The Contentious Alliance: Trade Unions and the Labour Party

The Contentious Alliance: Trade Unions and the Labour Party

The Contentious Alliance: Trade Unions and the Labour Party

The Contentious Alliance: Trade Unions and the Labour Party

Excerpt

I have not found this an easy book to write. Some of this is unquestionably due to my own limitations. I write with glacier-like speed; architect, bricklayer and painter, moving from drawing board to attic to brick-yard, discarding a foundation here, an upright there, then suddenly hurrying off for more bricks. It seems far removed from the cool flowing logic of completed texts and never destined to get there. Also very much at the mercy of the weather. What begins as one theme is blown to one side and becomes another. The structure changes purpose, the sections change shape. Over time, the whole thing even subtly changes colour.

So much has happened and so many new features have arisen in the trade union-Labour Party relationship since this book was first conceived that my perspectives have twisted and bent, in an effort to understand and follow through the developments.

I first constructed a proposed structure in the early 1980s when the Labour Party and the unions were in the middle of a huge crisis over intra-Party democracy (and many other things). Since that time, as the book painfully took shape, so the subject-matter refused to keep still. Institutions followed each other with great rapidity. Trade Unions for a Labour Victory (TULV) gave way to the Trade Union Coordinating Committee (TUCC) which in turn gave way to Trade Unionists For Labour (TUFL). New institutions were accompanied by new strategies, 'new realism', and then a great deal of new loyalism (see Chapter 5). The Liberal- Social Democrat Alliance threatened the Labour Movement then fell back. It threatened again, fell back again, and then fell 'to fighting itself. The Miners' Strike came almost out of the blue in 1984, enveloped the Party and the unions for longer than any major dispute in history and then left lasting marks of a kind which few foresaw at its inception. The Political Fund ballots were imposed and devastating consequences threatened in 1985; instead, remarkable victories were won and a new strength was diagnosed. Then, just prior to the 1987 General Election, the new strength appeared to disappear as fast as it had been discovered.

Then came 1989 and the picture changed again. It changed in terms of electoral support, it changed in terms of public attitudes towards trade unionism, it changed in terms of Labour's trade union policies and it changed in terms of major movements for reform in the unions' relationship with the Party.

All these changes (and many more to which reference is made here) perhaps explain why, in spite of many informative books, pamphlets and articles which . . .

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