By Hugh Berrington
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Additional info for Change in British Politics (West European Politics)
X and Appendix and The British General Election of 1955 (London: Macmillan, 1955) Appendix I. Pulzer Political Representation and Elections (3rd Edition), (London: Allen & Unwin, 1975), ch. 4. McKenzie, op. cit. Minkin The Labour Party Conference (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1978) for a brilliant critique of McKenzie. McKenzie British Political Parties, 2nd Edition, 1963, ch. x. For the way backbench opinion was assessed in 1963, see The Times, 12 May 1983 (letter by Humphrey Berkeley).
That situation changed as the majority of the union vote shifted gradually towards those critics, the Old Left of the PLP. Three factors brought about this shift. Most obvious because it happened first, but least basic because it would no doubt have occurred later in any case, was a change at the top of the two largest unions. The Transport and General Workers, the most effectively disciplined union of all, acquired (by the accident of successive deaths) a left-wing general secretary in 1956, and soon swung from being the main-stay of the leadership to being that of the opposition.
On organisational issues, however, their influence could hardly be exaggerated since they controlled not merely most of the votes but almost all the money. If united and insistent, they were bound to get their way and the politicians knew it; but they could approach unity only on specifically trade-union issues, and were most reluctant to be seen to wield the financial strength which, as all sides were always aware, was indispensable to the party’s survival as an effective political organisation.