Issue date
12 Mar 2001
Soon after the Armistice of 1918 the Labour Party pulled its Ministers out of the Government, and prepared to fight the imminent 'khaki election' on the basis of their recent policy statement 'Labour and the New Social Order', as 'the party of the workers by hand and brain'. But they cut little ice against Lloyd George's 'homes for heroes' rhetoric, which procured the return of the Coalition Government with a colossal majority.

Nevertheless, nearly sixty Labour MPs, of whom some 50 were trade union nominees, did get into Parliament.

The Conservative‑dominated Government, in accordance with the wartime agreement, passed a Restoration of Pre-War Practices Act, and abolished the compulsory arbitration regulations that had been introduced in the war industries. Instead, a permanent Industrial Court was set up to deal with disputes brought to it by the voluntary agreement of employers and unions.

At the same time Whitley Councils were initiated in the Civil Service, the Royal Dockyards and the Post Office. The Union of Post Office Workers was deemed to have shown symptons of syndicalist fever. One of the Union's declared objectives, in fact, was: 'the organisation' of Post Office Workers into a comprehensive industrial union with a view to the Service being ultimately conducted and managed by the Guild.'

As long ago as the Trades Union Congress of 1916, Harry Gosling, as president of Congress, had spoken presciently of the post‑war situation. '…we hope for something better than a mere avoidance of unemployment and strikes' he said. 'We are tired of war in the industrial field. The British Workman cannot quietly submit to an autocratic government of the conditions of his own life. He will not take `’Prussianism’ lying down, even in the dock, the factory, or the mine. Would it not be possible for the employers of this country, on the conclusion of peace, when we have rid ourselves of the restrictive legislation to which we have submitted for war purposes, to agree to put their businesses on a new footing by admitting the workmen to some participation, not in profits but in control.'

 

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