"Victims of our history" : the Labour Party and In Place of Strife, 1968 to 1969
This thesis consists of a detailed chronological examination of the events leading up to the publication of the white paper, In Place of Strife in January 1969, and its subsequent replacement with a 'solemn and binding' agreement with the Trades Union Congress in June 1969. The work seeks to address four propositions that have emerged from the historiography: that Barbara Castle was unduly influenced by anti-trade union officials; that the contents of the white paper were a knee jerk reaction to the Conservative proposals; that neither Castle nor Harold Wilson understood the trade union movement; and that the final agreement, was a failure that demonstrated the inability of a Labour government to escape from its trade union roots. In Place of Strife has received considerable coverage in the diaries, autobiographies and biographies of politicians and trade union leaders. However, there remain a number of important gaps, notably; the respective roles of civil servants, politicians and outside advisors; the detailed debates of the parliamentary Labour party and the internal discussions of the trade unions, especially the TUC general council. Drawing from a range of primary sources including; newly released government papers this study addresses the gaps in our knowledge and evaluates the existing historiography. What emerges from this study is that, rather than being unduly influenced by her officials, Barbara Castle was the main instigator of the white paper. Similarly, whilst the white paper was influenced by the publication of the Conservative proposals, it was grounded in a well thought out philosophy of trade union rights and responsibilities. Similarly, whilst confirming that Castle and Wilson demonstrated considerable naivety in failing to anticipate the extent of the antagonism shown by trade unions towards the proposals, the study also reveals a depth of trade union intransigence that came close to challenging the government's right to govern. Consequently, Wilson in particular emerges as a skilled negotiator who extracted as much as was possible given the constraints placed on him.