The 1970's

The Heath Government

  • Heath won the election in 1970. Wilson's failures in industrial relations, foreign policy and devaluation meant he was no longer a viable option. 
  • Heath - normal man, from a lower middle class upbringing. Reformed the party reducing the influence of traditional aristocratic leadership. 
  • Had a new vision for the Conservative party which he outlined at the 1970 party conference in Selsdon Park - less government intervention in the economy (wanted to move away from the PWC), tax reforms, better law and order, cuts to public spending and spending on ''lame duck industries''. 
  • Wilson - created the metaphorical character ''Selsdon Man'' - a One Nation Tory who was only involved in his own interests and didn't want to help anybody else. 
  • He was influenced by the thinking of the ''new right'' also supported by Margaret Thatcher. 
  • There were mant changes brought under Heath. School leaving age was raised to 16, men and women were proposed equal pay and the British currency went decimal. However, the administration was dominated by issues in the economy and industrial relations. 
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Heath's U-turn

  • Heath proposed that he would not continue to help ''lame duck'' industries and would reduce government intervention in the economy. 
  • By 1971, inflation had reached 15% due to rising prices and a stress on the economg by striking workers who demanded greater pay in excess of rising prices. 
  • However, as unemployment began to rise (exceeding 1m) - the government which had wanted to reduce state intervention in industry wanted to take action. In 1971, Britain nationalised failing industry Rolls Royce and injected funds into saving the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders additionally. They received £55 million to stay afloat. 
  • In 1972, the government returned to controlling incomes and prices. 
  • This was known as his ''U-turn''
  • This was also caused by many other factors such as the Barber Boom - Anthony Barber who cut taxes to try and increased investment, meant inflation rose rapidly. 
  • The Nixon Shock in 1971 meant a devaluation of the $ and thus, the £. 
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Industrial Relations

  • Heath came to power determined to reform industrial relations. One problem was that many strikes were unofficial and a ballot was rarely called. To address this issues, Heath passed the Industrial Relations Act 1971. 
  • Intended to be an extension of In Place of Strife and sought to solve difference between unions and the government. However, it made unions hate the government even more. 
  • It proposed a National Industrial Relations Court, set up to deal with any issues and the validity of a stirke. Unions had to register and could face fines if any industrial reaction was felt to be unwarranted. Removed power from unions in pay negotiations. 
  • The trade unions however, refused to cooperate and refused to even acknowledge the assembly of the industrial relations court. The Act failed and it was consequently dropped. 
  • Strikes were growing and there were over 2,500 strikes in 1973. Over 23 million days were lost. 
  • There were strikes in the years 1972 and 73 due to the closure of pits and poor wages. The miners were offered a 13% pay increase but this was rejected. In 1973, the miners succeeded and were given a 21% pay increase, much to the government's dismay. This economic complication coincided with the OPEC crisis. 
  • 1973 - due to growing strikes and industrial discontent Heath announced that there would be a 3-day working week from the beginning of 1974. This was an attempt to conserve energy amid the discontent and strikes. This national crisis saw many sharing baths, shortened TV hours and power cuts. 
  • In 1974, the miners' rejected a further 16.5% pay increase and called a national strike. 
  • Heath called for a general electionn in 1974 with the slogan ''who governs Britain?"
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The OPEC Crisis 1973

  • Yom-Kippur War in the Middle East caused OPEC to impose oil sanctions on Britain and its neighbours. 
  • Britain had always relied on cheap fuel, but amid the crisis, fuel prices rocketed from $2 a barrell to $35 between 1973 and 1980. The age of cheap fuel was over and Britain greatly suffered. 
  • There were severe fuel shortages which greatly affected the imposition of the 3 day week. The speed limits on roads were limited to just 50 mph. 
  • Foreign imports became much more expensive. 
  • The £ fell to $1.50 which led to huge budget deficits. 
  • Inflation was 16% by 1974 and the budget deficit reached £1billion. 
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The Troubles in Northern Ireland

  • .Heath attempted to work closely with the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party Brian Faulkner. 
  • In 1971, the government introduced internment to remove potential troublemakers by arresting them without trial. The problem was that internment netted mainly innocent people and mainly Catholic civil rights protestors. Jim McVeigh an IRA commander is quoted as saying internment ''was the best recruiting tool the IRA ever had". 
  • 1972 - Bloody Sunday in Londonderry. British army shoot Catholic protestors (who were protesting against internment and some campaigning for civil rights). 14 were killed and it only exacerbated the terrorist activies of the IRA. 
  • Following Bloody Sunday - the British Embassy in Dublin was burnt down and Heath suspended Stormont Parliament and imposed direct rule from Westminster and employed Willie Whitelaw as secretary of state because he was a good negotiator. 
  • Heath wanted an end to IRA terrorism but also a long term solution to the Troubles and cooperation with the main Irish and Northern Irish political parties. 
  • In 1973 - Heath and Whitelaw negotiated the Sunningdale Agreement as a potential solution to the Troubles. It sought to bring together nationalist parties and unionist parties such as the SLDP and the Alliance. It promised a power sharing executive between both nationalists and unionists. A Northern Ireland Assembly elected under a system of proportional representation and a Council of Ireland that would have some input in Northern Ireland. 
  • However, the Sunningdale Agreement failed. 11 of the 12 constituencies returned their candidates and the proposal was shunned by nationalist parties. The violence continued and a solution would not be found until 1998. Issues in mainland Britain further prevented the agreement from going ahead e.g miners' strike and election. 
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The Labour governments

  • Wilson came back into power in 1974 but he'd inherited a bad economic situation - 15% inflation and a £3bn budget deficit. 
  • The situation with Northern Ireland needed to be dealt with. 
  • Wilson wanted to seem more competent than Heath and so was quick in drafting proposals to end discontent with unions. 
  • However, Wilson was now older and less energetic. 
  • His political fortune is perhaps owed to Heath's failure rather than his own successes. 
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Economy - Wilson and Callaghan

  • Inherited a poor economic situation with inflation @ 15% and a budget deficit of £3bn. 
  • Commodity prices increased by 160% between 1971 and 1974, mainly due to CAP contributions caused by the EEC. 
  • Social Contract introduced to attempt to reduce inflation and get the unions on the governments' side. Was a repeal of the Industrial Relations Act 1971. 
  • However, the Social Contract was not as succesful as Denis Healey had hoped when he drafted the 1975 budget. The surge of wage increases meant that by 1975 - inflation was at 24%. The government however, managed to reduce this down to 16% by the next year. 
  • Tony Benn was put in charge of industry negotiations and created the National Enterprise Board in 1975 to invest in failing firms. The government was criticised when it heavily invested in British Leyland in 1975 and nationalised British Aerospace. 
  • Left-wingers Tony Benn and Michael Foot believed in more state intervention which caused party divisions. 
  • Because the economy was in decline - Britain had to apply for an IMF loan in 1976 because the £ was worth so little. It was only allowed to do so if it cut government spending afterwards (which it did). 
  • The economic situation wasn't horrendous and Callaghan managed to get inflation down to 10%. The fortune of North Sea oil also helped develop the economy but Britain was heavily associated with economic decline and the people viewed the 70"s as time of hardship. 
  • Callaghan privatised BP in 1978 - for £500 mn.
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  • In 1977, Callaghan promised a referendum on Scottish and Welsh devolution. 
  • In 1979 - the referendum proved that there were to be no Scottish or Welsh Parliaments. 
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Industrial Relations

  • Social Contract - negotiated in 1973 whilst Wilson was out of office. 
  • Restricted the pay of unions ''voluntary pay restraint''. A repeal of the 1971 Industrial Relations Act. Proved more successful than Industrial Relations Act and was more greatly accepted by the unions e.g TUC. 
  • 1975 - creation of the National Enterprise Board (NEB - led by Tony Benn). Questioned since it helped failing industries a lot. 
  • In the autumn of 1978, the TUC rejected the governments proposals of a wage increase limit of 5%. 
  • In the midst of pay demands etc. the government refused and many major industries went on strike. 
  • The Winter of Discontent saw dustbins unemptied, hospital workers on strike and in extreme circumstances, Liverpool cemetry workers refusing to bury the dead. 
  • Labour's special relationship with the unions had clearly broken down, however, it was caused by a range of factors such as poor economic fortune (rising prices and inflation and cuts to government spending). 
  • Callaghan called a general election in 1979 and lost to Margaret Thatcher whose government would be very different. 
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Northern Ireland

  • The Troubles greatly worsened after the collapse of the Sunningdale Agreement. The IRA performed several attacks on mainland Britain such as in Birmingham in 1974 and 1979 when Airey Neave and Lord Mountbatten were both assassinated. 
  • Strikes in 1974 from unionist supporters ultimately led to the suspension of the power sharing executive. 
  • Brian Faulkner resigned as chief secretary of the power sharing executive. Wilson was forced to reimpose direct rule. This marked the failure of the Sunningdale Agreement. 
  • The Troubles continued. Wilson announded the establishment of a Northern Irish Constitution Convention - an elected body that would determine the future of Northern Ireland. The Convention was dissolved in 1976 because unionists refused to cooperate with nationalists. 
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Society and Cultural Change

  • Progression of 2nd wave feminism. 1971 saw the oral contraceptive pill available on the NHS for the first time. In 1970 - the Equal Pay Act (condition of the EEC) was passed following issues in the 1960s (e.g Dagenham Strikes). It came into effect in 1975 under Wilson. While women were still not completely equal to men - their wages did rise from 59% of men's wages to 70%. 
  • Sex Discrimination Act 1975 - outlawed sexual discrimination in the workplace and saw the creation of the Equal Opportunities Commission to ensure fair employment practices were observed. In 1979 - the TUC published a charter ''Equality for Women in Trade Unions'' but this showed slow progress. The first women's **** refuge centre opened in 1976. Erin Pizzey set up the first women's refuge in London. 
  • Immigration increased during the 1970s with many immigrants coming from India, Uganda and Bangladesh. By 1974 1 million immigrants had arrived in Britain. However, Britain was still largely prejudiced against those of a different race and sought to combat this with the Race Relations Act 1976 - this outlawed ''stop and search'' procedures as well as indirect discrimination i.e black people being refused a job. It established the Commission for Racial Equality which had the power to instigate investigations and to compel witnesses to appear in front of it. 
  • Black proetsts often caused clashes with police and in 1979 - Blair Peach, a white protestor from NZ was killed. A version of US black power movement the Black Panthers was replicated in England. 
  • The surge of these black power movements further led to racist backlash. The emergence of the National Front in the 70s gained momentum in areas where immigration was high. The National Front also attracted Skinheads who were stereotyped to be violent and became involved in racial attacks such as ''****-bashing''. However other young people fought against racist attitudes e.g ''Rock Against Racism'' in 1976 led by guitarist Eric Clapton. 
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Young People in the 70s.

  • Young people started adapting more of their own views in the 1970s rather than holding the conservative views of their parents like they had in the 1960s. 
  • Many young people got into punk rock which was a shock to the British system. However, punk supporters were designed to shock and fabricated their fashions around surprising people. Punk created a moral panic - young people were associated with ''moshing'' and spitting and punching each other during Punk rock concerts. 
  • The Sex Pistols released a controversial single called ''God save the Queen'' in 1977 during the Queen's Silver Jubilee. The BBC refused to play it but it still reached No.2 in the charts. 
  • Skinheads developed from Mod culture and became violent towards the end of the 70s. While initially they'd been apolitical they started developing more fascist ideas and many joined marches with the National Front in the late 70s. 
  • Football hooliganism was also a growing issue and became known as the ''English disease''. 
  • However, for many this was just a phase. 
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Foreign Policy

  • In 1973 - Britain joined the EEC after the death of Charles de Gaulle. Both Labour and Conservative parties were divided on this issue and would continue to be for the foreesable future. In 1971, when British application was being prepared - it was likely that it would be accepted. France was now led by Georges Pompidou who was convinced Europe needed Britain as much as Britain needed Europe. 
  • EU referendum 1975 - characterised by EU scepticism. Many were Eurosceptic in the 1970's, especially Labour who were split over what membership meant for trade union rights and working conditions. Left wing leader Tony Benn called for a referendum. Support of membership won with 67% of the vote. 
  • The special relationship was not as prominent as it had been in the 50's or what it would be in the 80's but Heath had a strong personal relationship with President Nixon. However, there were tensions during the Yom Kippur War. 
  • The 70's represented a period of detente - an easing of foreign tensions between the Western powers and the Communist powers. In 1979, Soviet union invaded Afghanistan to try and convert the country to Communism. In 1978, a Bulgarian dissent was poisoned in London by an umbrella tip. The KGB were suspected of being behind it. 
  • Relations with China improved as Nixon announced a thawing of relations in 1971. In 1974, China gave 2 pandas to Britain as a diplomatic gift.
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