Virtue ....... Freedom ....... Aspiration ....... Wealth ....... Peace

 


 
Manifesto Introduction
 
The party defines itself by the five core policies. So that members and non-members clearly understand what the party stands for, these cannot be changed. At present they are principles the details of which will be decided according to the party constitution
 
All other policies will be decided according to the constitution
 
Below is a provisional list of headings for the Mani-festo each with a link to a page
That page contains provisional ideas for discussion.

Read this, as work in progress. Only DRP paid up members can comment and so if you want to have your say:

 

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A NEW CONSTITUTION FOR BRITAIN
Constitution Design
Executive
House of Commons Senate
Autonomous Regions

Electoral System

Democracy
Judiciary
Constitutional Court Supreme Court
Functions of Government Public Services Board Monetary Policy Board

Monarchy

 


 

ECONOMICS
Banking

Finance
Globalization
Monetary reform

Personal Finance

Austerity

Great Crisis

 

 

TAXATION
Tax havens
Corporation tax
Income tax
Wealth tax

 

REGIONS
Federal nation
Autonomous regions

 

INDUSTRY
Skills training
Industry needs
Business development
Export assistance

Employment

 

PUBLIC SERVICES
Health
Education
Utilities
Transport Road Rail Air
Social Housing
Postal Services, Telecommunications
Police
Fire Service
Prisons
Probation Service
Waste/ pollution

 

FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Europe
Commonwealth

Islamic World
War
Military provision

 

SOCIETY
Families
Social exclusion
Minorities and race relations,
Citizenship

Economic enfranchisement
Church of England
Civil Society
Deprivation
Youth
Meritocracy
Immigration

Ethical Issues
Humanitarian issues/Animals

 

NATIONAL PLANNING
National planning strategies
Coordination of regions
Transport

Energy/Climate Change

 

 

LAW
Human rights
Liberty
Economic rights
Citizenship
Penal reform
Vice
Drugs
Prostitution
Gambling

 

CULTURE
Arts
Broadcasting/BBC
Press

 

POLITICS
Political parties
Corruption
Protest
Political philosophy

 

SPORT/LEISURE

 

ENERGY

 

ENVIRONMENT

 

AGRICULTURE

 

CEREMONIAL

 

CIVIL SERVICE
Government departments
Prosecution Service

 

 

 


 

ISSUES DISCUSSED IN THE NEWSLETTERS NOT LINKED TO THE MANIFESTO

 

HISTORY

British Republican History

 

OTHER NATIONS

USA

 

 

 

 

© COPYRIGHT. All content of this website unless otherwise indicated is the copyright of Peter Kellow. You may freely quote and republish content on condition that you acknowledge the author the source and give the link to the website www.democraticrepublicanparty.co.uk

 

 

THATCHER'S
MALIGN LEGACY

 

The disastrous neoliberal agenda that still dominates all main parties today

 



 

7. Industrial relations.

 

Every now and again somebody confides in me, often rather guiltily, that, although they really did not like Margaret Thatcher, they believe there is one good thing she did that had to be done: she confronted the trade unions and brought in legislation to curb their power. Like so much that is constantly repeated about hers, this idea takes on the dimension of myth and, like most of the myths surrounding her, she was primarily the one who invented it.

In this narrative, comparison is always made with the 1970s and the times and events of the government that preceded her - the Labour government with Jim Callaghan as prime minister. In fact, this was a comparison that Thatcher herself made throughout her period in office and I can still hear her strident voice bellowing the words "the last Labour government" right up to the ignominious end of her political career. She never stopped referring to "the last Labour government" as if it was the sole measure that should be held up to judge her own achievements - and this even after her third general election victory.

This comparison has been perpetuated as a permanent part of the Thatcher myth and is regarded by many as a clincher when her legacy is challenged. OK, she was awful, but she was better than what went before with rubbish piling up in the streets unburied dead - two highly conspicuous events that occurred, as it happened, in the winter of 78/79 before her election in the spring.

Thatcher's union busting is thus never discussed without referring to the 1970s. To cast Callaghan's government is a truer light, we should recall the role of the previous Conservative Prime Minister, Edward Heath, for the long term damage he inflicted on industrial relations. Heath had taken an out-and-out confrontational attitude to the unions and had shown himself ready to virtually shut the economy down in order to resist their demands and not negotiate. In 1973, in order to take on the mining union he introduced a three-day working week for all companies in the land with only limited consumption of electricity allowed. While people were trying to run the economy by candle light, he appealed to the electorate to support his strategy and called a general election. This was a tactical blunder and he narrowly lost bringing Labour back into power.

This was the background against which Labour for a relatively short period had to govern the country and the unions in the late 70s with a fragile majority. The Conservative government of 1970-74 had done immense structural damage to industrial relations by Heath's extreme actions and whoever was in charge had a massive task in returning things to some kind of normality.

This is not to say things were perfect before Heath, but the country in the 60s was still enjoying the postwar expansionary boom, oil was cheap and this was still the era when "consensus" was not a dirty word. PM Harold Wilson had set up the National Economic Development Council (NEDC) (Neddy) which allowed industry, unions and government to discuss, plan and avoid conflicts if possible. The important point about Neddy was that it recognized that Britain had a problem, not of unions, but of industrial relations. Relations are two-sided - here, between employees and employers. It was only the Conservatism of Heath and Thatcher that insisted on seeing the problems as lying all on one side. They saw the world in terms of quasi-tribal conflicts and their only policy was to see their side won. Working to resolve differences and recognizing faults lay on both sides was outside of this worldview.

The point here is that Britain had a choice. It could have looked anew at the whole way industrial relations worked. There were plenty of good models to look to in other countries in northern Europe (Germany, Sweden) to help find the right way forward for Britain. In this mix it would have been essential to look at the way that capitalism worked in Britain and in particular the emphasis on short-termism and the enormous importance attributed to a company's share price as quoted on the stock market - two features relatively absent in, for instance, Germany. But once Thatcher was elected, this was never going to happen. The NEDC should have continued as the way forward, but Thatcher detested the whole idea of it and just ignored it (it was finally abolished by PM John Major in 1992).

The legislation to reform the unions that Thatcher introduced, abolition of secondary picketing, abolition of the closed shop, compulsory union registration, could all have been put on the statute book without active confrontation - the Conservatives had an overall majority, after all. But this was not the Thatcher way. She insisted on having a confrontation with the miners' union, the NUM, to demonstrate government and employer power.

It is true a large part of the blame for the truly terrible days of the 80s miners' strike must rest with their leader, Arthur Scargill, who could entertain no comprise and insisting on leading his fellow workers off a cliff. He was the perfect stool pigeon for Thatcher to shoot. He was too foolish to note that, unlike Heath in the 70s, Thatcher had build up a great stockpile of coal to prepare for a long war of attrition.

Most of the 80s legal reforms of the unions are probably reasonable. They could have been balanced by getting real reforms in the way businesses cooperated with their labour forces and negotiating a whole package through Neddy. But Thatcher had an even more powerful weapon to deploy than a stockpile of coal - the shutting down of vast swathes of British industry. This was truly her unspoken WMD.

Even while the miners' strike was on, she was allowing pits to fall into disrepair, making reopening all but impossible. The steel industry was decimated and her macroeconomic policies of monetarism and neo-liberalism were doing their job of closing down companies and throwing millions on the dole queues. The Big Bang in the City of London in 1985, that chucked out the accumulated wisdom of caution and bank regulation that had been built up over centuries, shifted the economic focus away from hard industries and contributed to the decline of the industrial areas of England, Wales and Scotland. PM Thatcher presided over all this with apparent indifference.

As I have remarked before, all this destruction was made possible through the one-off bonanzas, of North Sea oil revenues and privatization receipts. In addition, an artificial house price boom was created as, following the Big Bang, banks could release massive amounts of unregulated credit to pump up house prices and create a temporary sense of well being. The expression "smoke and mirrors" frequently escaped the mouths of commentators at the time. It was obvious what was going on to many. And certainly it was to those on the receiving end of the closures. In many parts of the Kingdom today the bitterness of the Thatcher legacy lives on with full force.

Thatcher made sure, because of her overbearing personality and driven ideology, that Britain chose conflict and strife over faith in common interests. Her worldview of non-compromise and ignorance of society brushed aside the norms that needed to prevail if we are to create the kind of good well-adjusted society in which most people believe.

 

 


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