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New Left Review I/166, November-December 1987

Bill Schwarz

Conservatives and Corporatism

In the course of her closing speech at the Conservative Party Conference in 1984 Mrs Thatcher held high a copy of the 1944 White Paper on employment policy and triumphantly revealed that it carried on its cover the name of Margaret H. Roberts. [1] Employment Policy, Cmd 6527, 1944. While it may be intriguing to speculate if the eighteen-year-old future Prime Minister was indeed one of the few who had purchased a copy or whether the entire episode was fabricated by an inventive, brighteyed party underling, there was a supposedly philosophic purpose to this exercise. Her argument, based on the unlikely premise ‘Of course we care’, was that the counter-inflationary priority of her government established her as the true inheritor of Keynesianism and the principles of the White Paper. This tawdry theatrical deception did little to impress, though at the time commentators failed to see the significance of this new extension of Thatcher speak punctually making its appearance in 1984. Yet the argument itself was not new. It had first been aired some ten years earlier by Sir Keith Joseph in a highly dramatic speech entitled ‘Inflation Is Caused by Governments’. [2] Delivered at Preston, 5 September 1974, and published in Sir Keith Joseph, Reversing the Trend, London 1975.

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