Where Did It All Go Right?

Prof Philip Cowley presents a series examining initially-controversial political policies which were later judged by most people to have been a success.


01The National Minimum Wage20090831

01The National Minimum Wage *20090831

The National Minimum Wage used to have plenty of critics among business and the Conservative Party, but it is less well-known that it was unpopular with many on the left, too.

Cabinet minister Ed Balls used to be strongly opposed, as were most trade unions.

Rodney Bickerstaffe campaigned for decades to persuade the trade unions and Labour Party to adopt the minimum wage, and finally succeeded in the mid-1980s.

In the run-up to Labour's election victory in 1997, business and conservative critics argued that it would cause many job losses.

But once it came into effect, many business organisations came to support it, and so did the Tories.

Philip Cowley looks back at the early debates, and examines the impact of the minimum wage.

Interviewees who were formerly critical but later came to support the minimum wage include Boris Johnson, Michael Portillo and Jack Dromey, Unite deputy general secretary.

The National Minimum Wage was ultimately supported by its former critics in business.

02Compulsory Seat Belts

02Compulsory Seat Belts20090907
02Compulsory Seat Belts20090907

Attempts during the 1970s and early 1980s to make seat belt wearing compulsory were hugely controversial.

There were numerous attempts to get it through, and it was contested by parliamentarians on both left and right.

Organisations like the RAC were also opposed, as were civil servants, as shown by files from the early 1970s released from the National Archives.

Once the legislation came into effect in 1983, instances of seat belt-wearing shot up from under half to over 90 per cent and opposition almost vanished overnight.

This programme looks back at the early debates, why compulsory wearing was so controversial and how seat belts came to be so widely accepted.

03 LASTInward Investment Into The Japanese Car Industry20090914
03 LASTInward Investment Into The Japanese Car Industry *20090914

The Conservative government's wooing of Japanese car makers to invest in Britain in the early 1980s.

Japanese investment was vigorously opposed at the time, but brought lots of jobs and made a valuable contribution to our economy.