the sixties


wilson and labour governments

When Wilson entered downing street in 1964, labour seemed to be more in touch with the social and cultural trends of the 60s.

By 1966 labour Was able to consolidate its position with a further election victory that gave it a big majority. even though the Conservative Party had to replace home as a leader with the more modern looking Heath. heath was no match for Wilson and Wilson with the better politician tactically and was able to portray a more attractive image to voters while he came across as stiff and lacking personality.  the Labour Party got 163 seats and won 47.9% of the votes while the Conservative Party won 253 seats and won 41.9% of the votes.

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wilson's ideology and leadership

At first, Wilson had appeared to be on the left of the Labour Party as he had been a bevanite resigning in 1950 over prescription charges. however, he also served in Gaitskell’s cabinet. nevertheless, he challenged Gaitskill the leadership from the left in 1961 he lost but this made him the left’s obvious candidate in the future. in other ways, though he did not seem to be of the left he supported Britain's nuclear deterrent and attempt to reform the trade unions.critics might argue that he was just an opportunist. but he did successfully link the Labour Party to modernization in contrast to what they were described as the wasted Years of the conservative government.this modernization was reflected in Wilson’s own image. he was seen as classless and image far removed from the old Etonian style of Eden, MacMillan and home. who was the first Prime Minister to be educated at a state secondary school and was relaxed on TV. 

however, in private, he was anxious and insecure about his leadership.  he was conscious of balancing out his potential rivals that he would remain unchallenged, Wilson also relied heavily on a personal team of trusted advisors from outside the government and civil service. his team was dominated by the personality of Marcia Williams his personal political secretary,  who took part in the informal discussions included economic advisers and a few in a circle MPs. it prevented ministers from having access to him

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wilson's policies and economic problems part 1

Modernization of the British economy was one of the key priorities for Labour government. by 1964 it was widely accepted that Britain was lagging behind in other countries such as West Berlin and Japan,

 the affluence of the post-war boom had not been reflected in productivity growth rates. seem to be trapped in the cycle of stop-go with bursts of prosperity leading to inflation runs of the pound and regular crisis over the balance of payments. reorganizing the economy to break out of this cycle was the key aim of his government in 1964.

 moreover, the Labour government had inherited a deficit of 800 million.  the two classic economic solutions to this kind of problem where deflation or devaluation. but Wilson and his chancellor of the exchequer James Callaghan did not want to do either.

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wilson's policies and economic problems part 2

 deflation would support the value of the pound and preventing inflation. but deflation was the old stop and go approach at the labour party was determined to get rid of. moreover, there were fears that it was Stop labour government from meeting it as manifesto Commitments of extra spending on welfare and technology.

 Devaluation would make imports more expensive and help exports by making British goods cheaper in other countries this would turn help the balance of payments. but devaluation would not only make Britain look weaker in the world he will make Britain actually weaker and it would have to scale back in activities across the globe. Wilson also fear that the Labour Party would gain the reputation as a party of devaluation as it already devalued the pound under Attlee in 1949.

 instead, Wilson was convinced that problems could be solved by careful management and planning. any department -the Department of economic affairs or DEA was set up and led by George Brown

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wilson's policies and economic problems part 3

Brown set of targets and devise a national system of economic planning councils. he also tried to establish voluntary agreements about wages and prices with industrialists, trade union leaders, and civil servants. the aim was to secure the restraint needed to prevent inflation arising which the government would then need to stop with controls. in this way, the stop-go cycle of the 1950s would be avoided. but Brown's economic proposals came to nothing. they did not have united government support. in 1966 Wilson moved Brown to the ministry of foreign affairs and a DEA  was abandoned in 1967. instead of the government brought in prices and incomes policy to keep down inflation implemented by prices and income board. but there was another sterling crisis in 1966 caused by a long and bit of strike by the National Union of Seamenequipment defeated the strike but many, especially on the left, was shocked by Wilson's critical attitude to the strike, in the aftermath trade unionist frank cousins resigned from the cabinet over the income as policies.  the relationship between the government and the unions were starting to break down.

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wilson's policies and economic problems part 4

 the Labour government survived the Sterling crisis in 1965 and in 1966. but in 1967 an outbreak of war in the Middle East affected oil supplies and a major national dock strike in August 1967 affected the balance of payments. the government decided that the evaluation could not be avoided the pound drops by 14% to 2.40 US dollars. also made defence cuts and introduce hire purchase restrictions and higher interest rates, these policies are little different from the stop and go policies of the previous Tory government. labour had tried so hard to avoid the evaluation that the devaluation crisis damaged is credibility. a few weeks later the second application to join the EEC was rejected and had been rejected because of the economic situation in Britain.

The economic situation improved markedly from this low point. Callaghan replacement as Chancellor was Roy Jenkins who had been strongly in favour of the devaluation in 1964. he raised taxes and tightened up government spending and all areas of the economy, gave top priority to improve in the balance of payments. These tough measures made the government unpopular but by 1969 he had achieved a balance of payments surplus. although by 1969 to 1970 inflation still running at 12%.  the improvement in the economic situation from 1969 was a Key Factor in making labour confident of Victory in the 1970 general election.

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industrial relations and trade unions part 1

One of the key elements in the post-war consensus was the influence of the trade unions. Since the war, all governments had seen it essential to maintain full employment and to keep unions happy. In opinion polls, in the early 1960s, nearly 60% of people said they had a favorable view of the 1964 Wilson made trade unionist frank cousin minister of technology and Wilson was relying on union cooperation with his prices and incomes policies

By 1966-67, industrial relations with the trade unions began to deteriorate. Strikes by the seamen and dockers caused economic problems for the government. These strikes also seemed to demonstrate that old-style union bosses were losing some of their control. A lot of strikes started wildcat strikes by local activists that would not take orders from the top. The conservative opposition under heath announced a policy called fair deal at work. Wilson and his new employment minister barbara castle also started planning to use the law to limit unofficial strikes

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industrial relations and trade unions part 2

In Jan 1969 castle produced her white paper, in place of strife:

Key aspects:

  • There were to be 28 days cooling-off period before a strike went ahead

  • The government could impose a settlement when unions were in dispute with each other.

  • Strike ballots could be imposed

  • An industrial relations court would be able to prosecute people who broke the rules

Voter liked her proposals and they were supported by many labour MPs but the unions and the left of the labour party hated them. There was a storm of protest from powerful union leaders. James Callaghan and at least 50 labour MPs were ready to rebel. The row went on for months until Wilson gave in. in June 1969 the TUC negotiated a face-saving compromise but everyone knew it was a defeat for the government.

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other domestic policies under wilson

Although Wilson wanted to emphasize technology and science in modernizing Britain's economy the government was hindered by a lack of expertise. Roy Jenkins the first minister of aviation later admitted that he had difficulty understanding his briefings because of his non-scientific mind while the first minister of technology frank cousins had little interest in tech development. In 1966 when tony Benn took over as minister the department performed better but all were overshadowed by economic problems. 

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labour divisons

The divisions between the left and the right remained in the period after 1964. However, after the death of Bevan the leader of the left in 1960, Gaitskell the leader of the right in 1963, Wilson had emerged as the leader of the party and concentrated and united both the left and right and minimized underlying tensions such as over clause 4.Nevertheless, there were personal rivalries between Wilson and his most powerful cabinet colleagues. Wilson always feared that he might face a leadership challenge from brown or Callaghan or Jenkins.brown was very resentful that he lost the election to Wilson and further disappointed when he wasn’t made the foreign secretary in 1964. Wilson was rumored to have undermined brown’s reputation by keeping a record of any embarrassing incidents that he was involved in. Wilson was also suspicious of Jenkins as he was a supporter of Gaitskell and did not support his liberal legislation as a home secretary. When the seaman strike of 1966 caused a sterling crisis tried to get the cabinet to support devaluation which Wilson interpreted as a plot to replace him.Callaghan did not approve of Jenkins pro-European stance nor his liberal legislation and Jenkins were critical of the failure to devalue when Callaghan was chancellor and was a supporter of the trade union legislation that Callaghan helped to block.

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the beginning of the troubles in ireland

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