During 2002 tension between trade unions and the Labour government reached a level not seen before in their relationship. This review examines the source of the tension and its manifestations. It shows that during the year a range of issues emerged that divided the government and unions. New Labour ‘modernizers’ cited these differences as reasons to further distance the Party from trade unions. The article argues that relations between trade unionism and the government are at low ebb, and that the extent of disagreement between the two is now more pronounced than at any other time since 1997.