The Industrial Charter: A Statement of Conservative Industrial Policy was a 1947 pamphlet and policy statement by the United Kingdom Conservative Party. The Charter is widely regarded as representing a seminal moment in the history of post war Conservatism as the party reconciled itself with many of the economic and social policies introduced by Clement Attlee's Labour government following the 1945 United Kingdom general election.
The Charter was first published in May 1947. It was the outcome of a process of rethinking brought about by the Conservative's landslide defeat in the 1945 United Kingdom general election. This process had begun a year earlier when the party's newly extended Research Department began work on defining a policy that was both Conservative and progressive. The policy statement was accepted on 2 October 1947 at the Conservative's Annual Conference being held in Brighton.
The Industrial Charter was a collection of distinct economic policies and included a separate "Pledge to the Consumer", a "Woman's Charter" and a "Workers' Charter". It accepted the idea of a mixed economy, gave a commitment that the party would protect labour rights, stressed the need for fairness and opposed protectionism.
Its emphasis was, though, placed squarely upon the individual and the document was highly-critical of its opponents. The Labour Party's attempts at economic planning were criticised for having created an incompetent and swollen civil service focused on administering a multitude of overlapping and unnecessary restrictions. It argued that the party had removed economic incentives and enforced a 'rigid straight jacket of doctrinaire political theory…[and] unnecessary controls'. Instead it called for a rolling back of the state and urged that a 'sense of realism, free opportunity, incentives and justice' should 'inspire all industrial policy'.
The Charter and a shortened 'popular' version were generally well received, sold an estimated 2.5 million copies and have often been thought to have helped "rehabilitate" the Conservative Party after 1945. Despite this the document caused a notable degree of debate at the 1947 Conservative Party Conference and Winston Churchill's initial reaction is reputed to have been 'but I do not agree with a word of this'.
Despite its favourable press, the historian Andrew Taylor also contends that the Charter should be seen as a propaganda failure as it failed to reach its intended audience. This is backed up by a report conducted by Mass Observation which found that eighty per cent of a sample had no knowledge at all of the Charter in the month after its publication.
Although perhaps not as a pivotal a moment of the Conservative Party's history as often claimed, the Charter remains historically symbolic as marking the acceptance of the post-war consensus that would later be satirised as Butskellism. This owes much to the significance later imbued into the document by those responsible for its publication.
- R.A. Butler, The Art of the Possible: the Memoirs of Lord Butler, K.G., C.H. (London, 1971), p. 145.
- The Times, 'Conservative Policy for Industry', 3 October 1947.
- Conservative Central Office, The Industrial Charter (1947), pp. 11 and 13.
- CCO, The Industrial Charter, p. 1.
- CCO, The Industrial Charter, p. 4.
- Peter Dorey, British Conservatism and Trade Unionism, 1945-1964 (Farnham, 2009), p. 48.
- Anthony Howard, Rab: the life of R.A. Butler (London, 1987), p. 156.
- Andrew Taylor, 'Speaking to Democracy: the Conservative Party and Mass Opinion from the 1920s to the 1950s', in Mass Conservatism: The Conservatives and the Public since the 1880s, eds. S. Ball and I. Holliday (London, 2002), pp. 78-99.
- Mass Observation, File Report 2516, 'The Industrial Charter' (1947), p. 8.
- The Economist, 'Mr Butskell's Dilemma', 13 February 1954.
- E.H.H. Green, 'The Conservative Party, the State and the Electorate, 1945-1964', in Party, State and Society: Electoral Behaviour in Britain since 1820 (Aldershot, 1997), 176-200 (pp. 179-80); John Ramsden, The Age of Churchill and Eden, 1940-1957 (London, 1995), p. 94; and R.A. Butler, The Art of the Possible, p. 126.
- Dorey, P. (1995). British Politics Since 1945. London: Blackwells. p. 25. ISBN 0631190759. (Google Books)
- Kynaston, David (2007). Austerity Britain: 1945-1951. London: Bloomsbury. pp. 238–241. ISBN 978-0-7475-7985-4.
- Wrigley, C. (1997). British Trade Unions, 1945-1995. Manchester: Manchester University Press. p. 5. ISBN 0719041473. (Google Books)