By Wyn Grant (auth.)
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Extra info for Business and Politics in Britain
At the end of the Thatcher decade, the British economy still displayed fundamental weaknesses in areas such as vocational and technical education and management skills, suggesting that there are deep-seated economic problems which cannot simply be resolved by the actions of autonomous firms freed from the shackles of government. The political weakness of British business makes it difficult to implement any concertative approach to the country's problem, such as might be favoured by a broad spectrum of opinion, ranging from Tory moderates to the mainstream of the Labour Party.
Whatever the precise measure used, the important point is that 'the great increase in the relative growth of the largest enterprises in the UK in the last twenty-five years has produced a manufacturing sector which is one of the most highly concentrated (if not the most highly concentrated in the world' (Utton, 1982, p. 22). There was undoubtedly a further increase in concentration as a result of a takeover boom in the mid-1980s. One development, connected with the so-called 'Big Bang' in the City of London, was the emergence of multi-purpose financial conglomerates which transcended the traditional barriers between different kinds of financial services (see Chapter 4 for a fuller discussion).
By 1992 the trend towards a smaller number of large unions in Britain was raising questions about the future of the TUe's coordinating function. It could be argued that the real countervailing power to business today is not the trade unions but the environmental and consumer movement. In the United States, 'the environmental movement has established an alternative standard by which significant numbers of Americans, most of whom do not consider themselves environmentalists, now evaluate the performance of both business and government' (Vogel, 1989, p.
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