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'Secret lists and sanctions': the blacklisting of the John Lewis Partnership and the politics of pay in 1970s Britain

Green, Alix (2019) ''Secret lists and sanctions': the blacklisting of the John Lewis Partnership and the politics of pay in 1970s Britain.' Twentieth Century British History, 30 (2). 205 - 230. ISSN 0955-2359

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In 1977, the John Lewis Partnership (JLP) was blacklisted for breaching the Labour government's pay controls under the Social Contract. As the Callaghan administration struggled to establish economic credibility, extending its reach into the private sector emerged as a political priority. JLP became a test case of government resolve months before the Ford strike of autumn 1978 ushered in the Winter of Discontent. This article uses JLP records to create a more nuanced picture of the tensions, contestations and vacillations of pay policy in the late 1970s. By doing so, gaps between policy conception and implementation emerge and intersect; both the business and government faced constraints in implementing policy, despite powerful beliefs about the integrity of their actions. The article is not primarily a case study, however, and aims to contribute to broader debates. The constitutional significance, rather than the commercial impact, of government sanctions become a keynote of critique of JLP's blacklisting, suggesting that contemporaries recognised this was a confrontation of political moment between the state and the private sector. By looking from a business's perspective, we also gain insight into how organisations approached, negotiated with and responded to government. Recovering the JLP blacklisting episode further shows how business archives offer great promise as resources for political history.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: policy, Callaghan, government, pay, business, social contract, business history, business archives
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > History, Department of
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 28 Mar 2019 17:35
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2019 16:15

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