- Format: Hardcover
- ISBN: 978-1-5261-6601-2
- Pages: 264
- Price: £85.00
- Published Date: April 2023
- Series: New Perspectives on the Right
Providing fresh insights from the archival record, Who governs Britain? revisits the 1970-74 Conservative government to explain why the Party tried - and failed - to reform the system of industrial relations. Designed to tackle Britain's strike problem and perceived disorder in collective bargaining, the Industrial Relations Act 1971 established a formal legal framework to counteract trade union power. As the state attempted to disengage from and 'depoliticise' collective bargaining practices, trade union leaders and employers were instructed to discipline industry. In just three-and-a-half years, the Act contributed to a crisis of the British state as industrial unrest engulfed industry and risked undermining the rule of law. Warner explores the power dynamics, strategic errors and industrial battles that destroyed this attempt to tame trade unions and ultimately brought down a government, and that shape Conservative attitudes towards trade unions to this day.
'With a Conservative government proposing yet more legislation to curb trade unions and workers' right to strike, Sam Warner's superb study of the Heath Government's 1971 Industrial Relations Act is particularly timely. Using a wealth of archival and primary sources, he eloquently provides a fascinating and well-researched case study of how Heath's legislative attempt to promote more moderate and responsible trade unionism, and thus fewer strikes, had precisely the opposite effect, by serving to mobilise many trade unions against the government and radicalise hitherto moderate union members. Warner's rigorous study highlights the supreme irony of the 1971 Act, namely that a measure which aimed to "de-politicise" industrial relations and trade unionism actually had precisely opposite effect; a wonderful example of a major policy failure - from which Margaret Thatcher's governments learned vital lessons.'
Pete Dorey, Professor of British Politics, Cardiff University
1 Managing the trade unions: four themes
2 Planning for government
3 Turning strategy into action
4 The Act's institutions
5 Bringing the law into disrepute
6 Putting the Act 'on ice'
7 Who governs Britain?
Sam Warner is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Politics at the University of Manchester