New Labour Policy, Industrial Relations and the Trade Unions by S. Coulter

By S. Coulter

New Labour was once outwardly adversarial to exchange unions and their issues. but the Blair govt labored heavily with the TUC on numerous key employment reforms. Steve Coulter analyses the scale of the usually fractious Labour-union partnership and exhibits how the TUC pursued an 'insider lobbying' path to impact the form of recent Labour's rules.

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An additional implication of Lijphart’s argument is that a big party in a majoritarian system needs to be a ‘leadership’ party in which the leader and those around him or her largely monopolise policymaking. This is so that the median voter can see that the ideological wings of the party have no significant input into policies and is a particularly important factor for Labour Party leaders whom middle-class swing voters instinctively distrust. Moreover, due to the absence of internal and external constraints on the executive which are the salient features of Westminster systems there are few limitations on the decisional autonomy of prime ministers.

0004 The Political Economy of UK Industrial Relations  Detailed empirical analysis is surely required to confirm a link between donations and policies, yet when this has been done – by Minkin – no such link was found. It is also unclear when electoral considerations exogenous to the political exchange model will trump unions’ ability to instrumentally shape the party agenda. When, in other words, do the Labour leadership’s office-seeking interests predominate over the unions’ policy-seeking interests?

Procedurally, the party’s attitude is increasingly to view unions and the TUC as simply another pressure group, rather than automatically according them ‘insider’ status. Moreover, this shift is not unique to the UK. It exemplifies a growing Europe-wide divergence between the ‘interests’ of defensive-minded unions and those of vote-maximising social democratic parties which has negated the idea of an automatic alliance (Kitschelt 1994: 225, Piazza 2001). The outcome of this has arguably been a new ‘distance’ in the partyunion relationship which encourages both sides to act with less reference to ‘rules’ and more to their own strategic interests.

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