Callaghan. The chapters are organised both thematically and chronologically, each one focusing on a particular aspect of the events leading to the proposed Industrial Relations Bill, and its subsequent abandonment. The book commences with an examination of the key economic and industrial developments of the early 1960s, to indicate how the ‘trade union problem’ was initially identified and defined. This led the Labour Government, elected in 1964, to establish a Royal Commission to examine industrial relations, but its report, published in 1968, was a cautious document, and therefore a deep disappointment to Harold Wilson and his Employment Secretary, Barbara Castle. They thus pursued their own industrial relations legislation, via a White Paper called In Place of Strife, but were overwhelmed by the scale and strength of opposition this aroused, and which eventually compelled them to abandon the legislation via a humiliating climb-down.

Peter Dorey

5 Increasing antipathy in the Parliamentary Labour Party The legislative proposals foreshadowed by In Place of Strife, and the ensuing ‘short’ Industrial Relations Bill, especially its ‘penal clauses’, aroused strong opposition in the PLP. The first serious indication of the scale of backbench opposition – and the extent to which this transcended the usual ideological divisions in the PLP – occurred on 3 March 1969, when fifty-five Labour MPs voted against In Place of Strife, and forty abstained (including the PLP’s chair, Douglas Houghton), following a

in Comrades in conflict
Peter Dorey

4 Cabinet demurrals and diminishing Ministerial support The publication of the draft White Paper, soon to be titled In Place of Strife, which proposed comprehensive industrial relations legislation, immediately prompted disagreements and divisions in the Cabinet. However, these did not simply or solely reflect Labour’s traditional ideological divisions between the Party’s left and right. Instead, there were other factors which resulted in the White Paper receiving a mixed welcome, with some Ministers strongly opposed to what became known as the ‘penal clauses

in Comrades in conflict
Peter Dorey

Departmental civil servants that a statutory policy was now essential; and, crucially, a newly appointed Minister, fully backed by the Prime Minister, who was favourably disposed towards the proposed new policy. However, this last point suggests a somewhat different account of Castle’s role in supporting (a few) legislative curbs on the trade unions, as subsequently promoted in the In Place of Strife White Paper. Rather than assuming that she was ‘captured’ by more hard-line or hawkish senior Departmental officials who persuaded her to adopt ‘their’ preferred industrial

in Comrades in conflict
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The parliamentary right of the British Labour Party 1970–79 and the roots of New Labour

This study is concerned with the ‘Old’ Labour right at a critical juncture of social democratic and Labour politics. It attempts to explain the complex transition from so-called ‘Old Right’ to ‘New Right’ or ‘New Labour’, and locates at least some of the roots of the latter in the complexity, tensions and fragmentation of the former during the ‘lean’ years of social democracy in the 1970s. The analysis addresses both the short- and long-term implications of the emerging ideological, organisational and political complexity and divisions of the parliamentary Labour right and Labour revisionism, previously concealed within the loosely adhesive post-war framework of Keynesian reformist social democracy, which have been neglected factors in explanations of Labour's subsequent shift leftwards, the longer-term gestation of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the evolution of ‘New’ Labour. It establishes the extent to which ‘New’ Labour is a legatee of at least some elements of the disparate and discordant Labour right and tensions of social democratic revisionism in the 1970s. In so doing, the analysis advances our understanding of a key moment in the development of social democracy and the making of the contemporary British Labour Party. The book represents a significant departure in analyses and explanations of both the problems and demise of post-war social democracy and decline of ‘Old’ Labour and the origins and roots of ‘New’ Labour.

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Peter Dorey

Introduction It was fifty years ago, in 1969, that a Labour Government sought to introduce legislation to reform industrial relations, and place Britain’s trade unions within a clear legal framework. The proposals, enshrined in a White Paper entitled In Place of Strife, aimed both to imbue the unions and workers with various statutory rights and to impose particular responsibilities on them. The purported objective overall was to foster more orderly and responsible industrial relations, primarily in order to reduce the incidence of unofficial strikes, but also

in Comrades in conflict
Peter Dorey

Ministers in a Labour Government to introduce industrial relations legislation which would include curbs on strike action, accompanied by financial penalties in particular circumstances, caused astonishment and anger through much of the trade union movement during the first half of 1969. It seemed tantamount to an act of betrayal by their Cabinet comrades. In fact, there were four discrete reasons why the trade unions exuded such antipathy towards In Place of Strife and the ensuing short Industrial Relations Bill, namely: the trade unions’ traditional commitment to

in Comrades in conflict
Peter Dorey

7 A ‘solemn and binding’ agreement Faced with implacable trade union hostility towards the ‘penal clauses’ in both In Place of Strife and the subsequent ‘interim’ Industrial Relations Bill, coupled with inexorably growing opposition both from within the Cabinet and on the Labour backbenches, Castle and Wilson spent two months, from mid-April until mid-June 1969, holding numerous meetings with senior TUC figures in an increasingly desperate attempt at securing a settlement. What Castle and Wilson were hoping for was a solution which would simultaneously provide

in Comrades in conflict
Richard Jobson

and In Place of Strife During the late 1960s, nostalgia continued to shape Labour’s relationship with the trade unions. Responding to the findings of the Donovan Commission (which highlighted the problem of militant decentralised trade unionism in Britain), the Government called for further union amalgamations and an extension of formal centralised control within the trade union movement.127 1968 witnessed the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the TUC. At the TUC’s Centenary Pageant in Manchester in June 1968, Wilson declared that ‘The TUC has arrived. It is

in Nostalgia and the post-war Labour Party