British Conservatism and Trade Unionism, 1945–1964
For most of the twentieth century, the Conservative Party engaged in an ongoing struggle to curb the power of the trade unions, culminating in the radical legislation of the Thatcher governments. Yet, as this book shows, for a brief period between the end of the Second World War and the election of Harold Wilson's Labour government in 1964, the Conservative Party adopted a remarkably constructive and conciliatory approach to the trade unions, dubbed 'voluntarism'. During this time the party leadership made strenuous efforts to avoid, as far as was politically possible, confrontation with, or legislation against, the trade unions, even when this incurred the wrath of some Conservative backbenchers and the Party's mass membership. In explaining why the Conservative leadership sought to avoid conflict with the trade unions, this study considers the economic circumstances of the period in question, the political environment, electoral considerations, the perspective adopted by the Conservative leadership in comprehending industrial relations and explaining conflict in the workplace, and the personalities of both the Conservative leadership and the key figures in the trade unions. Making extensive use of primary and archival sources it explains why the 1945-64 period was unique in the Conservative Party's approach to Britain's trade unions. By 1964, though, even hitherto Conservative defenders of voluntarism were acknowledging that some form of official inquiry into the conduct and operation of trade British unionism, as a prelude to legislation, was necessary, thereby signifying that the heyday of 'voluntarism' and cordial relations between senior Conservatives and the trade unions was coming to an end.
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1 Conservatism and Trade Unionism prior to 1945
2 Preparing a Voluntarist Approach 19451951
3 Voluntarism in Practice 19511960
4 In Defence of Free Collective Bargaining 19511960
5 Voluntarism under Strain 19601964
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1945 general election backbench Britain’s Cabinet cent certainly Chancellor Churchill closed shop collective bargaining Communist concern Conservative government Conservative ministers Conservative mPs Conservative Party Conservative trade Unionists context CPa Crd curb deemed economic election employers ensure free collective bargaining full employment Godber Government’s guiding light harold macmillan hC debates human relations incomes policy increasingly industrial action Industrial Charter industrial partnership industrial relations industrial workers insisted involved July Labour Party macleod minister of Labour ministry monckton naPrem nedC officials organised labour Parliamentary Labour Committee particular Party’s pay claims pay increases pay pause political levy Prem problems public sector rab Butler relations and trade responsible restrictive practices right-wing royal Commission securing senior Conservatives sides of industry stance statutory strike action tackle thereby tory trade disputes act trade union leaders trade union legislation trade union members tUC’s unofficial strikes voluntarist voluntary wage increases wage restraint workplace