Friday, 5 July 2013

Pioneer of profit sharing -longest lived MP

EO DAY 2013

This week saw the first Employee Ownership Day. Vince Cable was there along with Jo Swinson and a host of advocates and practitioners. Sadly I saw little mainstream media coverage. ( I do wish Ms Swinson would stop presenting the idea as if it was just another good HR wheeze to improve productivity . She doesn't seem to get it that it is about the diffusion of power and wealth . We seemed to have traveled a long way from the policy that we would by statute introduce industrial democracy and worker ownership.I find it hard to imagine her saying along with Richard Wainwright that our aim is that 'labour should hire capital'. We also seem to have mislaid the anger at the mal distribution of ownership. Back in 1937 the Liberal Assembly meeting in Buxton passed a motion which began: 'This Assembly of the Liberal Party is indignantly aware of the grossly unequal distribution of property in this country.....   )

When Liberals talk about employee ownership or co ownership it is usually the context of Jo Grimond's policy initiatives. We may occasionally talk about Elliot Dodds or Nancy Sear and a few may go back to John Stuart Mills advocacy in Political Economy but I keep coming across another pioneer; Theodore Taylor  ..

I first noticed him back in 1977 when the party re-published The Yellow Book to mark the 50 anniversary. It contained the Keynesian policy of investing in infrastructure during an economic downturn. It has a lot to say about building roads, electrification, telephone et al but it also includes a call for minimum wages, industrial partnership profit sharing and works councils.Back in 1977 the example that Liberal always used of workers ownership was the Scott Bader company and it was good to see they were represented at the EO Day. In the Yellow Book the example used was J T and J Taylor a woolen mill in Batley .

Theodore Taylor was the driving force and he sounds like a typical Liberal of his generation. He was a Congregationalist and a pioneer of profit sharing. The Company-which was one of the biggest in Yorkshire- transferred over £3m in shares and bonuses to its employees and by the time of his death in 1952 the worker owned 4/5th of the capital

Taylor has another claim to fame, namely that he is the longest lived parliamentarian surviving till he was 102. so Lord Bonker  told me in 2009.  In his article on the history of the NLC Michael Meadowcroft points out that he was the longest surviving 'original member 'of the club.

The new Spectator achieve records at at aged 100 he was still writing letters to the press .

So as we try to push employee ownership up the political agenda let's hear it for the man who was a Liberal MP for Radcliffe cum Farnworth for 18 years and who his colleague the MP for Rutland SW described as more radical than any living Lib Dem MP

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