Stephen Kelly on working on Union Power

Yes, that would probably be about then. Coming up to the general election. Weekend World, which was done by London Weekend Television, was a one-hour lunchtime programme, which went out on the Sunday. And during the summer, they had a break, so Granada was given those six one-hour slots. So Gus had this idea of doing something about trade unions, and David Boulton was executive producer as well. So Gus MacDonald wanted to do something which I certainly didn’t think would make a very good programme. And I came up with the idea of having some kind of inquiry into the unions. The unions had been heavily criticised in 1978 and 1979 because it had been that ‘summer of discontent’ with the bin bags piling up in the streets. So there was a view that trade unions were too strong. So I said, “Let’s have some kind of an inquiry where a committee, a board, of three people, each Sunday, interview a number of people around the trade union movement, and around business, and we have a kind of really close look at trade unions, a serious look.” Gus wasn’t very keen on this idea. But while Gus went on holiday, I persuaded David Boulton that this was a really good idea. And so we kind of usurped Gus, who came back and was very annoyed. We had a board of three people. We had Sir Kenneth Alexander, who was the chairman, who was an academic, and he and two others were the board, and we brought people in to be questioned. So they get a good solid questioning. Barbara Castle came in, because she had tried to introduce the Industrial Relations Bill, and she’d get questioned by the board for 20 minutes. We had Clive Jenkins as well, and Ken Gill, various businessmen came in, and we opened it up as well. We brought Tories in, who said the very opposite. And the final programme, the board summed up everything. And it was a bit like, though many, many years prior to this, something called The Donovan Commission, which had been an investigation into the trade unions, which I think the Labour Party had set up back in the 1960s. So it was very similar to that. And it was all filmed down in London, on the South Bank, what used to be the LCC offices, but is now a big hotel.

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