The Struggle for Publicly Owned Land

LABOUR AND HOUSING – Part 9.  

The struggle for publicly-owned land (cont.)

By Eamon Dyas

[In the Seventies Labour endeavoured to stop  profits from property speculation and development exceeding profits from industry.]

The previous part of this exploration into the history of the relationship between private landowning and public need ended with an explanation of the difficulties experienced by the 1964 Labour Government. Labour had been out of government since 1951 and the intervening Conservative Governments had revoked the betterment levy that Labour had originally introduced as part of its 1947 Town and Country Planning Act. The Conservatives had retained aspects of Labour’s original legislation (in the area of planning) as well as continuing a more limited version of the principle of local authority compulsory purchasing powers – something that remained critical to post-war reconstruction. Yet, despite there being something of a consensus in these areas by the time that Labour was returned to power in 1964, it was the idea of a tax on incremental land values that remained a bridge too far for the Tories.

Labour gained power in the 1964 General Election with a majority of four (later reduced to three). Under such circumstances the prospect of Labour getting any legislation of a contentious nature through the parliamentary process unscathed was always going to be difficult. This proved to be the case with Jim Callaghan’s Capital Gains Tax which he introduced as part of his first Finance Bill (budget) in April 1965. That particular tax proposal was subjected to around 250 (mostly Tory) amendments during its progress through the parliamentary process. The result of all the exclusions and exceptions forced upon it by these amendments transformed the Bill from what otherwise might have been an effective wealth-distributive Act of Parliament into something far less effective. Such amendments also ensured that the operation of the tax was made highly complex and difficult to implement efficiently. Yet, despite its limitations the Capital Gains and Corporation Tax brought income from shares and bonds within the taxation structure for the first time.

On 22 September 1965, in the aftermath of this experience, the Wilson Government published a White Paper laying out its intention to establish a Land Commission as well as the reinstatement of a “betterment tax” along similar lines to that contained in the 1947 Act. A Bill – the Land Commission Bill – designed to give effect to the White Paper was introduced to Parliament in December 1965. However, for reasons explained presently, the main features of this Bill only became operational on 6 April 1967.

The Act was meant to meet two Government objectives. Firstly, to ensure that the right land was available at the right time for the implementation of national, regional, and local plans; and secondly, that a substantial part of the development value created by the community (through planning permissions associated with such plans) was returned to the community in ways that not only brought revenue to the public purse but also helped to restrain the growing cost of land.

The mechanism by which these objectives were to be realised also consisted of two components. The Bill proposed to provide the Land Commission with powers to compulsorily procure land at its existing use value. In other words, if it was farmland it would be procured at farmland prices and not at the price it would be anticipated to command because that land had been earmarked for development as part of a local development plan. Acquiring land in this fashion was justified if it was deemed necessary for development in the public interest irrespective of the wishes of the relevant landowner. At this stage it should be said that this represented a significant feature of the 1967 Land Commission that made it distinct from the Central Land Board that had been established under the previous 1947 Town and Country Planning Act (and subsequently abolished by the Conservatives in 1959). The compulsory purchase powers invested in the Central Land Board under the 1947 Act only applied to land which a landowner had put up for sale. Those powers could not be exercised in the event of a landowner not offering his or her land for sale. The Land Commission established under the 1967 Act provided it with the authority to compulsorily purchase land that a landholder had no intention of selling, and this represented a more significant erosion of the traditional rights of the landowner than had ever previously been the case.

Then, having procured land by whatever means, the Land Commission was obliged to sell such land either to local councils or to those, including private developers, who could show that their intended use of that land was consistent with local or regional development plans or served a recognisable public need. The Land Commission was also expected to compile a land bank for land without immediate development prospect but which was nonetheless in areas where local or regional development plans might require it at some point in the future.

The other component of the 1967 Act was the introduction of a “betterment tax”. This was a tax that sought to address an issue that extended back to the Liberal Party’s 1909 Budget and was similar to the one the Labour Government had introduced as part of the Town and Country Act of 1947. The “betterment tax” was a tax designed to ensure that a proportion of the enhancement in land values created through the evolution of the local economy,  or planning authority decisions, is returned to the community. In this case the community meant the treasury – a feature, it must be said, that did not endear the proposal to many local authorities at the time.

Labour’s second attempt to bring land under public control – the 1967 Land Commission Act

Although the White Paper containing these proposals was published in late September 1965 its terms didn’t actually become operational as an Act of Parliament until 6 April 1967. The reason for this delay was partly because its highly contentious nature made it difficult for the small Labour majority to ensure a relatively unscathed transition through the parliamentary process. That wafer-thin majority resulting from the 1964 General Election, combined with the experience of the earlier transition of the Capital Gains Tax Bill through Parliament, ensured that the Government was cautious in the way it went about the conversion of the White Paper into an Act of Parliament. Furthermore, a growing concern within the armed forces about Labour’s apparent lack of commitment to sustaining a “world class” armed forces subsequently became the main focus of the Government’s attention. Those concerns came to a head on 11 February 1966 with the Government’s Defence White Paper. The White Paper proposed cuts in the aircraft-carrier programme and signalled a potential shift from a defence policy built around the reach of the aircraft-carrier to one where the emphasis was on ground-based aircraft. This possibility had created consternation within the Conservative Party but it also provoked opposition from within the Labour Government. On 15 March 1966, just over a month after the publication of the Defence White Paper, the First Lord of the Admiralty, Sir David Luce, resigned alongside the Navy Minister, Christopher Mayhew. Anticipating these resignations amid continuing difficulties within the Government, on 28 February, Wilson had declared a General Election for 31 March 1966. He was gambling on such an election returning a healthier Labour majority to enable him to pursue his programme of government including the promotion of the Land Commission Bill.

Wilson’s tactic paid off and Labour went on to win the 1966 General Election with a strong majority of 98. Nonetheless, it wasn’t until December 1966 that the terms of the original White Paper of September 1965 came to be introduced to Parliament as a Parliamentary Bill. Thanks to Labour’s strong majority the Bill passed the parliamentary process relatively unscathed. The Act was originally scheduled to become operational on 1 March but this was delayed until 6 April 1967.

Prior to it becoming operational the implications of the betterment levy for those who had already fallen foul of the earlier Capital Gains and Corporation Tax needed to be clarified. Essentially, from the point at which the betterment levy was triggered as part of the Land Commission Act, those who were subject to Capital Gains or Corporation Tax (30% and 35% respectively) on the same transaction would not be charged twice. In the case of land transactions, the betterment levy of 40%, being the higher, would take precedence to the exclusion of the earlier tax.

As was to be expected this assault on their interests provoked the mobilisation of the landowning lobby and on 30 March 1967 on the eve of the date that the Act was originally meant to become operational, the National Federation of Property Owners decided at their annual conference at Torquay to finance national campaigns against the Land Commission proposals. The Federation’s president, Lord Meston, was quoted as saying:

“We intend to act as a watchdog for all property owners, including home owners as well as property companies and property investors. I urge you to regard it [a fighting fund] as an insurance against those who seek to undermine private ownership in Britain.” (Property Owners to Set Up Fighting Fund: Battle Against Land Commission. The Times, 31 March 1967, p.21).

A resolution calling for the repeal of the Act was passed by the conference. It had been moved by Bernard Vinson, of the Property Owners Protection Association. However, he made it clear that the purpose of their mobilisation went further than the repeal of the Act. He highlighted the claim that their response to the Act opened up a front line that involved the entire issue of public control of nationalised industries as well as councils and the waste he claimed went with such control. In the case of W. J. Boyd, secretary of the National Federation of Property Owners and Factors of Scotland, the issue of controlled rents was also part of the new front line. He called for the Government to do something to alleviate the predicament of those landlords of properties subject to controlled rent.

“it was verging on the criminal that the Government would not alleviate the position of the owners of controlled houses. Nothing had been done for 10 years.

“Scotland had a rent structure with from a half to two-thirds of the privately let dwelling houses based on 1914 rents. Since 1914 there had been only two general increases of rent allowed by Act of Parliament – 40% in 1920 and 25% in 1957.” (ibid.)

However, none of this was in prospect unless the Tories could once again regain control of the Government. In the meantime, the Labour Government, having provided it with legal authority, began the work of allocating the Land Commission with the resources to go about its business. A headquarters was established for the Land Commission at Newcastle upon Tyne with 1,000 civil servants at its disposal and work had begun on the establishment of a network of regional offices. 

All this was done in the face of determined Conservative Party opposition. From the early days of the 1965 White Paper when the concept of the Land Commission was mooted the Conservatives had expressed vehement hostility to the idea. That hostility continued through the entire history of the legislative process and during the parliamentary debates on the 1967 Bill the Tories gave warning that they would abolish the Land Commission at the earliest opportunity. That opportunity offered itself in the 1970 General Election and unsurprisingly the Conservative Party manifesto for that election contained the following commitment:

“Labour’s betterment levy had increased bureaucracy and put up the price of land and houses. We will do away with it and collect any tax due on the sale of land through the capital gains tax, with exemptions for owner-occupiers.” (as quoted in The Times of 27 May 1970, p.8).

The Conservatives duly won the 1970 General Election under Edward Heath with a comfortable majority of 30 and from that point onwards the Land Commission and all it stood for was doomed.

Tories thwart Labour’s plans a second time

The Conservative victory in June 1970 represented the end of Labour’s second major attempt to bring land under public control. Within a month of the new government coming to power Peter Walker, the Minister of Housing and Local Government, announced that plans were already advanced on the drafting of a Bill for the abolition of the Land Commission and he hoped that the Bill would be introduced to Parliament after the summer recess with a view to it becoming law before Christmas. However, in the meantime the Government had decided not to wait on the legislation and instead immediately ceased to collect the betterment levy associated with land transactions from midnight on 22 July 1970 and suspend the work of the Land Commission. This was an unusual parliamentary move to say the least. Normally, when it comes to inheriting an administrative machinery associated with a previous piece of legislation an incoming government waits until it gets the formal authority of Parliament for its dissolution or interference with the workings of that machinery. Yet here the Tories displayed an unseemly haste in effectively abolishing the work of the Land Commission before such action had a parliamentary endorsement through some neutralising legislation. 

The Tories justified their attack on the Land Commission by claiming that it had been ineffective, that it had only acquired 2,800 acres of land during its existence and had only released 380 acres of that land for development. They also claimed that the Commission had caused an increase in land values. For their part the Labour Party defended the work of the Commission during the second reading of the Government’s Land Commission (Dissolution) Bill. Denis Howell, Labour MP (for Birmingham Small Heath) had this to say during that debate:

“Many times today we have had harsh judgments about the Commission from hon. Gentlemen opposite, who expected it in three years to solve every problem in respect of land that has bedevilled this country for the last 300 years. We have returned time and again over the years, as have our predecessors, to the problem of land speculation at the expense of the community and to shortages of land. Hon. Gentlemen have judged the Commission on what it was able to do in three years. But what can we expect any piece of machinery to achieve in one three-year period?

“Just think what had to happen. First, the Commission had to be created, and it had to recruit staff. It had to develop a philosophy. It had to survey land throughout the country, and decide where land was needed. It had to hold endless discussions with local authorities in the conurbations and outside them. Proposals had to be produced, and the Commission had to run the gauntlet of public inquiries. It had to wait months – that point is against us as well as hon. Gentlemen opposite – for Ministerial decisions on those public inquiries.

“In the light of all that, the time scale of three years is almost insignificant, and it is a nonsense to judge the Commission in a three-year life, as hon. Gentlemen opposite have done.” (Hansard, Second Reading of the Land Commission (Dissolution) Bill, 16 December 1970).

Despite the opportunity that the debate on the Bill gave Labour members to confront the Conservative Government’s spurious arguments in support of its dissolution the Land Commission was formally legislated out of existence with the coming into law of the Land Commission (Dissolution) Act on 1 May 1971. 

But before that happened both John Silkin and Frank Allaun gave specific promises that, at the earliest opportunity, the Labour Party was determined to revisit this issue and once again face the challenge that the Land Commission had been set up to confront. During the Second Reading of the Dissolution Bill, Frank Allaun laid out the options open to Labour when it next returned to power:

“The Labour Party stands by its principle on this issue. As a national executive member of the party I can say that we shall consider in the next few weeks and months what to put in place of the Land Commission because we are not prepared or content to let the situation continue as it is without any control or public ownership.

“There are several alternatives. We might well decide to return to the proposals made by Lord Silkin. There is much to be said for them. We certainly ought to give the local authorities greater power to acquire land – or perhaps we ought to have straight nationalisation of the land; it is not for me to say. But these things will be discussed. I assure hon. Members opposite that if they think this is the end of the battle, they are very much mistaken.” (Ibid).

The earliest opportunity that the Labour Party had to revisit this issue was after it was returned to power following the General Election of February 1974. However, they had failed to secure an overall majority in that election and could only govern on the basis of the support of the Ulster Unionists. In such circumstances it was not possible to initiate any significant legislation. Harold Wilson subsequently called another General Election for October 1974. 

Labour’s Community Land Act of 1975 and the 1976 Development Land Tax

Nonetheless, in September 1974, a month prior to that General Election, the minority Labour Government produced a White Paper that showed it was still serious about attempting to address the land issue that had continued to occupy it since the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act. Being a minority government, Labour at this time was under no illusion that it could convert the White Paper into legislation. Therefore, the timing of the publication of the White Paper could only have been designed to ensure that if it was returned to power after the October 1974 General Election it could claim the mandate of the electorate for any subsequent legislation along such lines.

Unfortunately, the outcome of the second 1974 General Election found the party in a similar position to that of the General Election in October 1964: an overall majority of a mere three seats. Having revealed its intent with the White Paper in September 1974, in defiance of its small majority, the Government decided to push forward with a legislative programme based on the objective of bringing land into the realm of public ownership.

This was to be done with the Community Land Bill which was presented to Parliament on 12 March 1975. The Bill stipulated that it would:

“enable local authorities and certain other authorities to acquire, manage and deal with land suitable for development, and to make provision for and in connection with the public ownership of land; to amend planning laws and the rules of assessing the value of land for compulsory acquisition and other cases where compensation is payable; to make provision concerning unoccupied office premises; and to establish a Land Authority for Wales” (Bill 108).

But, just like all the similar attempts to deal with the land issue from the 1947 effort onwards, there was the associated issue of the role such legislation would play in removing land as an area for speculative investment. The importance of tackling the blight of land speculation was a regular theme from the Labour side in the debates on Labour’s proposals. Anthony Crosland, the Minister of State for the Environment, had the responsibility for chaperoning the 1975 Community Land Bill through Parliament. He viewed the Bill as the means of striking “more directly than any other piece of legislation at the distribution of wealth and power”. While viewing it as a way of helping people in terms of housing, he also viewed it as an important weapon in the war on land speculation. Insofar as Labour’s proposals were relevant to the wider issues of the British economy he saw it in the context where “The profits from property speculation and development are believed to exceed by far those from such industries as shipbuilding and aircraft.” (See: The Times, ‘Bill seeks to Stamp Out Speculation’, by John Groser, Political Staff, 21 March 1975, p.1).

However, Crosland announced that the Community Land Bill was only one part of a two-pronged approach. He also announced that he intended to “put this Bill and a separate Development Land Tax Bill on the statute book before the end of the year, so that the new laws can be implemented early next year.” (ibid).

As the Department of the Environment said with regards to the Community Land Bill, “Public ownership of development land puts control of our scarcest resource in the hands of the community and enables it thereby to take an overall perspective”. Alongside that the Development Land Tax was designed to ensure that the bulk of the increases in land values generated as a result of the granting of planning permission went to the community instead of the speculators and financial institutions. Unlike the 100% required under the 1947 Act and the 40% under the 1967 Act, this time round the legislation only demanded 80% of such increases.

The effect of these two pieces of legislation initiated by the Labour Government provided local authorities with the power to procure derelict, agricultural and other land not previously zoned for residential or commercial development. Having procured that land at the price dictated by its existing land-use value the local authority was then free to use such land for the construction of local authority housing, administrative buildings, amenity or recreational use or sell it to a developer willing to use it for housebuilding or other purposes that were deemed to serve the community’s needs. This provided local councils with a significant advantage over the private developer who might procure such land in the hope of it being re-zoned as residential or commercial land at some point in the future. And even if a private developer, having succeeded in the gamble of purchasing derelict or agricultural land on the basis of it being subsequently re-zoned for residential or commercial use that private developer was then subject to the Development Land Tax. Under the terms of that tax the developer would then be liable to a payment of up to 80% of the value by which that land had increased as a result of the re-zoning – a tax from which the local authority, should it wish to acquire similar land, was exempt. 

In effect, what the Labour Government was attempting to do with its Development Land Tax in 1976 was similar to what was attempted by the Labour Government with the betterment levy component of its 1947 Town and Country Planning Act and the same component in the Land Commission Act of 1967. Underlying all these efforts was the intent not only to assist local authorities in the implementation of their development plans – an important part of which was to improve the supply of social housing – but also an awareness that such efforts would have the effect of dis-incentivising the flow of finance investment in property and land in ways that might encourage it to flow towards manufacturing and industry as an alternative.

As was the case in 1947, there was also a concern for the effect of the investment policies of the financial institutions seeking out the higher returns in the land and property sectors. While profits were still to be made in manufacturing the rates could not compete with what was on offer in the land and property sectors. Likewise, the land and property sectors were not as reliant on underpinning capital investment in the same way as manufacturing. The purchase of a plot of land was a straightforward affair. That land, once procured, required no significant further investment other than time and circumstance to increase in value. It could be left until the evolution of the surrounding economy or planning permission inflated its price without any additional financial investment. Such was not the case with manufacturing where plant and machinery required regular updating investment for a manufacturing business to remain competitive. 

With such potential investment increasingly diverted to the non-productive land sector, a manufacturing sector starved of such investment became increasingly uncompetitive and consequently was condemned to a downward spiral where it became an increasingly less attractive prospect for investors. In 1973 an investigation by Counter Investigation Services (CIS) into the social responsibility of financial institutions concluded that their investment in land and property ownership amounted “to an enormous diversion of productive capital into the hands of property owners, many already incredibly rich” (CIS, 1973, p.9, quoted in Capital and Landownership, p. 171). Thus, by the time of the Community Land Act and the Development Land Tax became operational in 1976 the situation had to a large extent reached a point where an uncompetitive British manufacturing sector had been placed permanently on the back foot.

The role of land in Labour’s attempt to bring about social change. 

Aside from their relevance to the attempt at solving problems relating to housing and community interests, with hindsight it is possible to see the twin efforts of the 1975 Community Land Act and the 1976 Development Land Tax as Labour’s last attempts to shift the growing evolution of the British economy away from a reliance on speculative land financing and servicing and towards the more productive parts of the economy. And central to any of these issues of housing, community interests and the needs of the wider economy was the recognition that there must be some Government control over the free operation of the market. This understanding was integral to all Labour efforts to deal with the land issue from the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act to the 1975 Community Land Act (in tandem with the 1976 Development Land Tax).

An understanding of this relationship of Government to the market was the basis for the support of the Labour M.P., Kevin McNamara for the Community Land Bill. On 29 April 1975, during the second reading of that bill, he explained his reasons in the following terms:

“Conservative Members are talking about the free operation of the market forces – the power of the market place. That is all. Opposition Members have no conception of the value that is put on land by planning and other decisions, taken at council meetings. Why should a higher value suddenly be put on a piece of property just because planning permission has been given? What land owner has done anything to improve that situation? None. The value of land, including derelict land, factories and warehouses, rose dramatically under the previous Conservative administration. Rents increased and homelessness rose. This is the free operation of market forces. Financial immorality was rife. No, they did not break the law; they just used it to exploit vulnerable people in difficult situations – free operation of the market forces.

“The people who suffered most were the small business men and shopkeepers – the Federation of the Self-Employed [who had expressed opposition to the Bill – ED]  They seem to have forgotten what was happening when their leases were due to be renewed and they were unable to renew them at reasonable prices because of the property speculators under the previous Conservative Government who were not held in control. Who were the others who suffered?

“They were the homebuyers, the slum tenants and the local authorities, which could not compete for city centre sites and developments. The Tories talk about the poor builder. The builder needing a land bank found that it cost many times more to service his land bank, and so house prices rose again. Conservative Members have the temerity and the cheek to talk about home prices and how they are helping the owner-occupier. All this for free operation of the market forces. I could never understand why a planning decision, overnight, increased almost a thousandfold the value of a green field with a few cows in it.

“In my maiden speech [delivered on 23 February 1966 – ED], . . . I spoke about Orchard Park Estate, in my constituency. “When Hull Corporation first negotiated to buy the land, it was to cost approximately £70,000. When right hon. and hon. Members opposite were in Government and, eventually, gave the corporation permission to buy, the 1959 Act had been passed [the 1959 Town and Country Planning Act which ensured that local authorities would in future have to pay the market price for any land procured under their compulsory powers – ED] and the land cost not £70,000 but £500,000.” That was 10 years ago. Let me take another case in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) – “the Bransholme Estate Scandal”. There are 13 landowners, owning 489 acres, which had the valuation of £380,000 put on the land by the local authority. The price being demanded by the landowners was over £8 million. This land was four miles from the city centre and was mainly agricultural. It was the free play of the market forces. Conservative Members say that there is no need for this legislation, and that the Bill is irrelevant. The Bill is very relevant to the people who live in the slums of our cities. Let us remember the words of the hon. Gentleman, that all that these 13 landowners were looking for was “the market price”. They had done damn-all for it. They had not laid a sewer or built a road, they had not even voted in the local government elections for the council.

“This will be the third occasion on which a Labour Government have sought to deal with the problem. The first was under Mr. Attlee and the second concerned the Land Commission. I recorded my first vote in this House on Second Reading of the Land Commission Bill. Now we have this Bill. The first two measures failed because, apart from sabotage by the professions dealing with land, they were over-centralised and bureaucratic. People living locally could see little direct relevance to them in the cumbersome machinery that existed. Despite that, when the Land Commission was operating at the end of the then Labour Government’s period in office, the price of land had stabilised and fallen as a result of its operations.” (Hansard, House of Commons Debates, Community Land Bill, 29 April 1975).

Conservative Party thinking at this time continued to hold within it an element which appreciated that the market, left to its own devices, could not always be relied upon to deliver solutions that were in the community’s interests. In fact, several Tories gave guarded support for the object of the 1975 Community Land Act but argued that it was not the way to go about dealing with the land issue. And even The Times in an editorial of 21 March 1975 expressed sympathy with the objects of the Bill but criticised it on the basis that it was “Unworkable” – the title of the editorial in question. 

But by the time of the 1975 Community Land Bill those elements within the Conservative Party had begun to lose the standing within the party that they previously held. Margaret Thatcher was elected leader of the opposition on 11 February 1975 and brought to that role an economic outlook which was to increasingly marginalise that element in the party. So, when the Conservatives won the 1979 General Election she ensured that the repeal of the Community Land Act was among the first measure undertaken by her administration.  

As things turned out the 1975/76 efforts of the Labour Government to deal with the land issue was the last such effort. Academic attempts to comprehend the significance of that final effort have tended to concentrate on the economic implications of what it represented rather than its political implications. This is a recent example of such thinking:

“With the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that the two-part 1975/76 Labour land policy initiative was more significant for the underlying political-economic dynamics to which it represented a response than for any substantive impact it might have had. Change was in the air in terms of not only public, but private landownership trends. A new type of landownership was becoming increasingly prevalent. This is what Massey and Catalano, in their epic 1978 study of capitalism and land in Britain, called ‘financial landownership’. A form of landownership practiced by insurance companies, pension funds, property companies, and banks, the predominant interest of financial landownership was typically in the value of land as a capital asset more than ‘in the immediate potential for production or current rent levels.’ This was what David Harvey would subsequently theorise as the treatment of land as a pure financial asset (Chapter 1), and in its purest possible form. Financial landownership entailed, at heart, speculation – that the value of the land would go up rather than down; and in particular, it entailed speculation tied to potential development gains.”

(The New Enclosure: The Appropriation of Public Land in Neoliberal Britain, by Brett Christophers. Published by Verso, 2018, pp.112-113).

While what is said here is undoubtedly true it fails to recognise the political significance of the 1975/76 effort and it certainly does not provide an adequate basis for drawing conclusion about what the “substantive impact” of that effort might have been under different political conditions. The potential “substantive impact” that the 1975/76 measure might have had cannot be assessed on the basis of their impact over the period of a single-term Government. Change along the lines required by these measures would have taken longer than a single-term government. As it was with the 1975/76 efforts so it was with the 1967 effort and as it was with the 1947 effort. In none of these instances was a Labour Government in power long enough to ensure its policies could make the required impact. 

Conversely, there was a Conservative Government in power in Britain for eighteen years from 1979 until 1997. It was this political underpinning which allowed Conservative policies to “bed down” and make the “substantive impact” they were intended to make. Without that period in power it is questionable if there would now be such a thing as the “Thatcher legacy” in British politics. There was a subsequent thirteen year period (1997-2010) when Labour was in power, but this means nothing in this context as Labour by that time had given up on any serious attempt to initiate radical change in British society. From that point onwards the height of Labour ambitions was to tinker on the edges of the social and economic structure which earlier Tory Governments had created. There was an opportunity for Labour under Jeremy Corbyn – whose policies, despite the media hysteria, were never more radical than those of the party’s most successful leader, Harold Wilson – to challenge that structure. However, the political tendency in Labour that had, in the meantime, evolved to be content with a world of tinkering was never likely to share something as radical as what Corbyn represented and it was that tendency which ensured there would be no return to a pre-Thatcher role for the party.

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