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Previous Topical Documents

 'Bugging' defended 
Students versus the Government
Work or benefits? 

Labour and the unions  

Cuts 

Coalitions
PR in the UK 
Afghan Woes
Don't drink and drive! 
Epidemic? 
Sixties Slump  
Down with JFK! 
Whither Banking?  

 

20 July-7 November 2011

'Bugging' defended

As the ramifications of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal became apparent, a justification from 1970, in the context of an official enquiry, of journalistic methods which “most liberal Britons would abhor as gross invasions of privacy.”
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239-3-1-167_part.jpgThis copy of an article in The Times by Jeremy Wallington, current affairs executive producer of Granada Television, is in a file in the archive of the National Federation of Professional Workers (reference MSS.239/3/1/167). The Federation was one of the bodies which were invited to give evidence to the Committee on Privacy set up in 1970 under the chairmanship of Kenneth Younger by the Home Secretary, James Callaghan. The committee’s terms of reference were “to consider whether legislation is needed to give further protection to the individual citizen and to commercial and industrial interests against intrusions into privacy by private persons or organisations, or by companies, and to make recommendations.”

Mobile phones and the means of hacking into them were not, of course, around at the time, but there was still an array of technology available to ‘snoopers’. “Microphones, tape recorders, induction coils, ‘bugs’ generally, telescopes, cameras etc” were given by the committee as examples of devices that could be used for “surreptitious surveillance and listening”.

And in this article Wallington admits that he and his colleagues “have taped telephone calls, posed as people we are not, used hidden cameras and bugged conversations and concealed microphones.” Not surprisingly, he is not defending the sort of press activity that has attracted justified criticism in recent months. “Nobody has the right,” he writes “to invade the privacy of any individual living within the prevailing legal, social and ethical boundaries.” But he is championing the kind of investigative journalism which since the early 1960s had exposed activities such as the evasion of sanctions against Rhodesia and the supplying of weapons to Biafra (and which more recently uncovered the News of the World scandal). His point about such journalism being threatened by the economic concerns of press and broadcasting managers has also been made by others since he wrote, and the debate about how to leave scope for press investigations which are in the public interest whilst eliminating those which are not goes on.

 

1 December 2010-20 July 2011

Students versus the Government

As opposition to proposals on student fees manifested itself on the streets, here is a record from the university's own archive of an occasion at Warwick when students' anger about government policy led to violence.
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uwa-pub-wb-2-3_2_nov_1983.jpg". . . the demonstration escalated far beyond the expectations of the organisers."

The 'mad axeman' of the headline was the Secretary of State for Education and Science, Sir Keith Joseph, who visited Warwick on 31 October 1983. The Students' Union, or at least some of its leaders, had hoped for a peaceful demonstration against Joseph's proposed education cuts, but this "erupted into a violent melee" as protesters attacked the car in which Joseph was attempting to leave the Westwood campus after visiting Arden House. According to a leaflet issued by the university authorities that December, "the violence was such that a person of reasonable courage caught up in the incident might well have been concered for his or her own safety" (UWA/Miller/1/86).

In the opinion of the Boar reporters, the confrontation had "resulted in national media attention focusing on the violent acts of the students, rather than the theme of the demonstration", an observation which could also have been made after the attacks on Conservative Central Office and the car containing the Prince of Wales during the recent student demonstrations in London. Then as now, there were differences among the protestors over the justification for violence. Richard Jones, the president of the union, is quoted as saying that "today's events were a complete negation of everything I've ever believed in terms of union politics", but these sentiments were reportedly not shared by more radical members of the union. Jones was right in fearing that the university would take serious action. On 14 November the Council decided to withhold £30,000 from the grant which would otherwise have been paid to the union for 1983/84.

Document reference: UWA/PUB/WB/2/3

Among our resources for the Warwick visual sociology module, we have some photographs of an anti-fascist student protest with a tragic Warwick connnection.

26 October-1 December 2010

Work or benefits?

There is nothing new about the present government's concern about the welfare system removing the incentive to work.
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"Cases illustrating the evil effects of the present system, and the temptations it offers men to contrive deliberately to avoid work in order to come on the rates".

These examples of men concluding that they would be better off on "the dole"(in this context poor relief) than earning wages were submitted in 1922 by the Sheffield and District Engineering Trades Employers' Association to the Engineering and National Employers' Federations as evidence of "the pernicious effects" of poor relief. Men were reportedly refusing work, accepting it grudgingly, resigning and even deliberately working badly in the hope of getting laid off. On page 2 of the document it is reported that part-time workers at the Don Valley works of Vickers Limited were asking to be paid fortnightly so that they could draw relief for the week when they received no wages. One man, perhaps displaying a concern for what nowadays would be called his 'work-life balance', had declined a job offer from Vickers because "he had booked a seat on a charabanc [motor coach] for the Doncaster races".

[Included in a file on 'Poor law and outdoor relief', from the records of the British Employers' Confederation; document reference: MSS.200B/3/2/C192 pt1]

28 September-26 October 2010

Labour and the unions

A look at the issues when the leadership of the Labour Party was last contested in the immediate aftermath of General Election defeat.
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 “We must challenge the orthodoxies in economic thinking and social structures . . . “ Fire Brigades Union copy of Bryan Gould’s election address, 1992

The first issue addressed by Gould is one that has come to the fore again following Ed Milliband’s victory: the relationship between the party and the trade unions. Like other leading figures in the party, both at the time and since, he stresses the importance of the voices of individual members being heard, rather than the unions delivering monolithic block votes. He therefore commends the FBU for deciding that its delegates to the leadership electoral college should vote in accordance with the wishes of the union’s political fund members as expressed in workplace ballots. In the same folder as this document there are press cuttings reporting that other unions were not taking this approach, pleading lack of time and money to hold ballots.

This leaflet also includes the election address of the eventually successful candidate, John Smith, as well as those of the other deputy leadership candidates (Gould was running for both jobs), Margaret Beckett and John Prescott. Smith too advocates the ‘one member one vote’ principle in Labour Party decision-making, although he addresses wider issues of national policy first.

Document reference: MSS.346/3/74 (link to on-line catalogue).

5 July-28 September 2010

Cuts

An illustration of the fact that the extensive cuts in public expenditure being proposed by the current government are just the latest manifestation of a recurring theme in British political history.
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Fight the cuts

Handbill stating the case against cuts in public expenditure, 1976

This is one of a number of items collected at a national lobby of Parliament held on on 17 November 1976. It forms part of the Modern Record Centre's extensive miscellaneous series of political ephemera. The cuts were the price demanded by the International Monetary Fund for the large loan which the Labour Government had sought in order to address the country's economic difficulties. As in 2010, one of the main arguments made against such cuts was that a contraction of the public sector would have a damaging knock-on effect on the wider economy. The role of the money markets was also a controversial issue then as now.

On the other side of the handbill the remedies proposed by the Trades Union Congress that September are summarised. They included selective import controls, the tightening of exchange control regulations to limit speculative movements of capital, the encouragement of manufacturing investment by increased public expenditure through the National Enterprise Board, increases in taxation on higher earners, and the extension of public ownership, including the banks and key financial institutions.

Document reference: MSS.21/880 (link to on-line catalogue)

17 May-5 July 2010

Coalitions

Following the formation of a coalition government in May 2010, which was a rare but not unprecedented event in British history since 1900, a look at previous coalitions, national and local, from a left of centre perspective.
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Anti-Coalition handbill 

Labour Party handbill attacking David Lloyd George’s coalition government, nd

This is an attempt to show the hollowness of Lloyd George’s promise during the 1918 general election campaign to make Britain a land “fit for heroes to live in”. His Liberal/Conservative coalition (in which the latter was the largest party) had been swept back into power following its successful conduct of World War I, but in peacetime the differences between the two parties, as well as the actions and personality of Lloyd George himself, led to the Conservatives leaving the coalition in 1922.

From the papers of Reg Groves (1908-1988), journalist and socialist. Document reference MSS.172/LA/1/8 (link to on-line catalogue).

Anti-National Government manifesto 

Trades Union Congress and Labour Party manifesto attacking the formation of the National Government, August 1931

The National Government was formed in the midst of a financial crisis by members of all three parties under the leadership of Labour’s Ramsay MacDonald. This document, with many others in this file, illustrate the profound differences between the government and most of the labour movement over cuts in public expenditure to address the budget deficit.

From the Trades Union Congress archive. Document reference MSS.292/420/2 (link to on-line catalogue).

 

Handbill announcing the formation of a Liberal/Labour “Progressive Alliance” in Buckinghamshire, 1938

The intention was to avoid splitting the local anti-government vote, and the handbill includes a call to Reg Groves, the Labour candidate, to stand down. The Conservative Neville Chamberlain was now head of the National Government, and foreign policy loomed large in public debate. The government’s non-intervention in the Spanish Civil War is specifically criticised here.

From the papers of Reg Groves (1908-1988), journalist and socialist. Document reference MSS.172/LP/A/37 (link to on-line catalogue). The term ‘progressive’ meant different things to different people. We also hold archives of the Coventry Progressive Party, an alliance of Conservative and Liberal members of Coventry City Council formed in 1936 to oppose the Socialists.

Wartime Trotskyist handbill 

Workers’ International News (Trotskyist) handbill calling for a Labour campaign for complete power, [1941]

The argument here is that the the coalition formed by Winston Churchill in 1940 represented only the ruling classes and the capitalists and was therefore incapable of conducting the war in the interests of working people. Two of its Labour members, Ernest Bevin and Herbert Morrison, are specifically criticised on the other side of the handbill for introducing “strike-breaking and repressive legislation which the Tories without their assistance would never have dared to do.”

From the papers of Jimmy Deane (1921-2002), Trotskyist. Document reference MSS.325/43/N41(12) (link to on-line catalogue).

 

13 April-17 May 2010

PR in the UK

The system of ‘first past the post’ voting in single-member constituencies used in the 2010 general election has been universal in Westminster elections for decades, but a different system was tried on a limited basis just after World War I.
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Leaflet issued by the Proportional Representation Society (PRS) explaining the single transferable vote system used in elections to university constituencies, November 1918

The new method of voting was to be used in the constituencies of Oxford, Cambridge, the combined English Universities (Birmingham, Bristol, Durham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield), Dublin and the Scottish universities. In March 1919, an analysis of these elections was published in Representation, the PRS journal, under the title ’The first trial of proportional representation in the United Kingdom’. Among the features noted were the first election of a Liberal (who was also the “Teachers’ Candidate”) to a Scottish university seat since 1885 and the first contest at Oxford since 1878, which confirmed “the testimony of other countries that there are few uncontested constituencies under a P.R. system.” Apparently the voters did not have any difficulty with the new system, despite its comparative complexity. This may have been due to the fact that having attended university they were, in theory at least, of above-average intelligence.

This document is in a file about parliamentary elections in the archive of the Association of University Teachers (AUT). Other papers in the file reflect the AUT’s concern about issues, such as higher education funding and teachers’ pensions, which are still matters of election debate today. [document reference MSS.27/3/46 (3 of 3) (link to on-line catalogue)]

     

    6 January-13 April 2010

    Afghan Woes

    An earlier period of suffering in a still-troubled land.
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    afghanistan_refugees_mss.292d.956.2.jpg 

    Appeal for donations to assist Afghan refugees in Pakistan, 1980

    This appeal circular was sent with a covering letter by Rehmatullah Durrani, the president of the All Pakistan Federation of Labour (APFOL), to Lionel 'Len' Murray, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in Britain. It describes how the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan had forced about a million Afghans to seek refuge near Peshawar in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province, where the APFOL was based. Murray replied expressing the TUC's sympathy and reporting that it had supported a recent contribution made by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The file containing these documents includes further evidence of the concern felt by trade unionists around the world over the Soviet Union's military intervention in Afghanistan. Unsurprisingly, the responses of Soviet labour organisations give a rather different interpretation. In a letter to the British National Union of Mineworkers, the secretary of the Soviet Coalminers' Union accused the United States and China of trying to undermine the Afghan "antifeudal revolution" by setting up bases in neighbouring countries for arming and training "counterrevolutionary gangs" (possibly the same people described as "freedom fighters" in the APFOL appeal).

    [document reference MSS.292D/956/2 (link to on-line catalogue)]

     

     

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     9 December 2009-6 January 2010

    Don't drink and drive!

    An abstinent approach to an issue which still causes concern, particularly during the festive season.
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     Association of Pledged Motorists

    Association of Pledged Motorists recruitment poster, 1960

    This poster was sent by the Association's honorary secretary, the Reverend William Thompson of Gateshead, to S A Horwood, secretary of the Brewers' Society. The Society and the National Consultative Council of the Retail Liquor Trade had recently launched an anti drink-driving campaign featuring beer mats with slogans such as "Drivers - your car should be well oiled - not you!" This was at least partly motivated by the desire to stave off more stringent legislation which they believed might unjustly penalise their trade. But Thompson, in his covering letter, urged the brewers to go further: "I suggest that it is in the interest of the Brewing Industry to get rid entirely of its relation to road accidents, and the only way to do this is to encourage the separating of drinking from driving." Just over a year after its formation in June 1959, the Association's membership stood at a seemingly modest 213, and in his report to its annual general meeting Thompson noted that in letters from members "some disappointment was expressed that our progress had not been faster." He attributed this to "apathy, and to the strength of social habit". And there were other equally strongly held views on the subject. This file also contains a memorandum from the Wine Trade Defence Committee opposing a legal alcohol limit for drivers on the grounds that drink affected different people in different ways and that it was possible to be over the limit and still drive safely. [document reference MSS.420/BS/4/63/2 (link to on-line catalogue)]

     

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     15 June-9 December 2009

    Epidemic?

    The problem of communicating facts about 'flu to to the public.
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      Epidemic note

    Note from Sir George Godber, Chief Medical Officer, to Richard Crossman, Secretary of State for Health and Social Security, on the use of the word 'epidemic' when describing influenza outbreaks, 19 January 1970

    This document, from Crossman's papers, is one of several produced in response to the comment of the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, on the Department's reluctance to declare a flu epidemic in view of the comparatively high number of recent deaths from the disease. It illustrates the difference between the technical meaning of a medical term as understood by professionals and its wider connotations in the public mind. The "particularly sinister significance" acquired by the word 'epidemic' had caused the Department to avoid using it, but Godber suggests that if it were used routinely it might lose its sting. Crossman noted on this document: "This is worth considering. But how do we make the changeover?" In a letter to the Prime Minister written soon afterwards, Crossman expressed the view that "this is a linguistic change which could only be accomplished over a nember of years." In the meantime he thought that there was no need for ministers or the Chief Medical Officer to make statements "which commit us either to an oubreak or to an epidemic. Indeed I am now making sure that a miniature warbook is prepared which deters anyone in the Department from issuing communiques about this disease as though we were somehow responsible for it." [document reference MSS.154/3/DH/31/1-35 (link to on-line catalogue)]

     

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     22 January-15 June 2009

    Sixties Slump

    The reaction of trade unionists in a key industry to a previous recession.
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    Car Workers Lobby 

    Invitation to join a national lobby at the House of Commons on behalf of car workers, January 1961

    This document is from the papers of Richard Albert 'Dick' Etheridge, the convenor of the joint shop stewards and works committee at the Austin Motor Company's Longbridge plant. The lobby was organised by British Motor Corporation workers but was not intended solely for workers in the motor industry. A circular accompanying this invitation asserted that "already many industries are in serious trouble, that is why we extend to all trades the invitation to join us in this workers' demonstration for the right to work. The aircraft, furniture, radio, television, refrigerator, washing machine and coal industries - even the holiday trade - are all gravely affected by the results of the squeeze which has been brought about by the Government . . ." [document reference MSS.202/S/J/3/2/37 (link to on-line catalogue)].

    And now that hard times have come again, forty-eight years later, Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya, director of the Warwick Manufacturing Group, has called for government aid to the car industry.

     

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    30 October 2008-22 January 2009

    Down with JFK!

    In the light of Barack Obama's campaign, a look back to the candidacy for the US presidency of an earlier charismatic Democrat.
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    Anti-John F Kennedy pamphlet 

     

     

     

    "The face that Jack built": text of a Teamsters Union pamphlet attacking John F Kennedy, 1960  

    This document is from the papers of the colourful British white-collar trade union leader, Clive Jenkins. It was sent in November 1960 by the Hawaii branch of the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union (ILWU) to their local colleagues in the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. It was accompanied by a covering letter explaining that the Teamsters' leadership was opposing Kennedy's candidature "with all its energy" because of his pledge to remove and gaol their national president, James Riddle Hoffa, "who has done more to democratize the Teamsters than any past official". The pamphlet, the letter goes on, "really exposes Kennedy's pretensions to being liberal, pro-labor and for civil liberties" and would show why the ILWU in Hawaii was supporting Richard Nixon in the election [document reference MSS.79/6/CJ/3/22 (link to on-line catalogue)].

     

     

     

     mss.148-ucw-6-13-17-56.jpg We also hold (in the archive of the Union of Communication Workers) a copy of 'How the president is elected', an illustrated pamphlet issued by the United States embassy in London in 1952. This describes the intricacies of the US electoral system and the gruelling campaigns the candidates had to undertake. So much has not changed greatly, but the pamphlet's wording suggests that the idea of a female presidential or vice-presidential candidate just never occurred to its author [document reference MSS.148/UCW/6/13/17/56].

     

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    19 September-30 October 2008

    Whither Banking?

    A record of the trenchant views of a left-wing veteran on the banking system and the role of government in it.
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    Handbill giving a Socialist critique of the banking system

    "Bankers have created over £7,000,000,000 of money by owing what they lend or spend": handbill giving a Socialist critique of the banking system by Edwin Wright of London, 1945

    Between 1952 and 1954, Wright, who described himself as a "Socialist ever since 1890", sent three copies of this handbill to the headquarters of the Trades Union Congress. Each copy has a different set of annotations by Wright and was accompanied by further typescript and manuscript exposition in his rather idiosyncratic style. One of these sheets is headed "our fraudulent banking system about which the Socialists have been fooled", and one of the handbill annotations reads: "nationalisation of the Bank of England has not altered this silly system. Why not nationalise all banks!" There is no copy of a reply from the TUC on the file and a note on one of Wright's letters suggests he was just sent a brief acknowledgement.

    [From a TUC file on banking, 1931-1954, which also includes a somewhat more sober memorandum advocating the nationalisation of banking "submitted by an experienced bank official"; document reference MSS.292/452/2 (link to on-line catalogue)]

     

     


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