The Years of Consensus 1964-79

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Wilson 1964-70

  • After the previous Conservative government, Wilson was perceived as modern. He was not part of the old establishment, but a working class Yorkshireman. 
  • He brought about enormous social reform, introducing a range of acts.
  • 1965 & 1968 - Race Relations Act - e.g prohibiting racial discrimination.
  • 1967 - Abortion Act - legal termination of pregnancies.
  • 1969 - Abolition of death penalty, founding of the Open University. 
  • In order to control the power of the unions a number of initiatives were created. The National Plan was aimed at stimulating industrial production by encouraging cooperation between the government, employers and trade unions. Also, the white paper 'In Place of Strife' produced a set of proposals in order to prevent stike action. Both of these were abandoned, because of left wing opposition in the party.
  • Wilson took the step to devalue the £ - he assured viewers that the devaluation did not mean that the £ in their pockets was worth any less. 
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Heath 1970-74

  • Heath entered the government with the aim of following expansive policies. 
  • Creation of the Selsdon man - the introduction of monetarism policies, a break away from consensus in regards of state intervention in economic and social matters. Resulted in a U-turn 18 months later after rises in inflation and decreases in industrial output. 
  • Heath decided to support failing industries - the government nationalised Rolls-Royce in 1971.
  • Problems mounted with the unions - in 1973 Heath believed that the government could defeat them by imposing severe limits on the use of fuel. He limited fuel use to three specified days a week. The plan was a failure, and had to be settled with NUM receiving wage increases.
  • In 1973, Britain was granted entry to the EU.  
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Wilson 1974-76

  • The government found it difficult to get legislation through, due to winning with a narrow majority. In order to enforce more of their legislation, they created pacts, e.g Lib-Lab pact. 
  • Wilson was able to end disputes with the miners - suggestion of a 'social contract' which claimed that when Labour was returned to power the unions would follow a wage restraint policy in return for the adoption of pro-worker industrial policies by the government. A referundum on Europe was also offered, which opted to renegotiate the terms of Britain's membership of the EEC. 
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Callaghan 1976-79

  • Callaghan took out an IMF loan to support the £. 
  • The Lib-Lab pact breaks down the relations with the trade unions. 
  • The winter of discontent 1978-79 - public sector workers became more militant, and were not willing to miss out on the large pay settlements given to those working in the private sector. Strikes were organised in areas which would attract the greatest media attention. Public service workers such as school meals(dinner ladies),binmen and gravediggers refused to carry out work. The streets of Britain were left to rot.   
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