‘Labour lost power in 1970 because of its own failings in the years 1964 to 1970.' Assess the validity of this view. [45 marks]


‘Labour lost power in 1970 because of its own failings in the years 1964 to 1970.' Assess the validity of this view. [45 marks]


  • Economic policy failures, particularly George Brown's 'National Plan' of 1965.
  • George Brown's behaviour and inconsistency; competition with James Callaghan and orthodox economists; disagreements with Wilson and his resignation, 1968.
  • Devaluation – both the delay in implementing it and the effect of its acceptance in November 1967.
  • Failure to negotiate entry into the EEC.
  • Breakdown of relations with Trade unions 1966/67 and seamen's and dockers' strikes; the failure of 'in Place of Strife', 1969 and the resultant splits.
  • Problems over Rhodesia and Northern Ireland.
  • Wilson's lack of trust in colleagues and reliance on 'kitchen cabinet' government; his reputation for being devious.
  • Labour had failed to live up to its promises to modernise Britain in the 'white heat of technology'.


  • The economic situation was not of Labour's making; a difficult situation had been inherited from the Conservatives. Once Roy Jenkins replaced Callaghan, tough deflationary measures helped to achieve a balance of payments surplus by 1969.
  • From 1966 George Brown was moved to the Foreign Office and from 1968 he was no longer in the cabinet and causing trouble.
  • A face-saving compromise was negotiated with the trade unions before the Election in 1969.
  • 1970 Wilson's political position was looking strong and the economy was growing.
  • Heath had shown himself less able to connect with voters in 1966 election contest and was less experienced than Wilson.
  • Heath refused to make the popular topic of immigration an election issue and sacked Enoch Powell from the shadow cabinet in 1968 after the 'rivers of blood' speech.
  • Heath had a clear programme of policies for the modernisation of Britain – particularly better industrial relations and entry to EEC – 'One Nation Toryism', which had voter appeal.
  • At the Selsdon Park Conference, January 1970, tough approaches to economic modernisation, influenced by Sir Keith Joseph, were adopted.


The Conservative party victory was more of their own strengths than Labours failings. Also Labours loss of power was due to the unfortunate circumstances of their time in government rather than their own incompetence. Conservative victory came as a surprise to both sides and that the fragility of Labour's position in 1970 was not as obvious at the time as it might seem in retrospect.


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