The Contentious Alliance: Trade Unions and the Labour Party

By Lewis Minkin | Go to book overview

and obligations produced from the unions as a result of industrial disputes. If the characterisation of Kinnock as a puppet of the union leaders - particularly over violence and illegality - was a nonsense, it remained the case that policy on each dispute had to be evolved with some cognisance of the union position, both tactically and in substantive policy. In this respect, the pluralism of the Labour Movement and the duality of leadership centres within the Party added a restrictive pressure upon the Parliamentary leadership.

It was also the case that in some policy areas, union membership interests, union traditions and TUC strategy still restrained leadership initiatives. Industrial democracy had been sidelined but single channel representation still dominated trade union perceptions of how it might be advanced. Nuclear energy policy had come out in the end, more or less, as a Leadership victory, but only after months of negotiation, shifts and temporary compromises. The compensation for reacquisition formula was satisfactory to the Parliamentary leadership but the union majority had to be kept on board. Further, over anything that challenged tripartite structures involving TUC representational interests, the old 'no-go' line was signalled. And in 1986, the Leadership would dearly have loved to have produced a more convincing counter-inflation policy had union signals, particularly those coming from the TGWU, been green rather than red.

Further, there must always be an element of uncertainty about the boundaries of policymaking because we do not know how far, privately, the Parliamentary leadership might have wanted to shift had the balance of forces and the scale of union priorities been different. Certainly over legislation concerning union ballots, a vital precedent was created and a Rubicon crossed, but with what agonies of lexical tightrope walking! Such battles could not be fought on a wide front in this period.


NOTES
1.
John Edmunds, LPACR, 1985, pp. 173-4.
2.
Labour's 1982 Programme referred to 'over a period of three years at most', p. 90. The 1983 Manifesto to 'over the lifetime of the Parliament', p. 17
3.
LPACR, 1982, p. 205.
4.
TUC Congress Report, 1980, Comp. Res. Nos. 15 and 16, p. 590.
5.
Resolution 85 and amendment, TUC Congress Report, 1982, p. 653.
6.
LPACR, 1982, p. 189 and p. 206.
7.
Programme for Recovery, 1982, p. 38.
8.
NEC Minutes, 24/11/1982, Item 28.
9.
Press and Publicity Committee Minutes, 7/12/1982, Item 16. The motion to defer was moved by John Golding and seconded by Eric Heifer.
10.
Morning Star, 22/10/ 82). Labour Weekly, 10/12/ 82).
11.
Labour Weekly, 25/2/ 83). Tribune, 25/2/ 83). Liaison Committee Minutes, 21 February 1983, Para. 406.
12.
Guardian, 12/5/83.
13.
RD 2725, March 1983. NEC Minutes, 22/3/ 83). New Hope for Britain, p. 9.
14.
Roy Green (Labour Party Research Staff), ' "Feedback'", New Statesman, 23/9/ 83) and Partners in Rebuilding Britain, p. 14.

-461-

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