chapter  8
30 Pages

The TUC–Labour Party Liaison Committee 1972–74: How the parliamentary leadership was saved from the Labour Party

At the Labour Party Conference in Blackpool in 1970, Jack Jones and Hugh Scanlon very publicly committed the 1,931,000 votes1 at their disposal in support of Composite Resolution 16, which called upon the parliamentary leadership to ‘reflect the views and aspirations of the Labour and Trade Union Movement, by framing their policies on Annual Conference decisions’.2 By September 1972, Jones and Scanlon were sitting across the table from Edward Heath in 10 Downing Street, exploring the possibility of a voluntary agreement on wages. Conference did not cease to be important to Jones and Scanlon after 1970, but the sovereignty of conference decisions was not a priority for the two union leaders thereafter. Similarly, by the time the Labour Party published its general election manifesto in February 1974, the differences of opinion that had been so vividly apparent at Blackpool in 1970 (when Jones, from the conference floor, had shouted his objections to James Callaghan’s reference to incomes policy ‘rather vociferously’)3 had been finessed by a series of monthly meetings between the TUC, PLP and NEC, out of which a joint statement on economic policy emerged.4 As a result of the improvement in relations between the PLP and the TUC, the parliamentary leadership was empowered in its relationship with the party and in this respect the situation in January 1974, as the general election approached, was the very reverse of Blackpool in 1970.