Rupert Murdoch has written of about how Margaret Thatcher inspired him to face down the print unions – laying the groundwork for today's "vigorous competitive press".
Writing in today's Times, the News Corp chairman says: "I found her attitude an inspiration in my business life — and never more so than when faced with the recalcitrance of the print unions in the 1980s…
"Newspapers across the world were moving from traditional forms of printing to new technology, but we were stuck with an industry that refused to change its ways. There were constant threats to go slow, to stop the presses or to walk out altogether. It couldn’t go on.
"Mrs Thatcher didn’t realise for some time quite what a state British industry was in. It was only really in her second term in office, after the Falklands War, that she set about tackling trade union reform. I never spoke to her about our plans to move production of our newspapers from Gray’s Inn Road to a new site in Wapping in East London, but Charlie Douglas-Home, the Editor of The Times, kept her informed."
Talking about the background to the move of the News International titles to new premises in Wapping with a de-unionised workforce, he said: "In 1979 The Times had been through a bitter year-long strike — and lost. Duke Hussey, the chief executive at the time, gave me a good piece of advice: if you get the papers out, you will win. The unions knew of our plans to move to Wapping — they had their spies. But they didn’t think we could cope with another strike.
"Our dispute, which began in January 1986, lasted a year. It was the first major strike in private industry that had been won by the owners since the war. It was not only a breakthrough for us, but for the whole newspaper industry — once we had won, the others had to change to compete. Without it we would not have the vigorous competitive press that is a feature of modern Britain."