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Labour, Clause IV, and the UK Motor Industry


Couple of threads over at the Other Place about a Conservative victory in 1964 and an alternate British Motor Corporation (BMC) got me wondering but were there ever any calls for or proposals to nationalise the UK motor industry prior to it getting into trouble? Labour nationalised the steel industry in 1967, and the aircraft and shipbuilding industries in 1977, after these the motor industry seems like the only other major manufacturing industry. If, due to the Conservatives having won an extra five years, Labour were in charge for a full decade do people think they might have been tempted?


"Ride me sideways" was another one
Well, you already had attempts to get automakers to build factories in marginal areas for political purposes - hence the Rootes/Chrysler factory in Linwood, for example, or the DeLorean factory in Belfast. Apart from that - I know there's a few people out there who want Sir Roy Fedden's pet project to come through.

Apart from that? Certain not a behemoth like British Leyland, but maybe the smaller BMC? Otherwise, I'm not sure that they felt tempted.


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I searched Chris Cowin's Export Drive for proposals to nationalize the industry and found this...

But there were doubts over the form such a “world-car” should take. Some such as Labour MP Ian Mikardo favoured a “People’s-car” to be built preferably by a fully nationalized motor industry. This approach found echoes thirty years later in the priority given British Leyland’s “new Mini” (ADO88) in the 1975 Ryder report, and was the route adopted by nationalized Renault in France with the 4CV.
There was another mention of how, in the 1940s, fear of that was "never totally absent".

Other than that, all I saw was more on a (not unreasonable given how dependent on economies of scale the auto industry is) desire to merge and consolidate the existing car companies into a private "national champion" than just wanting to immediately nationalize all of it right away.


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There was another mention of how, in the 1940s, fear of that was "never totally absent".
Strangely though it never really seemed to be on the cards. Like a lot of UK industries it was quickly left behind as American manufacturers caught up with demand and European ones recovered and a lack of innovation in comparison to the latter especially created many a long lasting problem.

There was never even any UK equivalent of the Pons Plan in France, the efforts from government in the UK were much more focused on public transport rather than car manufacture until the latter began to run into problems. Though it might be interesting if Labour were in government at the time of the merger of numerous companies to form BMC.