1960s >> 1968 >> no-765-may-1968

Labour Aims to Cut Living Standard

Ray Gunter, £8,500-a-year Minister of Power, up to April 5th, Minister of Labour, recently called for a cut in living standards. Speaking at a slap-up lunch laid on by the Industrial Society in London on March 28 he was reported:

    It was no good the British people believing they could get out of this position and put the economy on a sound basis ‘If we are going to demand increases in the standard of living, or even maintain the same standard of living’, he said. ‘There is bound to be a drop in the standard, and if anybody in this country thinks he is going to have the same standard as in the past, we shall never get anywhere’ (The Times, 29 March 1968).

This frank confession merely confirms what many had suspected was Labour’s aim anyway. Their whole policy has been to cut our standard of living. Their six-month wage freeze did succeed for a time but since then workers, through their trade unions, have been able to keep wages up with rises in the cost of living. This has upset the Labour government who are now determined to strengthen their powers for dealing with workers who refuse to fall in line. This attempt to further hold back wages and salaries is bound to provoke industrial action. But if the experience of the last Labour government is anything to go by this one will not hesitate to use the state machine to back up their policy of cutting living standards. No doubt there are dockers who will recall the time a Labour Attorney-General prosecuted their colleagues for defying an anti-strike Order.

It has taken trade unionists some time to recognise that they must fight back against the Labour government. Even now many union leaders, as Labour supporters, only do so reluctantly but increasingly ordinary unionists are putting the pressure on them. To such an extent that even a notorious government lickspittle like Les Cannon of the ETU has come out against a further period of wage restraint.

Conscious of the fact that in aiming to cut living standards Labour was breaking its election promises Gunter lashed out at democracy:

  It was time everybody forgot about election promises. ‘I would never have another election manifesto if I had my way’, he said. The Government of the day had to do what in its considered opinion was right irrespective of what Dr. Gallup thought.

If his past authoritarian utterances—calling for more discipline, threatening the unions with state take-over—are anything to go by, Gunter probably would not have any elections either.