The British Disease

Peter Jenkins

  • Governments and Trade Unions: The British Experience 1964-79 by Denis Barnes and Eileen Reid
    Heinemann, 240 pp, £12.50, May 1980, ISBN 0 435 83045 7

The ‘trade-union problem’ has dominated British politics for the last two decades. It has been the downfall of three governments – Wilson’s in 1970, Heath’s in 1974 and Callaghan’s in 1979. During that time, full employment and free collective bargaining became at last incompatible, and the former was in effect abandoned in 1968. As the union problem grew more acute, the relative decline of the British economy accelerated – although which was chiefly responsible for the other is less obvious. Successive governments attempted to intervene in collective bargaining with incomes policies, or to regulate the industrial relations system at law, but at the end of two decades both strategies were in disrepute. The problem seemed more intractable than ever.

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