Heath's Premiership 1970-74

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  • Heath was deemed the "selsdon man", and this referred to a new type of Conservatism, the 'new right' that Heath had advocated - run up to the 1970 election.
  • Industrail relations Act 1971 (extension of Wilson's 'In Place of Strife' White paper 1969), it enforced a restriction on the rights of workers to strike by introducing the concept of fair practice, a national relations court, in addition making it a neccesity for TU to register with the government in orfer for it to be able to strike. As soon as the act was passed, the TUC resisted by formally voting to not co-operate with the government measures. The number of working days lost actually increased following the act, 23.9m in 1972.
  • It was the National Union of Miners that forced the issue. In 1972 Miners strike, due to the steady decline in the industry, the number of miners had been reduced from 700,000 (1957) to below 300,000, also in a joint bid to gain a wage increase called a strike, effectively using flying pickets to bring the movement of coal to a standstill. Instead of giving into the miners, Heath announced a '3 day week'  in December 1973 predicting the government would last longer than the miners. When the miner's dispute was eventually settled, the NUM gained a 21% wage increase, a figure 3x what the employers had originally offered.
  • Embolded by it's success, the NUM went on strike early in 1974 in pursuit of a further wage demand. Heath called an immediate election, Labour was victorious by 4 seats. 
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Political election 1970

Conservatives 330 seats

Labour 287 seats

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Heath's 'new right' approach was evident in his handing of the economy during 1970-74:

  • Anothony Barber, COE, early measured included income tax cuts, reductions in governement spending and the scrapping of the Prices and Incomes board. 
  • One particular cut that made the government unpopular was the withdrawal of fee school milk. Whatever the economic arguement might have been for such measures, it represented a breakdown in public relations. 
  • 1970 conference at Seldon Park in which a meeting set out a tough approach towards economic problems, eg "not help the lame ducks of business".
  • U turns, Rolls Roynce 1970, Upper Clyde subsidary £35m
  • Unemployment dropped sharply to 500,00
  • The international oil price crisis in 1973. Between 1973 and 1980 the cost of oil increased $2 to £35 per barrel. Annual inflation rate rose to 16%, interest rate rose to 15%, value of the sterling from $2.00 to £1.57
  • End of 1973, BOP - = -£1 bn, unemployment 850,000
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  • Due to the minder's strike in 1973-74 a three day week was introduced to conserve energy, although this arguably had little economic effect to Britain as the level of production only mildly decreased, it had a greater impact on the moral of society. The speed limit was reduced by 5mph to 50mph, tv was shut down at 10:30pm every night, in addition to the implementation of petrol rationing books. 
  • Heath managed to increase the school leaving age to 16years (Wilson had failed to do so)
  • Implemented the Family Income supplement which gave fuel rebates to poor families and increased child benefits. 
  • 1972 film, 'A clockwork orange society'
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International - Northern Ireland

  • In 1968, the Civil rights movement in Northern Ireland had challenged the protestant Union domination of the Belfast Parliament. 
  • In 1969 Wilson sent in British troops due to the violence between Catholics and Protestants within Ireland. 
  • By the time Heath came to office, the situation had changed. The continued existence of a Unionist dominated Stormont government meant that the Catholics/nationalist community began to regard the British Army as defenders of Unionism. 
  • The first British solder was killed in Feb 1971 by the provisional IRA. 
  • Heath made a grave error, in 1971 he agreed to the introduction of internment without trial, proposed by the Northern Ireland Prime Minister. With poor police and military, intelligence about who was in the IRA, British trrops and the RUC arrested large numbers of Catholic and nationalists. 
  • The policy of using the army and police to estore law and order in the Catholic/nationalist community reached crisis point on january 30th 1972. An illegal civil rights march in Derry was stopped by RU and the Army. 13 civillians killed. 
  • 1973 Sunningdale agreement, an attempt to establish power sharing, however largely undermined by the political crisis in Britain and the plan feel though. 
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