Richard Hyman, 6 June 1985
In the Economist of 27 May 1978, details were published of a secret report by a Conservative Party policy group on the nationalised industries. Each industry would be allocated a minimum rate of return on capital; managers who failed to achieve this target would be sacked. The report, drafted by the MP Nicholas Ridley, recognised that the pressures to economise would inevitably threaten management-union conflict. In sectors where a Conservative government could not contemplate the political or economic costs of such conflict, ‘return on capital figures should be rigged.’ Accordingly, ‘the eventual battle should be on ground chosen by the Tories, in a field they think could be won (railways, British Leyland, the civil service or steel).’ Was it mere coincidence that these were four of the main sites of major industrial disputes during Thatcher’s first administration?