Britain 1950 -1979


Britain in the 1950s

  • Entered 1950s in a spirit of optimism
  • There was pride in past achievements and confidence about the future
  • Although Britains world power was diminishing, it was taking the lead in other areas
  • Coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953 seen as moment of national celebration
  • British scientists and inventors still led the world in many areas
  • Had the first atomic power station, jet airliner, and office computer
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Consensus Politics 1945-75

  • In post war period, two main political parties had a consensus (broad agreement) on policies
  • Both Conservative and Labour were committed to:
    • Full employment
    • Nationalised industries (eg; rail, coal, power etc.)
    • NHS
    • Building new houses
    • Welfare state
    • Expanding education
  • This agreement became known as consensus politics
  • The settlement lasted till mid 70s
  • Hugh Gaitskell (Labour Leader) and Rob Butler (Conservative Chancellor) shared similar economic policies and gave their name to Butskellism or consensus politics.
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Class in 1950s Britain

  • 1950s Conservative decade
  • Conserv (Tories) won 1951, 1955, and 1959 elections
  • Labour slogans later spoke of '13 wasted years' or '13 years of Tory misrule'.
  • Conserv leaders
    • Churchill
    • Eden Macmillan
    • Home
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Conservative leaders

  • Winston Churchill (1951-55)
    • Mainly figurehead for second term
    • Ill throughout much of leadership
    • Suffered series of massive strokes - not made public
    • More concerned with foreign affairs than domestic
  • Antony Eden (1955-57)
    • Seen as Churchills heir for years
    • Popular, charismatic, handsome, respected at home and abroad
    • Forced to resign after 2 years after disastrous war against Eygpt in 1956
  • Harold Macmillan (1957-63)
    • Won 1959 election
    • Known as 'supermac' for handling of economy and 'mac the knife' for sacking several ministers in cabinet resuffle
    • Resign 1963 due to ill health
  • Alec Douglas Home (1963-64)
    • Macmillan try to stop Chancellor Rob Butler becoming PM - chose Home instead
    • Member of Lords not Commons
    • Lasted only one year as lost 1964 election
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Was Britain governed by a clique?

  • Government mostly made up of old men who had been in politics since 1920s
  • Many had fought in WWI
  • Went to same schools and universities and belonged to the same gentlemens clubs
  • Related to each other - Macmillan related to 35 out of 85 ministers in his government - 7 in cabinet
  • Lived in narrow closed off world of class, wealth, country houses and priviledge
  • Seen as 'out of touch' with ordinary British people by late 50s
    • There was lack of opportunity or meritocracy
  • Macmillan seemed to belong more to Edwardian era than age of television
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Class in 1950s Britain

How important was social class in Britain in the 1950s?

It was very important in the early 50s as it appeared through way people dressed and talked. It was very easy to tell the class of someone and political parties stayed loyal to the class that they belonged in. However, by the late 50s, new trends, the media, and the Suez Canal crisis all lead to the breakdown of the old class systems and made them not as important as they once were.

Which factors determined class?

The factors that would have determined your social class would have been the amount of connections you would have, which schools you attended, and your ancestory. Although wealth would be thought to be a factor it was not as important as the previously mentioned ones.

How were social class attitudes changing?

The availability of higher purchase made it easier to buy luxious items, teenage culture, working class were getting paid more, satire in the media beginning to question social class

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Immigration, race and politics in Britain

  • Need for skilled and unskilled labour
  • Govt recruits workers from the Commonwealth
  • June 1948 - ship 'Empire Windrush' brought the first arrival of Caribbean immigrants to the UK
  • London transport and the NHS especially short of workers
  • Signs in windows were 'No Irish, No Blacks and No dogs.'
    • Made them buy their own property, wich is worth a lot now
  • How media presented first immigration:
    • quietens fears of the British
    • Positive
    • Point out sense of duty to bring Jamacains here
  • Racial tension:
    • 1958 Notting Hill race riots in London
    • First large scale civil unrest in post-war Britain
  • 1964 General election:
    • Labour lost the safe seat of Smethwick, Midlands
    • First time race was used in an election
    • Local Tory slogan: 'If you want a ****** for a neighbour. Vote Labour.'
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Immigration issue 1950s - 1960s

  • Was the 'problem' of immigration exaggerated?
    • Actual number of white residents who were against coloured might have been small but problem exaggerated by trouble makers who exploited housing shortage
    • Britain wasn't ever 'swamped by waves of immigrants'
    • When work was scarce, people blamed foreigners
    • Net emigration never went below net immigration
  • Why were race relations worse in cities?
    • Due to shortage of affordable housing, there was competition between residents on low income and people new to Britain
  • How did govt tighten up immigration laws?
    • Placed restritions on would-be entrants according to their ethnic origin
    • 1962 - Commonwealth Immigrants Act - Conservative
    • 1968 - Second Commonwealth Immigrants Act - Labour
    • 1965 and 1968 - Race Relations Acts - Labour
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Development of youth culture in the period 1951 -

  • Particular emphasis on 'style'
  • Teens didnt see WWII - targeted by ads to make them feel special
  • Disorders caused by Mods and Rockers brought on new aggressive youth culture
  • Growing affluence of society enable young people on good wages to feel independent and ready to ignore tradition
  • Psychological theories of the day encouraged people to traditional restraints
  • Scandals and Satire gave a bad example
  • Pockets of poverty left others feeling embittered and alienated
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1950s stereotype of the role of women - Negative

  • Expected to give up job and personal independence when they married/had their first child
  • 50% of housewives were bored a lot of the time
  • Womens education was biased towards domestic life
  • Many women left school at the minimum leaving age and married young
  • A law was passed in 1954 to limit number of girls who could go to grammar school
  • Students were twice as likely to get a university place if they were a boy rather than a girl into the 1980s
  • System of govt-run day nurseries was disbanded after 1945
  • Family allowance in 1946 introduced to try and persuade women that they did not need to work to earn money to look after children
  • After WWII, many women had to give men thier jobs back
  • Childcare and Growth of Love (1953) said juvenile delinquency was a result of mothers abandoning their children and going to work
  • Working mothers often portrayed as unnatural or selfish, abandoning their children to go to work
  • Employers didnt have to pay them as much as men until 1970s
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1950s stereotype of the role of women - Positive

  • 40% of women content
  • National Housewives Register set up in 1960 by Wirral housewife Maureen Nicol as a mutual support network for bored housewives
  • Too many girls passing the 11 plus - 1954 - girl made up 2/3 of students going to grammar
  • Many of the women who passed Olevels when on to do Alevels
  • Number of women studying at university grew steadily as a result of improving education
  • During WWII women showed they were willing, capable of work, could balance family and working life
  • Continuation of free school meals after war made it easier for women to work
  • In 1943, some 58% of people opposed the idea of married women working, but came down to 11% by 1965
  • 47% of married women had jobs by 1971
  • No shortage of jobs for women
  • Many jobs no longer required women to give up work when they got married from early 1950s
  • Newer industries like electronics and chemicals didnt need strength of men
  • Many women only wanted part time work, could look after house + family, suited employer, more flexibility with their workplace
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British foreign policy 1951-64

  • War in Korea (1950-53)
    • When war broke out in Korea, British troops sent to fight alongside USA and UN
    • Part of cold war 'containment' strategy to prevent spread of communism
    • War begun under Atlee Labour govt and ended under Churchill in 1953
    • Costs of war and rearmament burden it imposed proved quite a strain on British economy which had only just begun to recover from WWII
  • British Empire in 1951
    • 1951 - Britain still governed a world wide empire
    • But India and Pakistan (the 'Jewel in the crown') had become independent in 1947 so days of empire were numbered
    • Nationalism was on the rise and so was desire for self rule in Africa and Asia
    • Empire was turning into 'Commonwealth' of independent nations linked to Britain by trade, customs, language, and history
    • Many British people emirgrated to the white dominions of Australia, New Zealand and Canada
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Cost of the Empire and National service

  • In the 1950s Britain fought a series of small wars around the empire
  • 1948-60 - Britain fought a communist guerrilla war in Malaya (very much like the USA and Vietnam except Brit won war)
  • 1952-60 - Britain fought the Mau-Mau in Kenya
  • 1955 - Britain fought communist rebels in Cyprus
  • All these were expensive - empire becoming a burden
  • Between 1948-60 all Brit men (17-21) had to do 18 months National service
  • Only time conscription existed in peace time Britain
  • National servicemen were sent to fight in Kenya and Malaya
  • End of National service in 1960 caused a generation gap and a social change
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Suez Crisis

  • 1952 - Colonel Nasser took power in Egypt under new govt
    • Arab nationalist
    • Eden disliked Nasser and compared him to Mussolini
    • Wanted to end Brit influence in Arab world 
    • Eden was determined to destroy Nasser even before he nationalised the canal
  • Egypt promised funding from USA, Britain, World Bank to build dam on River Nile called Aswan High Dam. Dam provide water for irrigation and generate hydro electric power to help Egypt develop its own industries
  • Nasser brought large shipment of arms from USSR and Czechslovakia, USA and Britain believed he was moving towards communism - withdrew funding for dam
  • N decided Egypt would control Suez, use revenue from ship passing to pay for dam. Nationalisation announced July 26 1956.
  • October 29 1956 Israeli forces attacked Egypt, Brit + French troops attacked, bombed it.
  • Brit critcism for actions: USSR gave threats, US reaction bad, Brit isolated - petrol ran out, Brit weakness exposed to world, value of pound dropped, USA refused to loan money
  • After few frantic days, Britain agreed to pull out of Egypt - could have faced bankruptcy in days, humiliated
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Suez Crisis (cont.)

  • Why was Suez so important?
    • Shortened sea route to Asia by over 6000 km
    • Much of Brit trade and oil passed through vital strategic water way
  • Was the Canal only reason for the invasion?
    • No because B and France believed Nasser was becoming a communist so they wanted to stop that from happening
  • What did war reveal about B position in world?
    • It revealed B was weaker than what they let on, and that they had to rely upon weaker countries in order to maintain the perceived power it had
  • Effects of Suez:
    • Showed B and US relationship not one of equals - B dependent on USA and became reluctant to oppose any US policy
    • B not rich enough to act alone
    • Days of B empire truely over
    • No B PM would risk taking the country to war unless they had public backing
    • Many people felt they could no longer trust people who ran country
    • Dented confidence of Brit conservative clique
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The end of empire

  • Gold coast became B first African colony to gain independence, 1957 - became known as Ghana
  • Why was 'winds of change' speech significant?
    • First public statement of B acknowledgement of black nationalists
    • Indicated B growing concerns over the application of apartheid in South Africa
    • Urged South Africa to move towards racial equality
  • Why was timing significant?
    • Made just after Ghana had got their independence
    • B was pushing for independence of more countries
  • Ian Macleod:
    • Secretary of state for the colonies (1959-61)
    • Oversaw the independence of: Nigeria, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, British Somaliland, Kuwait, and British Cameroon in the space of 2 years
    • Speed of Brit withdrawal took everybody by surprise and some territories were not ready for self government
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Why the end of the Empire

  • W16t reasons persuaded B to give independence to African colonies?
    • Bankrupt fro WWII
    • Could not longer afford to maintain empire - cost too much
    • Pressures of colonial movements became harder to contain
    • Better off becoming independent
    • Royal Navy not strong enough to protect anymore
    • Progmitism
  • Could B have maintained rule longer or was independence a foregone conclusion by early 1960s?
    • No - B couldnt afford to maintain it for much longer after war, already heavily dependent on US for financial support and in debt to too many countries
    • Rebellions in colonies such as Mau Mau in Kenya made Empire harder and more expensive to control
    • Could only do it with force - but it wasnt an option anymore - Suez showed this
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Britain and its 'circles of interest'

  • 1947 - Winston Churchill made speech in Zurich where he spoke of creating a 'united states of Europe'
  • Did not envisage Britain taking part in this project
  • For Churchill, B had three circles of interest
    • Britain and Europe: maintain a balance of power, stop one country dominating Europe
    • Britain and USA: B had 'special relationship' with USA based on language, history, culture and shared experience in WWII
    • Britain and its Europe and Commonwealth: Britain was still the 'mother country' of a global empire and commonwealth of over 800 million people
  • How realistic were they:
    • Europe: B was too weak to lead western Europe or decide its future development. USSR and USA dominate east/west Europe after 1945
    • USA: 'Special relationship' with USA was not one of equals. Suez wwar and Polaris showed British dependence on USA
    • Empire: Empire and commonwealth dissolving fast c1955-60
  • Even 'loyal' countries like Australia were losing political, economic and defence ties with Britain
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Britain and Europe

  • Key moment came 1951 when B chose NOT to participate in ECSC (European Coal and Steel Community)
  • Reasons why:
    • B did not want to give over control of it steel and coal to supranational body
    • Organisation seen as dress rehearsal for creation of EEC in 1957
    • B missed chance to lead Europe and France took control of Western Europes future with West Germany in alliance
    • Few politicans/journalists in favour of B taking up leadership role
    • Left tended to be suspicious of free market principles behind common market
    • It had leading economy of Europe, manufactured as much in 1951 as France and West Germany combined
    • B just become third nuclear power in the world. Not quite superpower, still well ahead of rest of Europe - all whom had been defeated/invaded in the war - hence refusal to be 'lumped' with them
    • B didnt feel part of Europe
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Britain and Europe (cont.)

  • 1950s - boom in west European economies
  • Growth rate of France and West Germany nearly doubled the of UK by late 50s
  • March 15 1957 - Treaty of Rome signed by the 'Six' - France, West Germany, Italy and BENELUX (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg) - EEC
  • EFTA - 'Outer Seven'
    • B realised it might be locked out of European trade by not joining the EEC
    • It set up a rival to the EEC called the EFTA (European Free Trade Area) in 1959
    • EFTA included poorer and/or less populated nations of Europe, was no match for the EEC
    • B left EFTA when it finally joined the EEC in 1975
  • Factors that led to creation of EEC in 1957?
    • In 1944, exiled govt Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg formed BENELUX union - customs and trading association which came into operation in 1947
    • Treaty of Brussels (1948) B and France joined 3 Benelux countries in pledging 'military, economic, social, and cultural collaboration'. Military collaboration - NATO
    • The European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) - 1951: 6 countries joined - France, West Germany, Italy, Benelux. All duties + restrictions on trade in coal, iron, steel 
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Britain and Europe (cont.)

    • between the Six were removed. Britain declined invite to join.
  • Why did Britian decline to join in 1957?
    • Churchill supported a united Europe
    • Eden and Macmillan didn't want to commit themselves too far and were very cool towards negotiations which preceeded the signing of the Treaty of Rome
    • Afraid Britain wouldn't be in control of its economy - be at mercy of a supranational authority (EEC commission in Brussels)
    • Fear it would ruin relationship with Commonwealth as would no longer give preference to its goods
  • Why did Britain change its mind and apply to join in 1961?
    • EEC's success
    • French production risen by 75%, German production by 90%, Britains production only rose 30%
    • EFTA was not as successful as EEC
    • Commonwealth could not compare with the purchasing power of the EEC
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Britain's defense policy (1957 - 1964)

  • Britain was the third country to build an atomic bomb (after USA and USSR)
  • In 1957 Britain tested its own hydrogen bomb
  • Britain still had military bases around the world, but it relied on the NATO alliance led by the USA and increasingly depended on US nuclear technology
  • Duncan Sandys - secretary of State for defense 1957-59
    • Published a white paper (government report setting out future policy) in 1957 drastically reducing Britain's defence budget and capabilities
  • 1957 Sandys report:
    • Cuts to the armed forces from 700000 men to 375000
    • National service to be abolished
    • Concentrate on nuclear weapons
    • End of Empire - post Suez decline
  • 1958 - UK still spend £1554 million on defense - highest in Europe
  • France - £1180 million, West Germany - £529 million
  • Brtiain spent three times as much on defense than education
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Nuclear weapons

  • 1950s Britain's leaders felt that Britain's status as a 'top nation' required it to have nuclear weapons
  • Race to build British hydrogen bomb
  • May 1957 - first test of hydrogen bomb - Britain
  • RAF relied on its bombers like Vulcan to drop atom bombs on USSR
  • 1960 - American U2 spy plane was shot down by missile - so missiles were the future
  • Financially - by late 1950s, cost of developing the 'next generation' of nuclear missiles was beyond Britain's budget
  • 1960 - govt cancelled 'Blue Streak' - Britain's nuclear missile - having already spent £84 million on it
  • They based their future nuclear strategy on buying American 'Skybolt' missile
  • RAF Vulcan bombers would be fitted with American Skybolt missiles
  • Skybolt had a range of 1000 miles so the bombers could hit targets in the USSR from outside Soviet airspace
  • Having cancelled its own nuclear missile project to buy US Skybolt, Britain had nothing else to fall back on
  • Britain no longer an independent nuclear power but an American client
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Nuclear weapons (cont.)

  • In exchange US wanted to base thier Polaris nuclear submarines in Holy Loch (30 miles from Glasglow)
  • Macmillan's objections were ignored by President Eisenhower. Britain had no leverage over Americans as it needed US technology
  • Skybolt crisis provoked by news that US had scrapped missile because it was proving difficult to develop
  • Without Skybolt Britain had no credible nuclear weapon of its own
  • Humiliating situation for UK govt and showed its dependence on USA
  • Nassau Agreement:
    • In December 1962 President Kennedy agreed to allow UK to purchase latest American Polaris missile
    • Agreement signed in Nassau in Bahamas came at delicate stage of British negotiations to join EEC
    • It is thought French President de Gaulle infuriated by move and based his decision not to allow UK to join EEC
  • Polaris (SLBM)
    • Nuclear strategy by 1960s morving towards submarine launched ballistic missiles
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Nuclear weapons (cont.)

    • Polaris was state of art tech which US agreed to share with Britain
  • What ways was Nassau Agreement good deal and a bad deal for Britain?
    • Was good - Macmillan managed to emerge from from it with better weapon than Skybolt: Polaris. It also meant nuclear deterrant had been achieved, which had been presented to public as key to international influence and national security.
    • Wasn't good - showed Britain to be no more than a client state for America, no longer an independent state as pulled into NATO. British media did not agree with Nassau as they saw it as USA influencing UK
  • Did having Polaris mean Britain was still a world power?
    • Yes as put them in front of other countries because of nuclear capability it gave them
    • Gave them role to play as it made Britain fully in the race
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Gaitskellites and Bevanites (1951-64)

  • Period dubbed the '13 wasted years' by Harold Wilson
  • Conservatives enjoyed long period in office while economy recovered from deprivations of wartime and post war reconstruction
  • Labour split between Bevanites on left of party and Gaitskellites on right
  • Bevanites:
    • Led by Aneurin Bevan (died 1960)
    • Dedicated socialists
    • Keen to nationlise all significant industry
    • Aimed to protect and expand the welfare state
    • Anti-nuclear and anti-NATO
  • Gaiskellites:
    • Led by Hugh Gaitskell (died 1963)
    • Social democrats
    • Wanted to remove clause IV (which called for nationalisation of industry) from Labours constitution
    • Not prepared to raise taxes for the welfare state
    • Pro-nuclear and pro-NATO
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Internal Labour divisions and problems

  • Attlee leader till 1955 - wartime generation were aging and poor health
  • Party unity well maintained while in power but growing split in ideology and personality
  • Key figures - Aneurin ('Nye') Bevan and Hugh Gaitskell
  • Split harmed effectiveness of Labour opposition in 1950s
  • Bevan: (1887-1960) LEFT
    • Minister of health under Attlee
    • Architect of NHS
    • Resigned in 1951 to protest introduction of prescription charges - gained support of Labour MPs and trade unionists
  • Gaitskell (1906-63) RIGHT
    • Chancellor of the Exchequer 1950-1
    • Introduced prescription charges
    • Leader in 1955 - defeated Bevan
    • Attempts to reform Labour unsuccessful
  • Splits widened later 1950s - after Attlee in 1955, Gaitskell won against Bevan
  • Left wanted more socialist, and growing opposition to party leadership from trade unions
  • Divisions over nuclear weapons
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Internal Labour divisions and problems (cont.)

  • Intial, Bevan opposed NW - 1957, announced opposition to unilateral nuclear disarmament
  • Many left joined Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) - links may turned voters away
  • Until late 50s, TU happy with full employment and leaders were moderate
  • 1956, left Frank Cousins, became leader of Transport and General Workers Union - led opposition to Gaitskell over NW
  • 1959 election - Gaitskell confident and effective campaigner, promotes moderate policies thought to be popular
  • Extent large defeat
  • After defeat, divisions stronger at Blackpool 1959 and Scarborough 1960
  • 1959 - G idea of abolish clause IV (commited party to nationalism)
  • G back down 1960 as lost vote - succeeded in overturning result a year later
  • Political position improved slowly after 1960 - appeared united
  • Cultural shifts in country made public critical of Conservative beginning of 1960s
  • 1963 - death of Gaitskell had opened way for Labour to elect Harold Wilson as leader
  • Partys left wing suspicious of EEC seeing it as capitalist trading club
  • Were scared EEC competition would close Brit industries and out Brit workers out of job
  • Wanted control Brit industry and economic policy and didn't want supranational control
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Internal Labour divisions and problems (cont.)

  • handed to EEC
  • Leader G oppose Brit membership - call it 'end of a 1000 years of Brit history'
  • Sentimental attachment to commonwealth
  • Do you think G was to blame for Labour being out of power?
    • For -
      • The head of TUs (Frank Cousins) disliked him and so they gave little support for Labour while he was still their leader
      • He proposed the idea of abolishing Clause IV from the party constitution, which caused bigger rifts within the party and made them more divided
      • The future direction of Labour was unclear and was often fought over as the party was divided in where to go after the Attlee govt. Instead of trying to unite the party, he made the gap between the left and the right bigger
      • Gaitskell provided an uncertain viewpoint on if Brit should join EEC or not which made the party have even less of a direction and made him look like a weak leader
      • He tried to appeal to voters by saying he would increase pensions without increasing the tax, however this fell through, further proving that he wasn't a particularly strong leader
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Internal Labour divisions and problems (cont.)

  • Against - 
    • Even though Bevan announced he opposed unilateral nuclear disarmament, many left wingers still were for it and joined the CND, which may have caused many voters to turn away from Labour
    • Gaitskell was an effective and confident campaigner, and he promoted moderate policies that the party thought would be popular with voters
    • Conservative party was enjoying the profits of what had been set up under Labour Govt. This meant that people were no longer supporting Labour party as they saw no reason to support them
    • Labour party was in consensus politics with Conservatives in power, meaning they didn't oppose them as much as they should have in order to have come to power
    • In this time period, middle class grew as manual labour went into decline. Therefore there were less people either needing or wanting socialist ways of Labour party
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Changing Brit attitudes

  • Conservative govt starts to decline amid a 'wind of change' of its own
  • Political intrigue, sleaze and a new Young Brit bring the 60s in with a new mood in the country
  • Firstly, a spying scandal rocks the nation: Kim Philby 1955
  • The 'Angry Young Men' films:
    • Look Back in Anger (1956)
    • Saturday Night and Saturday Morning
  • Satire boom in early 60s:
    • Beyond the Fringe
  • DH Lawrence and Lady Chatterleys lover - Trial - "Would you let your wife or slaves read this book?"
  • John Profumo and Christine Keeler scandal -
    • Profumo was Minister of War in Macmillans Govt
    • Emerged he had sexual relations with Christine Keeler
    • She was a prostitute who also had sexual relations with a spy at the Soviet Embassy
    • Profumo exposed as having lied to parliament
    • Affair became symbolic of hypocrisy among the ruling clique
    • It rocked confidence in govt and may have swayed the outcome of 1964 election
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Labour in power (1964 - 70)

  • Harold Wilson - working class, grammar school, Oxford economic history lecturer, became a politician in 1945-51 Labour govt
  • Prime minister 1964 - 70 and 1974-76
  • Became leader of Labour following sudden death of Gaitskelle
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Wilson's 'White Heat' speech

  • Delivered six months before the 1964 election the speech captured the mood
  • The speech symbolised the 60s much as 'never had it so good' did in the 50s
  • Likewise, the reality did not quite match the rhetoric
  • Britain was ill prepared for the world:
    • Need more people with degrees - technical colleges should get degrees
    • Not enough emphasis on education and training in industry
    • 'Brain Drain'
    • Workers and managers too resistant to new ways of working/technology
    • Not enough professionalism in business
    • Scientists still on defence projects - outdated
  • Reforms needed to modernise Britain in 1960s:
    • More training of young apprentices
    • Firms must spend more on training
    • Greater professional approach needed to run modern companies
    • Scientists used on Research and Development
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1964 election: meritocracy and modernisation

  • Harold Wilson's Labour govt promised a more meritocratic Brit - based less on class and more on talent
  • It also promised rapid modernisation of the Brit economy and society
  • Wilson himself was happy to be seen as a populist Prime Minister
  • Labour's Victory in 1964:
    • Labour 317 seats, Conservative 304 and others 9
    • Not got mandate - only small minority and narrow
    • A majority of just four seats meant the govt was unlikely to last full five year term
    • It inherited a terrible economic deficit from the outgoing govt
  • The Key Players:
    • Wilson preferred advice of small group of ministers and advisors
    • His so called 'kitchen cabinet' often took decisions away from the full cabinet
    • Wilson was a perculiarly paranoid person, who believed there were plots against him. He indulged in intrigue and gossip to an extreme degree
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The key players

  • George Brown:
    • Department for economic affairs (1964-66)
    • Foreign Secretary (1966-68)
    • Serious drinking problem - hated Wilson
  • James Callaghan:
    • Chancellor of the Exchequer (1964-67)
    • Home Secretary (1967-70)
    • Prime minister (1976-79)
  • Roy Jenkins:
    • Home secretary (1965-67) - changed laws on divorce, death penalty, censorship and homosexuality
    • Chancellor of the Exchequer (1967-70)
  • Tony Benn:
    • Post master General (1964-67)
    • Minister of Technology (1967-70)
    • Most influential left winger in the party
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The key players

  • Barbara Castle:
    • Minister of transport (1965-68) - introduced breathalyser test
    • Secretary of State for Employment (1968-70) - 'In Place of Strife' - white paper
  • Marcia Williams:
    • Wilson's private political secretary
    • A key advisor, ally and influence on the PM
    • Now Lady Falkender - took care of honours list
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Devaluation Crisis of 1967

  • Wilson was right to delay:
    • Economy may have improved
    • Labours majority was only 4 seats
    • Devaluation would have caused shock and panic on the currency market
    • A 'wait and see' approach was perhaps sensible
  • Wilson was wrong to delay:
    • If they had devalued immediately they could have blamed the previous govt
    • By waiting they made the situation worse
    • They should have cut back Brit's overseas military bases sooner
    • By reversing policy, they made themselves look indecisive
  • Damage to economy - wasted millions in trying to keep the pound at $2.80
  • An overvalued pound made Brit exports more expensive
  • Damage to Wilson:
    • Made the govt look weak, dishonest and in competent
    • Govt policy was not to devalue the pound - sudden uturn seemed like a panic move
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Trade Unions

  • Wilson and TUs:
    • Despite Labour's close ties to the TUs movement, industrial realtions got worse in the late 1960s
    • Wildcat or unofficial strikes caused disruption across industries
    • Wilson wanted to bring the unions in to line and assert govt authority
  • Industrial unrest:
    • A combination of near full employment and well organised TUs gave Brit a bad record of strikes
    • The seven week long Seamen's strike of 1966 hurt the economy
    • Wilson blamed the stike on communist TU activists
    • His attempt of a 'wage freeze' to keep inflation under control was unpopular
    • Wilson created a Prices and Incomes Board with the power to regulate pay settlements which angered many on the left of his party and trade unionists
  • 'In Place of Strife'
    • A white paper (proposed law) was published by Barbara Castle in 1969
    • It proposed compulsory votes before strikes began and a 28 day conciliation pause (cooling off period) before strikes began
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Trade Unions (cont.)

    • The unions hated the proposal
    • Facing a divided cabinet, Wilson reversed his support for Castle and the white paper was dumped
  • Why was Labour split?
    • Many Labour MPs had come through the TU movement
    • Many in the cabinet supported the unions
    • The unions provided most of the Labour Party funds
  • Did Wilson show a lack of leadership?
    • He first backed Castle and then dropped his support
    • Showed lack of clear purpose
    • Didn't want to split his government over one issue
  • A missed opportunity?
    • Castle's reforms were quite moderate
    • Failure to carry them out made unions stronger and govt weaker
    • Conservatives were determined to one day impose these changes on the unions by force
    • Mrs Thatcher would later seek to destroy TU power forever - much worse than anything Castle had in mind
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Immigration and racism in post-war Brit

  • Enoch Powell:
    • Professor of Classics at the age of 25
    • Distinguished service in the army in WWII
    • Entered parliament in 1950 for Conservative seat of Wolverhampton Southwest
    • Served as Junior Hoursing Minister under Eden and minister for Health under Macmillan
    • A rising star - tipped as future party leader
    • Mentor to the young Margaret Thatcher
  • What happened to Powell?
    • The speech caused political storm
    • Powell's career was over - Conservative leader Ted Heath sacked him from the shadow cabinet
    • London Dockers went on strike in support of him
    • Powell was now outside of the mainstream politics despite 74% of the public agreeing with his speech
    • His economic ideas went on to influence Margaret Thatcher
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Immigration and racism in post-war Brit (cont.)

  • Why did Powell's speech cause such a political storm? Why did he divide public opinion so much?
    • It caused a political storm because Powell was sacked from the shadow cabinet
    • In addition to this, Heath never spoke to him again
    • His speech caused many strikes to occur, particularly with the dockers and meat porters in London
    • There was also a protest march in response to his sacking
    • The public opinion was divided due to the contriversial nature of the topic of his speech
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Education 1951-75

  • Why were there moves to replace the Tripartite system?
    • Labour controlled councils, like in London, meant the comprehensive system was a more fair and equal school system
    • Also Local Education Authorities (LEAs) thought they would be able to save money if they put all their resources into one school rather than several different ones
    • Parents of children who had 'failed' the 11+ were more influential than parents of children that had passed. As they were more influential, they put pressure on the LEA to make a fairer school system so their children didn't feel so much like 'failures'
  • How successful were Labour reforms in Education at school level?
    • Were successful:
      • Like 'a grammar school education for all'
      • Larger schools could offer a wider curriculum
      • Equality of opportunities for all families
      • Fairer - no selection by exam aged 11
      • People from all backgrounds would mix
      • Children not condemed as failure at age 11
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Education 1951-75 (cont.)

    • Weren't successful:
      • Mergers and changes caused disruption
      • Middle class parents were unnconvinced
      • Some turned to the direct grant schools and independent schools
      • Standards would fall or hold more brighter pupils back
      • More able students not properly stimulated
      • Schools would become so large - impersonal
      • Large schools difficult to manage and organise
  • What changes came about at university level?
    • Semi university status given to leading colleges of technology and science - 'polytechnics'
      • Focus on teaching then research, Council for National Academic Awards set up
    • Nine colleges of advanced technology became new universities
    • Teacher training colleges were upgraded and named Colleges of education, which offer 4 year degrees
    • 'Open University' was brought into existance - part time courses using TV and Radio to teach students
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Education 1951-75 (cont.)

  • Great Grammar School debate:
    • The publication of 'Circular 10/65' in 1965 paved the way for the abolition of nearly all grammar schools
    • The Comprehensive School system was introduced to replace 11+ selection seen by many at the time as unfair and old fashioned
    • The Wilson govt was not the first or the last govt to abolish grammar schools but did make it a priority
  • The Robbins report:
    • The 1963 Robbins Report predated Labour govt and was accepted by both Conservatives and Labour
    • It called for a doubling of university places
    • New universities were built at York, Warwick, Sussex and East Anglia
    • Only 5% of UK population went to university, compared with 25% in US and 12% in France
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Social reforms

  • Contraceptive pill (1962)
    • For first time in history, women had a safe and reliable method of contraception which they had control over
  • Ending of National Service
    • Young men no longer regimented
    • Hair length grew - a socially rebellious statement
    • Older forms of authority (eg church or schools) no longer so influential in society
  • Roy Jenkins - one of most influential politicians of modern Brit history - as Home secretary 1965-67 he steered through parliament some of most groundbreaking laws on social issue - often viewed by those on left and right as one of great PMs Brit never had
  • Do you think Brit was a more permissive or civilised society?
    • Permissive:
      • Theatres Act 1968 - ended censorship of theatre
      • Divorce Reform Act 1969 - made divorce easier on the grounds of 'marital breakdown'
      • Abortion Act 1967 - legalised abortion
      • Sexual offences act 1967 - decriminalised homosexuality
      • Family Planning Act 1967
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Social reforms (cont.)

    • Local Women Liberation groups - late 1960s
  • Civilised:
    • Dealth penalty 1969 - abolished death penalty
    • Commonwealth immigration Act 1968
    • The Open university 1969
    • The office of Ombudsman 1967
    • Drugs act 1964
    • Voting age reduced from 21 to 18 - 1969
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Britain and the World (1964-70)

  • Wilson and Vietnam:
    • US involvement in Vietnam (1965-75)
    • US pressured Brit to send troops (Australia did)
    • US needed Brits moral/political support rather than military backing
    • Wilson steadfastly refused to involve Brit troops
    • However, Wilson could not criticise US over Vietnam because Brit relied on US financial support to avoid devaluation of the pound
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Withdrawal from 'East of Suez'

  • In the 1960s Brit still had military bases in the middle east and the Far East. This was termed 'East of Suez'
  • By the late 1960s these were becoming both expensive and obsolete
  • USA was keen for Brit to keep these bases to prevent instability and communism incursion is Brit withdrew. They supported the pound to assist Brit
  • A defense paper in 1967 proposed that Brit would withdraw its power from Aden, Dubai, Singapore and Malaysia by the early 1970s
  • Labour govt knew by 1964 reductions in Brit military commitments were required
  • Denis Healey, Defence minister started process of spending cuts to bring defence budget down below £2 billion by 1970 ('67 devaluation)
  • Healeys defence white paper in 1967 set timetable for troops withdrawals from Aden, Middle East, Malaysia and Singapore
  • Wilson criticised for not going far enough or fast enough - he belived in Atlantic alliance and Brit continuing world role
  • No serious debate about Brit giving up costly Brit nuclear deterrent (ie continuing to deploy Polaris)
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Withdrawal from 'East of Suez' (cont.)

  • 1967 commitment made to upgrade Polaris system more advanced (and costly) spec. Winding down Brits overseas defence commitment slow and long term
  • Jan 1968 turning point: drastic spending cuts introduced by Roy Jenkins after 1967 devaluation crisis
  • Withdrawal of East of Suez rapidly accelerated: troops out of Aden, Arabian Gulf, Malaysia and Singapore by end of 1971
  • High tech warplane, TSR2 was abandoned although Wilson and Healey wanted to retain it
  • Heath govt by 1970, discussion about delaying or reversing these withdrawals
  • Heath was reluctant to pull out of the Gulf because so much of Brits oil came from there. Process wasn't complete until 1971 - but old idea of far-flung chain of Brit bases was finished
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Rhodesia crisis

  • Cecil Rhodes - 19th Century imperialist and diamond trader who founded the state of Rhodesia
  • The white settlers
    • Approx 300000 white settlers lived in Rhodesia
    • Brit was keen to give the colony its independence
    • The whites were totally opposed to independence from Brit if that meant black majority rule
    • Rhodesia operated a system of racial segregation like South Africa or the US 'Jim Crow' states
  • Ian Smith - Rhodesia's PM who declared UDI in 1965
  • His cabinet and him signed UDI on 11th November 1965
  • Unilateral declaration of Independence:
    • Means one-sided. Smith's actions were illegal as they had no right to declare independence from the UK without a treaty or agreement
    • BUT - Brit powerless to prevent this act by Smith and White Rhodesia
  • Led to war in Rhodesia - very similar to how Vietnam looked at the time!
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Edward Heath (1970-74)

  • Results of election:
    • 330 - Conservative
    • 287 - Labour
  • 1970 election:
    • Despite TU problems and issues over Rhodesia and Northern Ireland, Wilson's position was reasonably strong because:
      • The economy had improved under new Chancellor Roy Jenkins
      • Wilson was a better campaigner and more popular than Heath
    • When Wilson called an election for April 1970 he was confident of winning
  • Defeat for Wilson:
    • Despite the confidence Labour had a fragile position and Conservatives were consistently ahead in the opinion polls (although Heath's personal ratings were still not impressive)
    • Heath refusal to make immigration an election issue, he sacked Enoch Powell
    • Heath felt he would have a strong govt and would modernise Brit but had no idea an economic downturn was to come in 73-4
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Edward Heath (1970-74) (cont.)

  • Like Wilson, Heath went to a state school, and therefore a digression from the previous Etonian Conservative leaders
  • He was never devious and many colleagues regarded him too honest for his own good and not skillful enough at pleasing political allies
  • Chris Rowe argues that Heath was 'good at policies not politics'
  • Those in his cabinet who strongly supported him included Chancellor, Anthony Barber, the NI secretary Willie Whitelaw and Employment minister Jim prior
  • Those in his cabinet who were lukewarm towards his economic policies include Sir Keith Joseph and Education Secretary Margaret Thatcher
  • Heaths Aims:
    • To secure Brits entry to the EEC, having been chief negotiator in 1961-63
    • To develop policies on industrial relations economic modernisation
    • In Jan 1970 Conservatives held Selsdon Park meeting, setting out tough approaches to economic problems such as allowing inefficient businesses to go bankrupt rather than propping them up with state aid.
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EH -Entry into EEC

  • Firstly, Heath needed parliamentary approval, although there were doubters within the Conservative party, especially those who believed in the Commonwealth
  • The Labour party were divided over the Europe issue, some were pro such as Roy Jenkins, ex-chancellor, however the Labour left was hostile. The Labour leadership were neither for or against but wanted united Labour party
  • In the end, 69 rebel Labour MPs voted for and helped the Conservatives win the vote. This left Labour badly split
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EH - Northern Ireland

  • Heath inherited problems in NI since 1968, the civil rights movement challenged the domination of the Belfast parliament of the Protestant Unionists
  • There was sectrarian violence (fighting between sects of a religion or ideology) in this case between Protestants and Catholics and the Brit army struggled to keep the peace
  • Since 1912 the Ulster Unionists had been part of Conservative Party but now Heath felt he had to force them to accept change. At first, Heath supported Belfast govt leader, Brian Faulkner and his policy of internment which was to lock terror suspects up without trial. The policy was ineffective and isolated nationalist communities
  • Many regarded the Brit army as the enemy and a demonstration in Derry on 30th Jan 1972 led to soldiers firing live ammunition and killing 13 civilians. This is known as 'Bloody Sunday'
  • Heath suspended the Belfast parliament and in 1973 Heath and Whitelaw came up with the Sunningdale agreement, a plan for a power sharing govt, however, due to miners strike and political crisis, Sunningdale Agreement collapsed and violence would continue for another 24 years.
  • Unionists - normally Protestant, although not always and believe in the union of NI with Brit
  • Nationalists - wish to unite NI with ROI to one nation - Ireland
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EH - The famous 'U-turn'

  • Heath U-turned in 1972 over free-enterprise principles. Desire to maintain full employment so he gave state aid to key industries especially Rolls Royce
  • This U-turn was heavily criticised by Enoch Powell, Sir Keith Joseph and Margaret Thatcher who all opposed state intervention in industry
  • As a result a myth took hold that he easily gave up and lacked direction but in reality his belief in 'One-nation Conservatism' remainsed consistent
  • One-nation Conservatism reflects the belief that societies exist and develop organically, and that members within them have obligations towards each other. There is particular emphasis on the paternalistic obligation of the upper classes to those classes below them.
  • Stagflation in Brit led to need for state aid in some key industries, such as Rolls Royce, which demonstrated Heath doing a U-turn
  • Rolls Royce had to be nationalised (control transferred from private ownership to the state) in 1971
  • Govt money was also given to Upper Clyde Shipbuilders to prevent bankruptcy
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EH - 1973 OPEC oil Crisis

  • OPEC - Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, a cartel formed under the leadership of Saudi Arabia to protect the interests of oil exporting countries from the power of advanced industrial economies. OPEC countries fixed production level so that prices would not fall too low when supply was plentiful
  • Due to the Yom Kippur war in the Middle East, OPEC declared an oil embargo and exports stopped
  • Prices rose up to four times and long queues formed outside petrol stations
  • Due to this, the NUM demanded a huge pay rise in Nov 1973 as coal would be more in demand and they felt this was a good opportunity to exploit the situation
  • In Dec, Heath announced a 3 day working week from Jan until 7 March 1974. Commercial users of electricity limited to three specified days each week and prohibited from working longer hours on those days. Services deemed essential (eg hospitals, supermarkets) were exempt. Television companies were required to cease broadcasting at 10:30 pm
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EH - Miners strike 1974

  • Structure of NUM
    • Joe Gormley, leader of the NUM was moderate, however, one leader, Mick McGahey was a communist and Arthur Scargill was a radical
  • Many felt the NUM had a good case for improved pay and conditions to match recent rises in other industries, despite the NUM winning a big pay award after their 1972 strike. In a way, this victory demonstrated that industrial muscle was strong enough to get its own way
  • Heath moved Willie Whitelaw from the NI Office to be minister of employment to use his persuasion skills on Gormley, this failed and in Jan 1974 the NUM called a strike
  • The strike received massive support despite the 3-day week, but the shortage of coal and rising oil prices led to a balance-of-payments crisis. Heath called a general election for Feb 1974 and despite favourable opinion polls, Labour won by 5 seats
  • Indirectly, the miners strike had brought down the govt
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EH - Death of Macleod and the 'milk snatcher'

  • Heath hoped that Iain Macleod, the new chancellor would be the Tory equivalent to Roy Jenkins but he died suddenly in 1970 at the age of 56 and so a key asset was removed from Heath's team.
  • The new chancellor, Anthony Barber introduced tax cuts in public spending, one of which was the ending of free school milk for over 7s
  • Ending Attlees 1946 Free Milk Act which gave 1/3 of a pint of milk each day to all children under 18
  • The little known education minister, Margaret Thatcher had thrown herself into the limelight, and earned the unfortunate nickname 'the milk-snatcher' which haunted her throughout her career
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EH - The 'Barber boom'

  • The Barber boom, as it became known saw a rapid rise in wage inflation
  • Many businessmen blamed this rise on the power of the TUs and thier willingnes to hold the country to ransom through their strike action
  • However, inflation did not see a rise in economic growth, and unemployment actually increased which is unusual at the same time as inflation.
  • This became known by the term 'stagflation' a word invented by economists to describe the unusual combination of inflation and stagnant growth.
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EH - Industrial Relations Act

  • Similar to Castle's In Place of Strife it:
    • Set up an Industrial Relations Court
    • Provided for strike ballots
    • Created a 'cooling off' period
  • Both the TUC and CBI opposed the Industrial Relations Act, the Industrial Relations Court was ineffective, unemployment rose over 1 million, major strikes in 1972; the miners in Jan and the railwaymen 3 months later
  • CBI - Confederation of British Industry
  • The miners strike was during a very cold winter and lasted 6 weeks. The movement of coal around the country virtually stopped. In the end Joe Gormley negotiated a generous wage settlement but this created a right-wing backlash against excessive union power
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Heath summary

  • Positive:
    • Efficient and pragmatic politician
    • Was committed to realistic policies for a stonger economy and better economic modernisation
    • 1973 - Brit successfully entered EEC
    • Enormous welfare spending enriched the lower levels of society
    • 1972 Local Govt Acts
    • Lowered unemployment by 1974 using Keynesian economics - the Barber Boom (named after 1970 Chancellor Anthony Barber)
    • Due to how Heath had essentially lost all control of his govt by 1974, when Labour inherited this Brit it was in a much worse state than 1964, paving way for Thatcher to take over
  • Negative:
    • Bad luck timing - becoming PM at end of post-war consensus
    • Seen as very grumpy and rude when dealing with others
    • U-Turn - 1971-72 - Heath went back on his election promises to not bail out failing businesses, by giving govt aid to key (but unprofitable) industries
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Heath summary (cont.)

  • 1973 - OPEC oil crisis - fuel embargo on oil resulted in serious socio-economic consequences for Brit
  • High unemployment and still no economic modernisation. This soon led to 'stagflation', with inflation growing but the economy not moving with it
  • 1971 - Thatchers banning of free school milk
  • Industrial Relations Act 1971 - Lost Heath a lot support from TUs
  • 1973 - imposition of a 3 day week  - Brit industry and society shut down for 4 days of the week sue to energy and economic problems
  • 1974 - 'Who governs Brit?' - TU power was growing out of control, with frequent striking (mostly miners and other heavy industry workers) and leadership of Gormley, McGahey and Scargill, who were at war with the Heath govt
  • Heath inherited the long-standing problem of NI. Irish protestors grew in number and anger until Bloody Sunday (1972), a violent battle between the Brit Army and eventually, the 1973 Sunningdale Agreement was reached
  • The 1973 Sunningdale Agreement also failed, due to Heath being distracted by domestic economic problems
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Heath summary (cont.)

    • Sanctions placed on South Africa (Rhodesia Crisis) did very little and Heath was seen as weak and incompetent. Also, the approach divided the Conservative Party.
    • Heath damaged the 'special relationship' by refusing to involve himself in Vietnam War and by moving closer to European integration
    • Rumours about possible homosexuality (or asexuality) damaged his image
  • How is Heaths govt remembered?
    • Edward Heath finally negotiated Brit entry into the EEC - a great personal triumph
    • His record in govt is a disappointing one overall
    • The oil crisis of 1973 (oil quadrupled in price) turned into an economic and energy crisis for Brit
    • Determined to finally deal with 'over powerful' TUs - his govt faced a crippling coal miners strike which caused power cuts in 1974
  • What happened to him?
    • Heath had lost three out of four elections as party leader (1966, Feb 1974, Oct 1974)
    • He was seen as a failure by many in his party
    • Margaret Thatcher challenged him to become party leader on 18 Sep 1975. She won the first and second round of voting unexpectedly (130/119 votes - Heath resigned)
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February 1974 election

  • Inconclusive and led to a hung parliament as Labour only won by 4 seats
  • Labour 301 seats, Conservative 297, Liberals 14 and other 23
  • Hung parliament meant it was not conclusive that Wilson would lead the next govt it in theory the Liberal Party could have joined the Tories to get Heath back into power
  • Interestingly, along with the growth of Liberal seats, there is also an increased number of seats in other parties for example, Nationalists parties from Scotland, Wales, and NI. If Heath gained support of these parties, he could have continued as PM
  • If Heath had not upset Ulster Unionists, he would have won anyway, however Enoch Powell had joined the Unionists and was not prepared to support Heath and campaigned against him
  • For a few days, Heath attempted to make a deal with the Liberals but failed and on March 4th 1974, Wilson was back in power
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Wilson's return

  • Wilson was far from a free-hand in parliament and relied on other parties to pass legislation
  • The economic situation was very poor
  • The Labour party were less united than ever
  • Wilson himself was older, less energetic and less certain of how he wanted to govern
  • He was anxious to call another election to get a working majority (enough votes in the House of Commons to defeat all other parties, even if they all combined together)
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Wilson's aims Feb-Oct

  • Wilson decided against making a deal with the Liberals as he did not want to compromise and instead ruled without a majority, believing there would be another election soon anyway
  • Wilson abolished the Industrial Relations Act and the pay board, this sent a message to the unions that Wilson was not looking for any confrontations
  • Wilson's new chancellor, Denis Healey issued two budgets, one in March and then July aiming to deal with the economic crisis without annoying the TUs
  • October 1974 election:
    • By Oct 1974, Wilson felt safe enough to call another election to gain a working majority
    • Voters still associated Heath and Conservatives with strikes and 3-day week
    • Wilson only just won his working majority by 3 seats by their lead over the Conservatives was 42 seats - to get majority needed over 318
    • Labour 319 seats, Conservative 277, Liberals 13 and other 26
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Wilson's aims after Oct 1974

  • Wilson's main aims for his second term were self-preservation and avoidance of disasters
  • His previous drive for technology and modernisation had gone 
  • He now focused on domestic policy and party unity
  • Previously he was against EEC membership when Heath called a referendum in '72, Wilson now let it go ahead to try and stop splits within the party. The EEC campaign was gaining voter support and a lot of money was put into the 'yes' campaign by business supporters. They also had characters such as Heath and Roy Jenkins leading the 'yes' campaign as opposed to Enoch Powell and Micheal Foot who led the 'no' campaign
  • In July 1975, 17 million voted 'yes' and 8 million voted 'no'. Britains membership was confirmed and Wilson avoided a Labour split
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The end of Wilson as PM

  • Wilson's last period in office:
    • 16 March 1976 - Wilson made a surprise announcement of his resignation
    • Claimed he always planned to retire at 60
  • Industrial issues: 1974-76
    • 1973 - negotiated Social Contract with TU Congress
    • Sent clear message govt not looking for any confrontations
    • Agreement quickly reached with National Union of Miners allowing Wilson to end state of emergency and 3 day week
    • 2 left wingers, Tony Benn and Michael Foot, put in charge of departments of industry and employment
    • W new chancellor Denis Healey issued 2 budgets, first in March and July aiming to deal with economic crisis without annoying TU
    • Social Contact: involve voluntary pay restraint by the TU and in return the govt would repeal Heath's Industrial Act and pay board
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Economic reforms 1974-76

  • Surge in inflation due to rush of large wage increases that were deemed necessary to get out of industrial crisis that brought Heath down
  • Jan 1975 - Chancellor made speech in Leeds, giving stern warning of dangers - wage inflation caused unemployment and vital to control public spending
  • April 1975 - Healeys budget imposed steep rises in taxation and public spending cut
  • National Enterprise Board set up in 1974 under Tony Benn to administer govts share holdings in private companies - could also give financial aid
  • While NEBs aim to increase investment, by 1975 effectivness being questioned
  • Govts decision to nationalise the failing car manufacturer British Leyland caused renewed controversy about role of govt in rescuing 'Lame duck' industries
  • Becoming apparent Social Contract not limiting wage demands
  • 1975 - more formal pay restraints policy investments
  • Shifts in policy intensified party divisions
  • Left wingers - Michael Foot and Tony Benn did not want to put so much pressure on unions and believed in State intervention in industry
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James Callaghan

  • Became leader beating the left wing Michael Foot
  • Callaghan most experienced:
    • Been chancellor 1964-67 before devaluation crisis
    • Had been Home secretary and Foreign secretary
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The IMF crisis of 1976

  • In Sep 1976 Brit faced national bankruptcy no inflation ran almost out of control
  • This partly caused by effects of 1973 oil crisis but also by Brit industrial decline and national debt 
  • The govt was forced to apply to the IMF for a £2.3 billion loan to save Brit from going bankrupt
  • Humiliation as only poor countries usually applied for IMF loans
  • The IMF would only grant the loan if UK govt agreed to make big cuts in spending on public services like NHS, pensions and schools
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  • 1977 - Labour majority disappeared - Callaghan strengthed govt by making 'Lib-Lab pact'
  • Able to defeat vote of no confidence tabled by Conservative party
  • Deal meant 12 Liberal MPs agreed to vote govt in parliament and Callaghan promised to move ahead with devolution for Wales and Scotland
  • Nationalists in Scotland and Wales, who had been growing in strength since late 1960s, welcomed opportunity but majority of MPs in Conservative and many in Labour against it
  • Debates in Parliament but eventually 1978 devolution Acts for Scotland and Wales passed opening way for referendums
  • Terms of referendum made so unlikely devolution would pass
  • Labour MP opposed to devolution inserted clause that at least 40% of electorate had to approve devolution in order for it to pass
  • Scotland turnout 62% - Yes - 51.6% - No - 48.4%
  • Wales turnout 59% - Yes - 20.3% - No - 79.7%
  • Referendum held on 1 March 1979
  • Vote in Wales against it; in Scotland more people voted in favour of it than against, but rules stating a simple majority not enough meant devolution defeated
  • Disappointed Scottish nationalist MPs withdrew support from Labour
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Devolution (cont.)

  • Prove decisive in aftermath of events of winter of 1978-79
  • Devolution: transfer of powers to a lower level of govt
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Winter of discontent

  • Autumn of 1978 - TUC rejected Labour govts proposed wage increase limit of 5%
  • Encouraged TUs to put in higher demands
  • Ford lorry drivers achieved 15% increase in Dec after 9 week strike - more unions followed example
  • Wave of industrial action included disruption to transport, through strikes by lorry drivers and train drivers union ASLEEF
  • Also shock and outrage in reaction to strikes by public sector workers, such as hospital porters and clerical staff in local councils and, above all, by dustmen and grave diggers
  • Industrial unrest that gripped Brit in winter of 1978-79 was not on massive scale and was not serious challenge to govt as miners strike in 1974
  • Disputes brought to end in March 1979 and average pay increase achieved was 10% but psychological effect devastating impact on public mood
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Problems of Northern Ireland

  • Events of troubles 1974-79:
    • 14 May 1974 - Ulster Workers Council strike
    • 17 May 1974 - Loyalist car bombs kill 26 in Dublin and 7 in Monaghan
    • 28 May 1974 - Sunningdale Agreement collapses
    • Oct 1974 - Guildford pub bomb kills 5
    • Nov 1974 - Birmingham pub bomb kills 19
    • Oct 1975 - 12 people killed in NI in a series of UVF attacts
    • Oct 1976 - Republican prisoners began the 'blanket protest'
    • March 1979 - Airey Neave, Conservative spokesman on NI killed by IRA car bomb in House of Commons car park
  • Although Heath govt had negotiated Sunningdale Agreement with UUP, SDLP and Alliance, both Loyalists and republicans were opposed and UUP were turning against it
  • Ulster Workers Council set up by shipyard worker, Harry Murray and it was determined to bring down executive
    • Announced strike to start 15 May 1974
    • Strike severely limited power and communications and Brit govt declared state of emergency
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Problems of Northern Ireland (cont.)

    • Within a fortnight, Faulkner resigned as chief executive of power sharing
    • Wilson forced to impose direct rule
    • Sunningdale agreement collapsed
  • Wilson announced establishment of Northern Irish Constitution Convention, an elected body that would determine the future of govt in NI
  • Elections in July 1975 resulted in majority for unionists who opposed any form of power sharing
  • Agreement with nationalists not possible. Convention dissolved in 1976
  • 1976 - special category status was removed from terrorist prisoners; meant they were no longer considered political prisoners but would be treated as criminals
  • Disliked by paramilitaries, who believed that they were engaged in war
  • As criminals, had to wear prison uniform. Refusal led to 'blanket protest' by WLA and IRA prisoners whereby prisoners were either naked/wore only blankets
  • Esculated to become 'Dirty protest' after 1978
  • Republican prisoners, alleging ill treatment by prison guards, refused to leave cells
  • Meant they were unable to 'slop out' and instead smeared excrement on cell walls
  • 1979 - over 250 prisoners taking part in protest and demands growing for them to regain their political status
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