The NEC research programme: August 1972–June 1973
During the second year of Labour’s research programme in opposition, imprecision over the detail of the party’s economic and industrial policy became unsustainable as a device for achieving party unity. Over the preceding 12 months party members had shared a common vocabulary in relation to the need for a more interventionist industrial policy to address the problem of rising unemployment in the regions, yet had done so without necessarily sharing a common analysis of the detail of the policy required. The collision over policy which awaited the party in the lead-up to (and beyond) the publication of a final policy document in June 1973 could be divined from the response of both Tribune and Socialist Commentary to Labour’s Programme for Britain 1972. Of the two publications Tribune, which ordinarily might have been expected to have welcomed the document’s publication in light of left-wing domination of the Industrial Policy Subcommittee and the generally leftward tone of the party’s policy statements since the general election defeat, was distinctly cooler in its appraisal of the document than its right-wing rival. This owed more to the editor’s dissatisfaction with the lack of commitment to the policies included in the document, rather than with the policies themselves. Socialist Commentary, by contrast, welcomed Labour’s Programme for Britain 1972, believing that it held out the prospect for the party of a genuine debate on policy and in due course the adoption of a radical manifesto. This meant of course that the tone of the final policy document would be determined by whichever interpretation of the word ‘radical’ prevailed. In this respect, left and right were not speaking the same language.