Information

1979 General Election


Political Parties

Total Votes

%

MPs

13,697,923

43.9

339

4,313,804

13.8

11

11,535,218

36.9

269

16,858

0.1

0

Plaid Cymru

132,544

0.4

2

Scottish National Party

504,259

1.6

2

National Front

191,719

0.6

0


The General Election, 1979

The 1979 election inaugurated the premiership of Margaret Thatcher, the longest continuous premiership since that of Lord Liverpool (1812-27), and an 18 year period of Conservative government. It occurred after the &aposwinter of discontent&apos, marked by public sector strikes which destroyed the Labour government&aposs social contract. James Callaghan, defeated Labour Prime Minister, declared before the election that it marked a sea-change in British politics. Was he right?

Vernon Bogdanor CBE is Emeritus Gresham Professor of Law, current Visiting Gresham Professor of Political History, Research Professor at King&aposs College London, a Fellow of the British Academy and an Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. Prior to 2010, Professor Bogdanor was a Fellow of Brasenose College and Professor of Government at Oxford University.

He has been an adviser to a number of governments, including those of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Kosovo, Israel and Slovakia. His books include The People and the Party System, Multi-Party Politics and the Constitution, Power and the People, and Devolution in the United Kingdom. He is a frequent contributor to TV, radio and the press and is a sometimes special advisor to the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Communities (1982-83), and the House of Commons Public Service Committee. Most recently he was awarded the Sir Isaiah Berlin Prize for Lifetime Contribution to Political Studies by the Political Studies Association.

Professor Bogdanor&aposs previous lecture series are as follows:

All of Professor Bogdanor&aposs past Gresham lectures can be accessed here.

Transcript

The General Election, 1979
Professor Vernon Bogdanor FBA CBE

The General Election, 1979

Professor Vernon Bogdanor

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the fourth lecture in the series on significant General Elections since the War, and this is on the 1979 General Election, which saw the largest swing since the War, a swing of over 5%, although it has been exceeded since, and it inaugurated eighteen years of Conservative rule, the longest period of single Party rule since the time of the Napoleonic Wars, and eleven of those eighteen years were dominated by Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister. But it was more than a shift of parties, it was arguably, in 1979, the end of an era because it heralded a change in the role of the State and a new view of what the State should be doing, and it also marked the end of what can be called the post-War settlement.

Now, what do I mean by the “post-War settlement”? What I mean is that, after 1945, some issues in politics seemed to be completely settled and closed, so that no one was prepared to open them - for example, that there should be a mixed economy comprising a nationalised sector, public sector, and a private sector. That was agreed by the Labour and Conservative Parties until 1979. That there should be full employment was generally accepted until 1979 and no party dared break from that consensus, and that full employment should be secured by broadly Keynesian policies of demand management and fine-tuning of the economy. That was also agreed by both parties. Both parties had come to agree, from the time of Harold Macmillan in the early 1960s, that to secure full employment, you needed an incomes policy, either a voluntary policy agreed with the trade unions or a statutory policy, and that to complement that, most major items of policy, particularly domestic policy, there should be discussions and consultations with the trade unions, which were an estate of the realm, and both Labour and Conservative Governments agreed with that. This was a legacy of Ernest Bevin’s time at the Ministry of Labour during the War, and that was the consensus. It is now, as you all know, all gone - we do not have a nationalised sector anymore, or a very small one. Full employment, as it was understood up to 1979, has gone. Full employment was understood as a level of unemployment higher than 3% - that is gone. Keynesian policies of economic management and fine-tuning have gone, and of course incomes policies have gone. The last one was by the Callaghan Government which was defeated in 1979. I think no Government now would dream of an incomes policy. And I think even if a Labour Government is returned in the Election this year, they will not be involved in very close consultation with the unions of the type that used to exist.

The collapse of this settlement is generally attributed, and not unfairly I think, to Margaret Thatcher, but it was heralded by the Labour Government that preceded her, and in particular by a speech made by James Callaghan, as Prime Minister, to the 1976 Labour Party Conference, in which he seemed to be repudiating Keynesian measures of demand management. He said this:  “We used to think that you could just spend your way out of recession and increase employment by cutting taxes and boosting Government spending. I tell you, in all candour, that that option no longer exists, and that insofar as it ever did exist, it worked by injecting inflation into the economy, and each time that happened, the average level of unemployment has risen – higher inflation, followed by higher unemployment. That is the history of the last twenty years.”  

In the early 1980s, the Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson, was to say that post-War Governments had made a mistake in trying to control unemployment by Keynesian methods and to control inflation by microeconomic methods and incomes policies. He said they got things the wrong way round. He said they should deal with inflation by macro measures, primarily control of the money supply, and then the exchange rate, not by incomes policies - and Margaret Thatcher was in fact the first Prime Minister since Anthony Eden not to have an incomes policy – and that the way to secure higher employment, though perhaps not full employment, was through supply side policies, increasing the efficiency of the market, and that is broadly the system under which we now live, and the aim was to get unemployment down through trade union reform, greater labour market flexibility, and better education and better skills.  So, 1979 also was to mark the end of the post-War settlement.

More specifically, it marked a crisis for the Labour Party and for social democracy, and in 1978, rather presciently, a year before the Election, the Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm, who was in fact a member of the Communist Party, wrote a pamphlet called “The Forward March of Labour Halted”, and that was to be the result of the 1979 Election, that the whole idea of consultation with the trade unions went, and the whole idea of an organised working class working with the Labour Party went as well. It was a crisis for labour, and socialism no longer seemed, as it had for much of the twentieth century, the wave of the future.

Just before the twentieth century, in 1894, a Liberal Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir William Harcourt, first introduced death duties, and in response to criticism, he replied, “We are all socialists now.” In other words, everybody believed in a much greater degree of State intervention. But you may say that what happened in 1979 showed the need for reform of the Labour Party and Tony Blair’s New Labour so that Labour could only get back in 1997 by saying “We are none of us socialists now…” So, I think that 1979 is a highly significant Election, a watershed between two eras.

Now, the last election that I discussed in my lecture, February 1974, the outcome, a Labour victory, a narrow Labour victory, surprised many people and was arguably determined by the campaign. It was a highly uncertain Election, as of course the one this year is being – I think anyone who predicts it is being rather foolish. I think it is the most unpredictable election we have had – I think it is an election that is not possible to predict, though I am not certain of that prediction…

But the 1979 Election was not a surprise. Almost everyone thought the Conservatives were going to win – it confirmed what people thought. And the causes of the Conservative victory lie not in the campaign itself but in the history of the previous five years and, in particular, the six months before the Election. 

A Conservative victory had not seemed likely when Labour took office as a minority government in March 1974, defeating Edward Heath, and the Labour Party went to the country in October, it was just seven months of the Parliament, and secured a very narrow majority of three, a narrow overall majority of three, and that Government was led by Harold Wilson. But in April 1976, Harold Wilson retired, and was succeeded by James Callaghan, but at the same time, that Government had become a minority government due to by-election losses and defections, and as you will see, the Scottish Nationalists did very well – they got 30% of the Scottish vote, which is higher than they got in 2010, when they got about 21% of the Scottish vote. They got nearly a third of the votes in Scotland, and the Welsh Nationalists also did fairly well. The Labour Government secured itself in office by offering the Nationalists devolution, the policy of devolution, and they secured the support of the Northern Ireland parties by promising to increase the number of seats in Northern Ireland from twelve to seventeen, which was reasonable because Northern Ireland had been under-represented while it had devolution, the Stormont system, and now it did not have devolution, it was ruled directly from Westminster, so it was reasonable to make the balance of seats in proportion to population. But that secured the position of the Labour Government.

Now, 1974 was a very traumatic year because, with the defeat of Edward Heath, it seemed to many that the control of trade union power was a central issue of politics, and many people were looking to the abyss and thought perhaps Britain was ungovernable, and even many in the Establishment thought that. 

There was a remarkable episode towards the end of the Heath Government when Sir William Armstrong, the Head of the Civil Service, was found lying on the floor in his office, chain-smoking and screaming about the wold coming to an end, and he was led away for treatment. Heath’s Private Secretary rang up Heath, and said that the Head of the Civil Service had been locked up – those were the words he used. Heath said he was not surprised. He said he “…thought William was acting oddly the last time I saw him.” Sir William Armstrong had to retire early from the Civil Service, but in 1975, he became Chairman of the Midland Bank…

But the Labour Party had an answer to this problem, which put the Conservatives on the defensive, and the Labour Party’s answer was the social contract, which was an agreement with the trade unions that they would agree to wage restraint in return for certain benefits which the Government gave them, and Labour said that would deliver peace and quiet and the only alternative was Heath and confrontation, that Labour would secure the consent of the trade unions, which was essential to running an advanced industrial society, whereas a Conservative Government would mean endless strikes and industrial upheaval.

Now, it seems to me Labour misunderstood the verdict of these two Elections in 1974, that although they had got a majority, they had not really won the Election – it was just that they had lost fewer votes than the Conservatives. You see, they had under 40% of the vote, which was unusual then. We have become used to it now. And there was no real basis for saying that Labour had a mandate for the social contract and more particularly for increasing the powers of the trade unions. Now, every single opinion poll during this period showed that the vast majority of people felt that the trade unions were not too weak but too powerful, and they wanted their powers restricted, but the Labour Party proceeded to heap new responsibilities, privileges and immunities upon the trade unions. 

They, firstly, repealed the Conservative Government’s Industrial Relations Act. They restored all the trade union immunities that the Act had curtailed, and they gave new legal protection to picketing, so they gave the trade unions tremendous rights. They also put in law a statutory right to belong to a trade union, that everyone could belong to a trade union, but no corresponding right not to belong to a trade union, and they gave statutory force to the idea of the closed-shop. So, the unions had much greater powers, and the question was: what would the trade unions give in exchange? 

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury in the Labour Government was Gerald Barnett, who died recently, and he wrote a book of reminiscences, a very interesting book on the period, called “Inside the Treasury”, and he said the social contract was “𠉪 matter of give and take, and the Government gave and the trade unions took”. But that, I think, was not wholly fair because, in 1975, the trade unions did accept the need for an incomes policy for voluntary restraint, unlike Heath’s incomes policy which had been statutory, and that worked for three years until 1978. 

Now, the Labour Party further strengthened its position in 1977 when it agreed to a pact with the Liberals. This would now be called a 𠇌onfidence and supply” agreement, and it may happen after the next Election, that the Liberals did not join the Government but they agreed they would support the Government in all votes of confidence and in financial matters, supply, budget and so on, and this guaranteed the Government against defeat. They still had Nationalist support and they still had the support of the Northern Irish. Now, the pact ran out in the autumn of 1978 and there was a general assumption that there would be an Election.

After many difficulties, the economy was now beginning to improve. In 1975, inflation had reached the huge level of 26%, but it was now falling to what was thought of, in those days, as an acceptable level. In the summer of 1978, it was 7.8%, which was lower than France and Italy but higher than Germany. Opinion polls were also showing that Labour, having been a long way behind, was beginning to catch up with the Conservatives as inflation was falling, and Labour seemed to have another advantage because the new Conservative Leader was Margaret Thatcher, who seemed, at the time, inexperienced, and James Callaghan tended to defeat her in parliamentary debate and questions, and Margaret Thatcher’s main political ally was Sir Keith Joseph, who was proposing policies that many people thought would lead to much higher unemployment and industrial dislocation, and they thought he would be rather extreme. And the effect, you can see, when he became Secretary of State for Industry under the Thatcher Government, Michael Foot, who was at the time Labour’s Deputy Leader but then became the Labour Leader, made a brilliant speech showing the effect of Conservative policies, which they were also predicting in the 1970s.

We can hear Foot’s speech – we cannot, unfortunately, see him, but we can hear the speech…

“I would not like to miss out the Right Honourable Gentleman, the Secretary of State for Industry, who has had such a tremendous effect upon the Government and our politics altogether, and as I see the Right Honourable Gentleman walking round the country, looking puzzled and forlorn and wondering what has happened….I have often tried to remember what he reminds me of, and the other day, I hit upon it because I recalled that in my youth, when I used to go, in Plymouth – yes, I know quite a time ago…we will come to that one in a moment too – but I used to go, when I lived in Plymouth, every Saturday night, along to the Palace Theatre, and the favourite I always used to watch there was a magician conjurer, and they used to have in the audience, dressed up as one of the most prominent aldermen in the place, a person who was sitting at the back of the audience, and the magician conjurer would come forward and say that he wanted to have from the audience a beautiful watch, and he would go amongst the audience, he would go up to the alderman, and eventually take off him a marvellous gold watch, and he would bring it right back onto the stage. He would enfold it in a beautiful red handkerchief. He placed it on the table there in front of us. He took up his mallet, and he hit it, smashed to smithereens, and then, on his countenance would come exactly the puzzled look of the Right Honourable Gentleman….and he would step forward𠉪nd he would step forward [laughter]…he would step forward right to the front of the stage and he would say “I am very sorry…I am very sorry, I have forgotten the rest of the trick!” And that is the situation of the Government! That is the situation of the Government: they have forgotten the rest of the trick!”

That was the industrial dislocation which they were predicting, which some said did actually come about – higher unemployment and industrial dislocation from a Conservative Government.

In the summer of 1978, there had to be a renewal of the incomes policy, a stage four of the incomes policy – there had already been three stages. In a White Paper published in the summer of 1978, the level was fixed at 5%, and it was fixed at that level because that would mean inflation remained below 10%, and that was Callaghan’s own policy. Normally, he operated through the Cabinet on this, he decided alone. It is not even clear whether his Chancellor, Denis Healey, supported him, and many in the Cabinet, particularly those responsible for the public services, did not because it meant a tightening of incomes policy after three years, when many of the trade union leaders thought it should be loosened. Callaghan did not consult with the unions. It was unilateral and imposed. When some of his advisors challenged him, as one of them wrote in a book, he said, “The normally equitable Callaghan went completely puce and hit the table and said, 𠇊re you saying that 5% is not right for the country?”” What they meant was it may be right for the country but you will not be able to implement it. This policy was rejected by the Trade Union Conference in the autumn of 1978 and also rejected by the Labour Party Conference, but the rejection by the trade unions was seen as proforma because the general view was that Callaghan, at the Trade Union Conference, would be declaring a General Election. Here, too, Callaghan had this terribly lonely decision that you may remember, those who were here last time, that Edward Heath had to make: when was he going to have the Election?

Now, some polls, by September 1978, were showing the Labour Party a little way ahead.  Callaghan said he did not trust them. Other polls said the best he could hope for was another hung parliament, and Callaghan said he was fed up with endless negotiations with Liberals and the Nationalists – and who can blame him. And he said, if it is a balance decision, if the best we can do is to get back with another hung parliament, let us wait and hope to do better later, and Callaghan thought, and perhaps quite reasonably, the unions would not cause too much trouble if they knew there was an election to follow later.

Well, he consulted quite widely and the whips were, on the whole, against an early election, by eight to three. Michael Foot, who was Leader of the House of Commons, said that MPs in marginal constituencies were rather nervous – they did not think things were going well, and he also said that Callaghan could continue after October with no danger of defeat because the Northern Irish were still waiting for their extra seats, and there was going to be a referendum on devolution on March 1 st 1979 and the Nationalists would not get him out before then. Furthermore, there was going to be a new Electoral Register in 1979 which was worth about probably six extra seats to Labour.

The Cabinet favoured an early Election, though the members of it wanted to go on, and the point I am trying to make is that Callaghan, when he made his decision, it was a very lonely decision – he did take wide advice and opinion was divided. Now, he spoke to the Trade Union Conference in September 1978 and he teased them. He said, “The commentators have fixed the month, the date and the day.” He said, “Well,” he said, “remember what happened to Marie Lloyd,” a music-hall artist of his young. “She fixed the day, she told us what happened, it went like this…” and if the IT people can show us…hear James Callaghan…

“There was I, waiting at the church….

Perhaps you recall how it went on: 𠇊ll at once, he sent me round a note, here is the very note, this is what he wrote, cannot get away to marry you today, my wife will not let me.”

Well, that was a very good joke, although the joke turned out to be on James Callaghan and not on anyone else. But the comedian Roy Hudd wrote to Callaghan and said it was not Marie Lloyd, it was Vesta Victoria, and Callaghan said he knew that but he thought that no one knew who Vesta Victoria was but some of the older people amongst the TUC would remember who Marie Lloyd was, so he sang that song.

Now, Callaghan decided he was not going to have the election in autumn �, and that meant there was no way to get out of the 5% commitment, and it may be the Cabinet would have rebelled more strongly against it if they had known there would not be an election. There were various difficulties with that 5%, that it meant, given the rate of inflation was higher, it meant a real fall in the standard of living for most workers, and the trade unions told Callaghan they could not hold the line – they could not deliver it.

Even worse, and here there is some signposts to today I think, the 5% did not apply to senior civil servants or the head of nationalised industries, nor to many of the managers in private industry.  They used the argument they could not attract talent unless they paid a lot more than 5%. So, it seemed unfair, and perhaps particularly unfair to the low-paid.

Now, the trade unions felt they had been teased and cheated by Callaghan there, that he had deceived him about the election, and they were rather annoyed at being treated in that way, and they were now, as I have explained, much more powerful as a result of the legislation that Labour had introduced, in particular closed-shop. At that time, trade union membership was much more extensive than it was today. It reached its peak in 1979, with 53% of the labour force, and particularly strong in the public sector. 

But the main problem facing Callaghan was the same one facing Edward Heath: the trade unions were not there to police wages in the interests of Government policy but to do the best they could for their members. If they did not, there would be a revolt on the shop-floor, and that is what happened, and when it came, it was militant and, on occasion, violent, and Callaghan could not deal with it. It was outside his experience. He had grown up in the shadow of Ernest Bevin and was psychologically unable to appreciate that the trade unions would not cooperate with Government.

Now, the leader of the Transport & General Workers Union said to Callaghan, “Who are you to say that my members cannot have the increase I have negotiated for them?” The answer, until autumn 1978, was it was TUC policy to accept wage restraint, but it was not after 1978 because the TUC had rejected it, and problems immediately arose with the Transport & General Workers Union, which was, at that time, the largest union. 

The first problem arose in the private sector, just before Christmas, that, in the Ford Motor Company, the TGWU, the Transport & General Workers Union, put in a claim for 30%, and they said this was justified because the firm had large profits and the Chairman had just had a salary rise which was not 5% but 80%. Ford offered 5% in accordance with the Government guidelines, and there was then a strike which lasted for nine weeks, an official strike, and that meant, while this was going on, Ford was losing money of course to its competitors. So, they eventually settled at 17%, which of course was far beyond the guidelines of the Government, but became the going rate in the motor industry because Vauxhall then said, people working for Vauxhall, “If Ford are getting it, we must get it too or there will be a strike there.” Callaghan says, in his memoirs, he realised, at that point, the Election was lost. But much worse was to follow…

The Government’s policy was that if this sort of thing happened, there would be sanctions not on the union but on the firm, and the firm would not be given any Government contracts and they would not be given any export credit guarantees, and that needed a vote in Parliament. But the trouble was, the left-wing of the Labour Party was opposed to the 5% and they abstained on the vote. They included John Prescott at that time. They abstained on the vote and they joined together with the other parties opposed to it, primarily the Conservatives of course, to defeat the Government on the question of sanctions for Ford. And, perhaps wrongly, Callaghan refused to make it an issue of confidence. David Owen, the Foreign Secretary, said it was that moment he realised Labour had lost the next election.

There was then a strike in British Oxygen, where, again, the management were defeated, and this showed that the Government could not implement its policy in the private sector, and so there was to be a pay policy only in the public sector. So, you were to have free collective bargaining in the private sector, but a 5% incomes policy in the public sector, and that was not going to work because it was natural that those in the public sector would seek comparability. It was becoming clear 5% could not hold.

The next strike was very clever. It was by BBC technicians. Now, the BBC had just purchased “The Sound of Music” to show over Christmas to compete with ITV, which was at that time getting ahead of them in the ratings, and the technicians threatened to strike over Christmas. They had the support of the Board of Governors, who said there was a great pay disparity with ITV, which was in the private sector, and there was a problem with comparability. Now, the Government feared that the worst thing would be if there was a strike of the TV technicians over Christmas and people could not see “The Sound of Music” and then would all watch ITV, if there were no BBC programmes over Christmas. So, there was a settlement, which the Government did not resist, at 15%, and that let everything loose, as it were. 

There were then walk-out strikes and militant picketing on the part of large numbers of workers – oil tanker drivers, lorry drivers, ambulance drivers, water and sewage workers, local government manual workers – and they put forward claims of between 20% and 40%. The culmination was a Day of Action, so-called, in January, at which 1.5 million public sector workers were on strike. All this coincided, as luck would have it, with a terrible winter – snow and cold and so on. 

At this time, James Callaghan, through some misfortune really, he was at a summit conference dealing with strategic arms limitation in the sunny clime of Guadeloupe in the West Indies, and there photographs of him in the press, sunning himself, while everybody else was shivering in the cold with strikes, and many of the right-wing papers emphasised that by publishing pictures of very attractive young women in swimsuits also sunning themselves near James Callaghan. He came back from the summit to a temperature in Britain of -7 degrees, and very unwisely gave the following press conference…

JC: “Not at the moment, no. We have been on the brink of it I think, once or twice, during the last week, but we have stepped back from it. There is no point in declaring a state of emergency.  We have had, I think, six states of emergency in the last few years. A state of emergency means that the Government intends to keep the essential life of the community going, and of course that is our first responsibility, and we shall do so. As you may know, plans for that are always ready.  Those contingency plans, when we could see troubles looming ahead, were made before Christmas so that there was nothing - except of course putting touches to them, and you have always got to add to your preparations – there was nothing new or exciting that we had to do in that field.”

Interviewer/Journalist: �n we have your reaction to the criticism that you should not have been away from the country during these past four or five days?”

JC: “I am sure everybody would have liked to have been with me, but I do not think anybody, except a few journalists, are very jealous of it. I think that they feel that we have been working hard, as indeed we have, and do you know, I actually swam, and I know that is the most exciting of the visit. But no, I think you should put all that kind of criticism in perspective, and one must not allow jealousy to dissuade you from doing what you know is the best thing.”

Interviewer/Journalist: “What is your general approach and view of the mounting chaos in the country at the moment?”

JC: “Well, that is a judgement that you are making. I promise you that if you look at it from outside, and perhaps you are taking a rather parochial view at the moment, I do not think that other people in the world would share the view that there is mounting chaos. You know, we have had strikes before. We have come close to the brink before. There is need for a great deal of industrial self-discipline in this country. I hope we shall gradually learn it and that we shall avoid hurting each other. But please do not run down your country by talking about mounting chaos.”

Interviewer/Journalist: 𠇍oes the Government’s pay policy stand firm, Prime Minister?”

JC: I do not think I want to discuss pay policy just at this moment, but you can take it that I have not wavered one iota from my views about what is the best way for this country to proceed in order to keep employment up and in order to make sure that inflation does not rise, and whatever happens on the industrial front cannot change that view – that stands, and we shall have to continue to follow it up. Now, do you not think that is sufficient after an eleven or nine hour flight overnight?”

Interviewer/Journalist: Thank you very much, Prime Minister.

JC: And no breakfast! However, with the mounting chaos that he talks about in the country, I doubt if I shall even find a cup of coffee, do you?!”

The headline in the Sun the next day was 𠇌risis, What Crisis?” Now, they were words that James Callaghan did not use, but he was very incautious I think to give that press conference at the airport before he had had time to grasp the mood of the country. It showed him very out of touch I think with what was happening.

The winter gradually became known as the Winter of Discontent. Now, that phrase was first coined by one of James Callaghan’s advisors, and it was coined, oddly enough, to cheer him up because he said it was like “Richard III”, if you know the beginning of “Richard III”, “Now is the Winter of Discontent, made glorious summer by this son of York,” that the Winter of Discontent would be followed by a glorious summer, but there was not going to be a glorious summer for the Labour Party or for James Callaghan, and of course the Conservatives were able to argue that the return of the Government would mean another Winter of Discontent.

The Winter of Discontent was not only the responsibility of the trade union leaders but the rank and file, who were rebelling against their leaders’ past acquiescence in incomes policy by which real wages had fallen. The TUC tried, rather feebly, to restrain the rank and file, but was unsuccessful. 

There were huge strikes, with colossal effects on many vulnerable people. Bill Rodgers, the Transport Minister, was particularly upset by a strike of transport workers, which meant there were no supplies of chemotherapy chemicals for cancer victims, of which his mother was one. 

The dustbins were not emptied, and you could see, in Leicester Square, huge piles of rubbish piling up and rats all about.

There was a strike in some parts of Manchester without water and people had to draw water from standpipes. 

There was a strike of local authority gravediggers in Liverpool and Tameside, an unofficial strike admittedly, but it meant that there was some talk that people could not be buried – they might have to be buried at sea.

After it ended, on the 22 nd of April, there was a letter from normally a Labour voter to the Guardian saying that, at the school her children were at, there was no heating, and the school had to be closed for a time, that in some parts of Manchester, there had been no water and people had to boil unpurified water before use, and that lorry drivers were trying to limit food supply, and she said, “I do not think much of their socialism.”

Callaghan was particularly affected by a strike of hospital porters at the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, of which his wife was a governor, and when Tony Benn, in Cabinet, defended the strikes, he said, “What do you say about the thuggish act of a walkout without notice from a children’s hospital?!” 

As you can imagine, the Conservatives made a tremendous amount of this, and I thought you might like to see a Conservative Election Broadcast, which does stretch things a bit but not wholly. 


1979 Conservative Party General Election Manifesto

FOR ME, THE HEART OF POLITICS is not political theory, it is people and how they want to live their lives.

No one who has lived in this country during the last five years can fail to be aware of how the balance of our society has been increasingly tilted in favour of the State at the expense of individual freedom.

This election may be the last chance we have to reverse that process, to restore the balance of power in favour of the people. It is therefore the most crucial election since the war.

Together with the threat to freedom there has been a feeling of helplessness, that we are a once great nation that has somehow fallen behind and that it is too late now to turn things round.

I don't accept that. 1 believe we not only can, we must. This manifesto points the way.

It contains no magic formula or lavish promises. It is not a recipe for an easy or a perfect life. But it sets out a broad framework for the recovery of our country, based not on dogma, but On reason, on common sense, above all on the liberty of the people under the law.

The things we have in common as a nation far outnumber those that set us apart.

It is in that spirit that I commend to you this manifesto.

I. Our five tasks

THIS ELECTION is about the future of Britain - a great country which seems to have lost its way. It is a country rich in natural resources, in coal, oil, gas and fertile farmlands. It is rich, too, in human resources, with professional and managerial skills of the highest calibre, with great industries and firms whose workers can be the equal of any in the world. We are the inheritors of a long tradition of parliamentary democracy and the rule of law.

Yet today, this country is faced with its most serious problems since the Second World War. What has happened to our country, to the values we used to share, to the success and prosperity we once took for granted?

During the industrial strife of last winter, confidence, self-respect, common sense, and even our sense of common humanity were shaken. At times this society seemed on the brink of disintegration.

Some of the reasons for our difficulties today are complex and go back many years. Others are more simple and more recent. We do not lay all the blame on the Labour Party: but Labour have been in power for most of the last fifteen years and cannot escape the major responsibility.

They have made things worse in three ways. First, by practising the politics of envy and by actively discouraging the creation of wealth, they have set one group against another in an often bitter struggle to gain a larger share of a weak economy.

Second, by enlarging the role of the State and diminishing the role of the individual, they have crippled the enterprise and effort on which a prosperous country with improving social services depends.

Third, by heaping privilege without responsibility on the trade unions, Labour have given a minority of extremists the power to abuse individual liberties and to thwart Britain's chances of success. One result is that the trade union movement, which sprang from a deep and genuine fellow-feeling for the brotherhood of man, is today more distrusted and feared than ever before.

It is not just that Labour have governed Britain badly. They have reached a dead-end. The very nature of their Party now prevents them from governing successfully in a free society and mixed economy.

Divided against themselves devoid of any policies except those which have led to and would worsen our present troubles bound inescapably by ties of history, political dogma and financial dependence to a single powerful interest group, Labour have demonstrated yet again that they cannot speak and dare not act for the nation as a whole.

Our country's relative decline is not inevitable. We in the Conservative Party think we can reverse it, not because we think we have all the answers but because we think we have the one answer that matters most. We want to work with the grain of human nature, helping people to help themselves - and others. This is the way to restore that self-reliance and self-confidence which are the basis of personal responsibility and national success.

Attempting to do too much, politicians have failed to do those things which should be done. This has damaged the country and the authority of government. We must concentrate on what should be the priorities for any government. They are set out in this manifesto.

Those who look in these pages for lavish promises or detailed commitments on every subject will look in vain. We may be able to do more in the next five years than we indicate here. We believe we can. But the Conservative government's first job will be to rebuild our economy and reunite a divided and disillusioned people.

  1. To restore the health of our economic and social life, by controlling inflation and striking a fair balance between the rights and duties of the trade union movement.
  2. To restore incentives so that hard work pays, success is rewarded and genuine new jobs are created in an expanding economy.
  3. To uphold Parliament and the rule of law.
  4. To support family life, by helping people to become home-owners, raising the standards of their children's education, and concentrating welfare services on the effective support of the old, the sick, the disabled and those who are in real need.
  5. To strengthen Britain's defences and work with our allies to protect our interests in an increasingly threatening world.

This is the strategy of the next Conservative government.

2. Restoring the balance

SOUND MONEY and a fair balance between the rights and obligations of unions, management and the community in which they work are essential to economic recovery. They should provide the stable conditions in which pay bargaining can take place as responsibly in Britain as it does in other countries.

The Control of Inflation

Under Labour prices have risen faster than at any peacetime period in the three centuries in which records have been kept, and inflation is now accelerating again. The pound today is worth less than half its 1974 value. On present form it would be halved in value yet again within eight years. Inflation on this scale has come near to destroying our political and social stability.

To master inflation, proper monetary discipline is essential, with publicly stated targets for the rate of growth of the money supply. At the same time, a gradual reduction in the size of the Government's borrowing requirement is also vital. This Government's price controls have done nothing to prevent inflation, as is proved by the doubling of prices since they came to power. All the controls have achieved is a loss of jobs and a reduction in consumer choice.

The State takes too much of the nation's income its share must be steadily reduced. When it spends and borrows too much, taxes, interest rates, prices and unemployment rise so that in the long run there is less wealth with which to improve Our standard of living and our social services.

Better Value for Money

Any future government which sets out honestly to reduce inflation and taxation will have to make substantial economies, and there should be no doubt about our intention to do so. We do not pretend that every saving can be made without change or complaint but if the Government does not economise the sacrifices required of ordinary people will be all the greater.

Important savings can be made in several ways. We will scrap expensive Socialist programmes, such as the nationalisation of building land. We shall reduce government intervention in industry and particularly that of the National Enterprise Board, whose borrowing powers are planned to reach £4.5 billion. We shall ensure that selective assistance to industry is not wasted, as it was in the case of Labour's assistance to certain oil platform yards, on which over £20 million of public money was spent but no orders received.

The reduction of waste, bureaucracy and over-government will also yield substantial savings. For example, we shall look for economies in the cost (about £1.2 billion) of running our tax and social security systems. By comparison with private industry, local direct labour schemes waste an estimated £400 million a year. Other examples of waste abound, such as the plan to spend £50 million to build another town hall in Southwark.

Trade Union Reform

Free trade unions can only flourish in a free society. A strong and responsible trade union movement could play a big part in our economic recovery. We cannot go on, year after year, tearing ourselves apart in increasingly bitter and calamitous industrial disputes. In bringing about economic recovery, we should all be on the same side. Government and public, management and unions, employers and employees, all have a common interest in raising productivity and profits, thus increasing investment and employment, and improving real living standards for everyone in a high-productivity, high-wage, low-tax economy. Yet at the moment we have the reverse an economy in which the Government has to hold wages down to try to make us competitive with other countries where higher real wages are paid for by higher output.

The crippling industrial disruption which hit Britain last winter had several causes: years with no growth in production rigid pay control high marginal rates of taxation and the extension of trade union power and privileges. Between 1974 and 1976, Labour enacted a 'militants' charter' of trade union legislation. It tilted the balance of power in bargaining throughout industry away from responsible management and towards unions, and sometimes towards unofficial groups of workers acting in defiance of their official union leadership.

We propose three changes which must be made at once. Although the Government refused our offer of support to carry them through the House of Commons last January, our proposals command general assent inside and outside the trade union movement.

1. Picketing

Workers involved in a dispute have a right to try peacefully to persuade others to support them by picketing, but we believe that right should be limited to those in dispute picketing at their own place of work. In the last few years some of the picketing we have witnessed has gone much too far. Violence, intimidation and obstruction cannot be tolerated. We shall ensure that the protection of the law is available to those not concerned in the dispute but who at present can suffer severely from secondary action (picketing, blacking and blockading). This means an immediate review of the existing law on immunities in the light of recent decisions, followed by such amendment as may be appropriate of the 1976 legislation in this field. We shall also make any further changes that are necessary so that a citizen's right to work and go about his or her lawful business free from intimidation or obstruction is guaranteed.

2. THE CLOSED SHOP

Labour's strengthening of the closed shop has made picketing a more objectionable weapon. In some disputes, pickets have threatened other workers with the withdrawal of their union cards if they refuse to co-operate. No union card can mean no job. So the law must be changed. People arbitrarily excluded or expelled from any union must be given the right of appeal to a court of law. Existing employees and those with personal conviction must be adequately protected, and if they lose their jobs as a result of a closed shop they must be entitled to ample compensation.

In addition, all agreements for a closed shop must be drawn up in line with the best practice followed at present and only if an overwhelming majority of the workers involved vote for it by secret ballot. We shall therefore propose a statutory code under Section 6 of the 1975 Employment Protection Act. We will not permit a closed shop in the non-industrial civil service and will resist further moves towards it in the newspaper industry. We are also committed to an enquiry into the activities of the SLADE union, which have done so much to bring trade unionism into disrepute.

3. WIDER PARTICIPATION

Too often trade unions are dominated by a handful of extremists who do not reflect the common-sense views of most union members.

Wider use of secret ballots for decision-making throughout the trade union movement should be given every encouragement. We will therefore provide public funds for postal ballots for union elections and other important issues. Every trade unionist should be free to record his decisions as every voter has done for a hundred years in parliamentary elections, without others watching and taking note.

We welcome closer involvement of workers, whether trade unionists or not, in the decisions that affect them at their place of work. It would be wrong to impose by law a system of participation in every company. It would be equally wrong to use the pretext of encouraging genuine worker involvement in order simply to increase union power or facilitate union control of pension funds.

Too Many Strikes

Further changes may be needed to encourage people to behave responsibly and keep the bargains they make at work. Many deficiencies of British industrial relations are without foreign parallel. Strikes are too often a weapon of first rather than last resort. One cause is the financial treatment of strikers and their families. In reviewing the position, therefore, we shall ensure that unions bear their fair share of the cost of supporting those of their members who are on strike.

Labour claim that industrial relations in Britain cannot be improved by changing the law. We disagree. If the law can be used to confer privileges, it can and should also be used to establish obligations. We cannot allow a repetition of the behaviour that we saw outside too many of our factories and hospitals last winter.

Responsible Pay Bargaining

Labour's approach to industrial relations and their disastrous economic policies have made realistic and responsible pay bargaining almost impossible. After encouraging the 'social contract' chaos of 1974-5, they tried to impose responsibility by the prolonged and rigid control of incomes. This policy collapsed last winter as we warned that it would. The Labour government then came full circle with the announcement of yet another 'social contract' with the unions. For five years now, the road to ruin has been paved with such exchanges of promises between the Labour government and the unions.

To restore responsible pay bargaining, we must all start by recognising that Britain is a low-paid country because we have steadily become less efficient, less productive, less reliable and less competitive. Under this Government, we have more than doubled our pay but actually produced less in manufacturing industry. It will do yet further harm to go on printing money to pay ourselves more without first earning more. That would lead to even higher prices, fewer jobs and falling living standards.

The return to responsibility will not be easy. It requires that people keep more of what they earn that effort and skill earn larger rewards and that the State leaves more resources for industry. There should also be more open and informed discussion of the Government's economic objectives (as happens, for example, in Germany and other countries) so that there is wider understanding of the consequences of unrealistic bargaining and industrial action.

Pay bargaining in the private sector should be left to the companies and workers concerned. At the end of the day, no one should or can protect them from the results of the agreements they make.

Different considerations apply to some extent to the public sector, of whose seven million workers the Government directly employs only a minority. In the great public corporations, pay bargaining should be governed, as in private ones, by what each can afford. There can be no question of subsidising excessive pay deals.

Pay bargaining in central and local government, and other services such as health and education, must take place within the limits of what the taxpayer and ratepayer can afford. It is conducted under a variety of arrangements, some of long standing, such as pay research. In consultation with the unions, we will reconcile these with the cash limits used to control public spending, and seek to conclude no-strike agreements in a few essential services. Bargaining must also be put on a sounder economic footing, so that public sector wage settlements take full account of supply and demand md diflerences between regions, manning levels, job security and pension arrangements.

3. A more prosperous country

LABOUR HAVE GONE to great lengths to try to conceal the damage they have done to the economy and to our prospects of economic expansion. Even in the depression of the 1930s the British economy progressed more than it has under this Labour government. Their favourite but totally false excuse is that their appalling record is all due to the oil crisis and the world-wide economic depression. Yet since the oil crisis, despite our coal, and gas and oil from the North Sea, prices and unemployment in Britain have risen by more than in almost any other major industrial country. And output has risen by less. With much poorer energy supplies than Britain, the others have nonetheless done much better because they have not had a Labour government or suffered from Labour's mistakes.

To become more prosperous, Britain must become more productive and the British people must be given more incentive.

Cutting Income Tax

We shall cut income tax at all levels to reward hard work, responsibility and success tackle the poverty trap encourage saving and the wider ownership of property simplify taxes - like VAT and reduce tax bureaucracy.

It is especially important to cut the absurdly high marginal rates of tax both at the bottom and top of the income scale. It must pay a man or woman significantly more to be in, rather than out of work. Raising tax thresholds will let the low-paid out of the tax net altogether, and unemployment and short-term sickness benefit must be brought into the computation of annual income.

The top rate of income tax should be cut to the European average and the higher tax bands widened. To encourage saving we will reduce the burden of the investment income surcharge. This will greatly help those pensioners who pay this additional tax on the income from their life-time savings, and who suffer so badly by comparison with members of occupational or inflation-proofed pension schemes.

Growing North Sea oil revenues and reductions in Labour s public spending plans Will not be enough to pay for the income tax cuts the country needs. We must therefore be prepared to switch to some extent from taxes on earnings to taxes on spending. Value Added Tax does not apply, and will not be extended, to necessities like food, fuel, housing and transport. Moreover the levels of State pensions and other benefits take price rises into account.

Labour's extravagance and incompetence have once again imposed a heavy burden on ratepayers this year. But cutting income tax must take priority for the time being over abolition of the domestic rating system.

A Property-Owning Democracy

Unlike Labour, we want more people to have the security and satisfaction of owning property. Our proposals for encouraging home ownership are contained in Chapter 5.

We reject Labour's plan for a Wealth Tax. We shall deal with the most damaging features of the Capital Transfer and Capital Gains Taxes, and propose a simpler and less oppressive system of capital taxation in the longer term. We will expand and build on existing schemes for encouraging employee share-ownership and our tax policies generally will provide incentive to save and build up capital.

Industry, Commerce and Jobs

Lower taxes on earnings and savings will encourage economic growth. But on their own they will not be enough to secure it.

Profits are the foundation of a free enterprise economy. In Britain profits are still dangerously low. Price controls can prevent them from reaching a level adequate for the investment we need. In order to ensure effective competition and fair pricing policies, we will review the working of the Monopolies Commission, the Office of Fair Trading and the Price Commission, with the legislation which governs their activities.

Too much emphasis has been placed on attempts to preserve existing jobs. We need to concentrate more on the creation of conditions in which new, more modern, more secure, better paid jobs come into existence. This is the best way of helping the unemployed and those threatened with the loss of their jobs in the future.

Government strategies and plans cannot produce revival, nor can subsidies. Where it is in the national interest to help a firm in difficulties, such help must be temporary and tapered.

We all hope that those firms which are at present being helped by the taxpayer will soon be able to succeed by themselves but success or failure lies in their own hands.

Of course, government can help to ease industrial change in those regions dependent on older, declining industries. We do not propose sudden, sharp changes in the measures now in force. However, there is a strong case for relating government assistance to projects more closely to the number of jobs they create.

Nationalisation

The British people strongly oppose Labour's plans to nationalise yet more firms and industries such as building, banking, insurance, pharmaceuticals and road haulage. More nationalisation would further impoverish us and further undermine our freedom. We will offer to sell back to private ownership the recently nationalised aerospace and shipbuilding concerns, giving their employees the opportunity to purchase shares.

We aim to sell shares in the National Freight Corporation to the general public in order to achieve substantial private investment in it. We will also relax the Traffic Commissioner licensing regulations to enable new bus and other services to develop-particularly in rural areas-and we will encourage new private operators.

Even where Labour have not nationalised they interfere too much. We shall therefore amend the '975 Industry Act and restrict the powers of the National Enterprise Board solely to the administration of the Government's temporary shareholdings, to be sold off as circumstances permit. We want to see those industries that remain nationalised running more successfully and we will therefore interfere less with their management and set them a clearer financial discipline in which to work.

High productivity is the key to the future of industries like British Rail, where improvements would benefit both the work-force and passengers who have faced unprecedented fare increases over the last five years.

Fair Trade

Just as we reject nationalisation, so we are opposed to the other Socialist panacea-import controls. They would restrict consumer choice, raise prices and invite damaging retaliation against British goods overseas. We will vigorously oppose all kinds of dumping and other unfair foreign trade practices that undermine jobs at home.

We fully support the renegotiated Multi-fibre Arrangement for textiles and will insist that it is monitored effectively and speedily. We also believe in a revised 'safeguard' clause under GATT, to give us a better defence against sudden and massive surges of imports that destroy jobs.

Small Businesses

The creation of new jobs depends to a great extent on the success of smaller businesses. They have been especially hard hit under Labour. Our cuts in direct and capital taxation, the simplification of VAT and our general economic and industrial relations policies are the key to their future. We shall make planning restraints less rigid reduce the number of official forms and make them simpler provide safeguards against unfair competition from direct labour review the new 714 Certificate system for subcontractors and review with representatives of the self-employed their National Insurance and pension position. We shall amend laws such as the Employment Protection Act where they damage smaller businesses-and larger ones too-and actually prevent the creation of jobs.

We shall also undertake a thorough review of the enforcement procedures of Customs and Excise and the Inland Revenue, and introduce an easier regime for small firms in respect of company law and the disclosure of their affairs.

Energy

The development of our energy resources provides a challenge for both our nationalised industries and the private sector. Nowhere has private enterprise been more successful in creating jobs and wealth for the nation than in bringing North Sea oil and gas ashore. These benefits will be short-lived unless we pursue a vigorous policy for energy saving. Labour's interference has discouraged investment and could cost Britain billions of pounds in lost revenue. We shall undertake a complete review of all the activities of the British National Oil Corporation as soon as we take office. We shall ensure that our oil tax and licensing policies encourage new production.

We believe that a competitive and efficient coal industry has an important role in meeting energy demand, together with a proper contribution from nuclear power. All energy developments raise important environmental issues, and we shall ensure the fullest public participation in major new decisions.

Agriculture

Our agricultural and food industries are as important and as efficient as any that we have. They make an immense contribution to our balance of payments they provide jobs for millions of people and they sustain the economy of the countryside. Labour have seriously undermined the profitability of these industries, without protecting consumers against rising food prices which have more than doubled during their term of office. We must ensure that these industries have the means to keep abreast of those in other countries.

We believe that radical changes in the operation of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) are necessary. We would, in particular, aim to devalue the Green Pound within the normal lifetime of a Parliament to a point which would enable our producers to compete on level terms with those in the rest of the Community. We will insist on a freeze in CAP prices for products in structural surplus. This should be maintained until the surpluses are eliminated. We could not entertain discriminatory proposals such as those which the Commission recently put forward for milk production.

The Uplands are an important part of our agriculture. Those who live and work there should enjoy a reasonable standard of life.

Fishing

The Government's failure to negotiate with our Community partners proper arrangements for fishing has left the industry in a state of uncertainty. The general adoption of 200-mile limits has fundamentally altered the situation which existed when the Treaty of Accession was negotiated. We would work for an agreement which recognised: first, that United Kingdom waters contained more fish than those of the rest of the Community countries put together secondly, the loss of fishing opportunities experienced by our fishermen thirdly, the rights of inshore fishermen last, and perhaps most important of all, the need for effective measures to conserve fish stocks which would be policed by individual coastal states. In the absence of agreement, we would not hesitate to take the necessary measures on our own, but of course on a non-discriminatory basis.

Animal Welfare

The welfare of animals is an issue that concerns us all. There are problems in certain areas and we will act immediately where it is necessary. More specifically, we will give full support to the EEC proposals on the transportation of animals. We shall update the Brambell Report, the codes of welfare for farm animals, and the legislation on experiments on live animals. We shall also re-examine the rules and enforcement applying to the export of live animals and shall halt the export of cows and ewes recently calved and lambed.

4. The rule of law

THE MOST DISTURBING THREAT to our freedom and security is the growing disrespect for the rule of law. In government as in opposition, Labour have undermined it. Yet respect for the rule of law is the basis of a free and civilised life. We will restore it, re-establishing the supremacy of Parliament and giving the right priority to the fight against crime.

The Fight against Crime

The number of crimes in England and Wales is nearly half as much again as it was in 1973. The next Conservative government will spend more on fighting crime even while we economise elsewhere.

Britain needs strong, efficient police forces with high morale. Improved pay and conditions will help Chief Constables to recruit up to necessary establishment levels. We will therefore implement in full the recommendations of the Edmund Davies Committee. The police need more time to detect crime. So we will ease the weight of traffic supervision duties and review cumbersome court procedures which waste police time. We will also review the traffic laws, including the totting-up procedure.

Deterring the Criminal

Surer detection means surer deterrence. We also need better crime prevention measures and more flexible, more effective sentencing. For violent criminals and thugs really tough sentences are essential. But in other cases long prison terms are not always the best deterrent. So we want to see a wider variety of sentences available to the courts. We will therefore amend the 1961 Criminal Justice Act which limits prison sentences on young adult offenders, and revise the Children and Young Persons Act 1969 to give magistrates the power to make residential and secure care orders on juveniles.

We need more compulsory attendance centres for hooligans at junior and senior levels. In certain detention centres we will experiment with a tougher regime as a short, sharp shock for young criminals. For certain types of offenders, we also support the greater use of community service orders, intermediate treatment and attendance centres. Unpaid fines and compensation orders are ineffective. Fines should be assessed to punish the offender within his means and then be backed by effective sanctions for non-payment.

Many people advocate capital punishment for murder. This must remain a matter of conscience for Members of Parliament. But we will give the new House of Commons an early opportunity for a free vote on this issue.

Immigration and Race Relations

The rights of all British citizens legally settled here are equal before the law whatever their race, colour or creed. And their opportunities ought to be equal too. The ethnic minorities have already made a valuable contribution to the life of our nation. But firm immigration control for the future is essential if we are to achieve good community relations. It will end persistent fears about levels of immigration and will remove from those settled, and in many cases born here, the label of 'immigrant'.

(i) We shall introduce a new British Nationality Act to define entitlement to British citizenship and to the right of abode in this country. It will not adversely affect the right of anyone now permanently settled here.

(ii) We shall end the practice of allowing permanent settlement for those who come here for a temporary stay.

(iii) We shall limit entry of parents, grandparents and children over 18 to a small number of urgent compassionate cases.

(iv) We shall end the concession introduced by the Labour government in 1974 to husbands and male fiancés.

(v) We shall severely restrict the issue of work permits.

(vi) We shall introduce a Register of those Commonwealth wives and children entitled to entry for settlement under the 1971 Immigration Act.

(vii) We shall then introduce a quota system, covering everyone outside the European Community, to control all entry for settlement.

(viii) We shall take firm action against illegal immigrants and overstayers and help those immigrants who genuinely wish to leave this country-but there can be no question of compulsory repatriation.

We will encourage the improvement of language training in schools and factories and of training facilities for the young unemployed in the ethnic communities. But these measures will achieve little without the effective control of immigration. That is essential for racial harmony in Britain today.

The Supremacy of Parliament

In recent years, Parliament has been weakened in two ways. First, outside groups have been allowed to usurp some of its democratic functions. Last winter, the Government permitted strike committees and pickets to take on powers and responsibilities which should have been discharged by Parliament and the police. Second, the traditional role of our legislature has suffered badly from the growth of government over the last quarter of a century.

We will see that Parliament and no other body stands at the centre of the nation's life and decisions, and we will seek to make it effective in its job of controlling the Executive.

We sympathise with the approach of the all-party parliamentary committees which put forward proposals last year for improving the way the House of Commons legislates and scrutinises public spending and the work of government departments. We will give the new House of Commons an early chance of coming to a decision on these proposals.

The public has rightly grown anxious about many constitutional matters in the last few years - partly because our opponents have proposed major constitutional changes for party political advantage. Now Labour want not merely to abolish the House of' Lords but to put nothing in its place. This would be a most dangerous step. A strong Second Chamber is necessary not only to revise legislation but also to guarantee our constitution and liberties.

It is not only the future of the Second Chamber which is at issue. We are committed to discussions about the future government of Scotland, and have put forward proposals for improved parliamentary control of administration in Wales. There are other important matters, such as a possible Bill of Rights, the use of referendums, and the relationship between Members of the European Parliament and Westminster, which we shall wish to discuss with all parties.

Northern Ireland

We shall maintain the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in accordance with the wish of the majority in the Province. Its future still depends on the defeat of terrorism and the restoration of law and order. We shall continue with the help of the courage, resolution and restraint of the Security Forces-to give it the highest priority. There will be no amnesty for convicted terrorists.

In the absence of devolved government, we will seek to establish one or more elected regional councils with a wide range of powers over local services. We recognise that Northern Ireland's industry will continue to require government support.

5. Helping the family

Homes of Our Own

To most people ownership means first and foremost a home of their own.

Many find it difficult today to raise the deposit for a mortgage. Our tax cuts will help them. We shall encourage shared purchase schemes which will enable people to buy a house or fiat on mortgage, on the basis initially of a part-payment which they complete later when their incomes are high enough. We should like in time to improve on existing legislation with a realistic grants scheme to assist first-time buyers of cheaper homes. As it costs about three times as much to subsidise a new council house as it does to give tax relief to a home buyer, there could well be a substantial saving to the tax and ratepayer.

The prospect of very high mortgage interest rates deters some people from buying their homes and the reality can cause acute difficulties to those who have done so. Mortgage rates have risen steeply because of the Government's financial mismanagement. Our plans for cutting government spending and borrowing will lower them.

The Sale of Council Houses

Many families who live on council estates and in new towns would like to buy their own homes but either cannot afford to or are prevented by the local authority or the Labour government. The time has come to end these restrictions. In the first session of the next Parliament we shall therefore give council and new town tenants the legal right to buy their homes, while recognising the special circumstances of rural areas and sheltered housing for the elderly. Subject to safeguards over resale, the terms we propose would allow a discount on market values reflecting the fact that council tenants effectively have security of tenure. Our discounts will range from 33 per cent after three years, rising with length of tenancy to a maximum of 50 per cent after twenty years. We shall also ensure that 100 per cent mortgages are available for the purchase of council and new town houses. We shall introduce a right for these tenants to obtain limited term options on their homes so that they know in advance the price at which they can buy, while they save the money to do so.

As far as possible, we will extend these rights to housing association tenants. At the very least, we shall give these associations the power to sell to their tenants.

Those council house tenants who do not wish to buy their homes will be given new rights and responsibilities under our Tenants' Charter.

The Private Rented Sector

As well as giving new impetus to the movement towards home ownership, we must make better use of our existing stock of houses. Between 1973 and 1977 no fewer than 400,000 dwellings were withdrawn from private rental. There are now hundreds of thousands of empty properties in Britain which are not let because the owners are deterred by legislation. We intend to introduce a new system of shorthold tenure which will allow short fixed-term lettings of these properties free of the most discouraging conditions of the present law. This provision will not, of course, affect the position of existing tenants. There should also be more flexible arrangements covering accommodation for students. At the same time, we must try to achieve a greater take-up in rent allowances for poorer tenants.

Protecting the Environment

The quality of our environment is a vital concern to all of us. The last Conservative government had a proud record of achievement in reducing pollution, and protecting our heritage and countryside. We shall continue to give these issues a proper priority. Subject to the availability of resources we shall pay particular attention to the improvement and restoration of derelict land, the disposal and recycling of dangerous and other wastes, and reducing pollution of our rivers and canals.

We attach particular importance to measures to reduce fuel consumption by improving insulation.

Standards in Education

The Labour Party is still obsessed with the structure of the schools system, paying too little regard to the quality of education. As a result we have a system which in the view of many of our parents and teachers all too often fails - at a cost of over £8 billion a year - even to provide pupils with the means of communication and understanding. We must restore to every child, regardless of background, the chance to progress as far as his or her abilities allow.

We will halt the Labour government's policies which have led to the destruction of good schools keep those of proven worth and repeal those sections of the 1976 Education Act which compel local authorities to reorganise along comprehensive lines and restrict their freedom to take up places at independent schools.

We shall promote higher standards of achievement in basic skills. The Government's Assessment of Performance Unit will set national standards in reading, writing and arithmetic, monitored by tests worked out with teachers and others and applied locally by education authorities. The Inspectorate will be strengthened. In teacher training there must be more emphasis on practical skills and on maintaining discipline.

Much of our higher education in Britain has a world-wide reputation for its quality. We shall seek to ensure that this excellence is maintained. We are aware of the special problems associated with the need to increase the number of high-quality entrants to the engineering professions. We shall review the relationship between school, further education and training to see how better use can be made of existing resources.

We recognise the valuable work done by the Youth Service and will continue to give help to those voluntary bodies which make such a considerable contribution in this field.

Parents' Rights and Responsibilities

Extending parents' rights and responsibilities, including their right of choice, will also help raise standards by giving them greater influence over education. Our Parents' Charter will place a clear duty on government and local authorities to take account of parents' wishes when allocating children to schools, with a local appeals system for those dissatisfied. Schools will be required to publish prospectuses giving details of their examination and other results.

The Direct Grant schools, abolished by Labour, gave wider opportunities for bright children from modest backgrounds. The Direct Grant principle will therefore be restored with an Assisted Places Scheme. Less well-off parents will be able to claim part or all of the fees at certain schools from a special government fund.

The Arts

Economic failure and Socialist policies have placed the arts under threat. Lightening the burden of tax should in time enable the private sponsor to flourish again and the reform of capital taxation will lessen the threat to our heritage. We will strengthen the existing provision whereby relief from CTT is available on assets placed in a maintenance fund for the support of heritage property. We favour the establishment of a National Heritage Fund to help preserve historic buildings and artistic treasures for the nation. We will continue to give as generous support to Britain's cultural and artistic life as the country can afford.

Sport and recreation have also been hit by inflation and high taxation. We will continue to support the Sports Councils in the encouragement of recreation and international sporting achievement.

Health and Welfare

The welfare of the old, the sick, the handicapped and the deprived has also suffered under Labour. The lack of money to improve our social services and assist those in need can only be overcome by restoring the nation's prosperity. But some improvements can be made now by spending what we do have more sensibly.

In our National Health Service standards are falling there is a crisis of morale too often patients' needs do not come first. It is not our intention to reduce spending on the Health Service indeed, we intend to make better use of what resources are available. So we will simplify and decentralise the service and cut back bureaucracy.

When resources are so tightly stretched it is folly to turn good money away from the NHS and to discourage people from doing more for themselves. We shall therefore allow pay-beds to be provided where there is a demand for them end Labour's vendetta against the private health sector and restore tax relief on employer-employee medical insurance schemes. The Royal Commission on the Health Service is studying the financing of health care, and any examination of possible longer term changes - for example greater reliance for NHS funding on the insurance pnnciple - must await their report.

In the community, we must do more to help people to help themselves, and families to look after their own. We must also encourage the voluntary movement and self-help groups working in partnership with the statutory services.

Making Sense of Social Security

Our social security system is now so complicated that even some Ministry officials do not understand it. Income tax starts at such a low level that many poor people are being taxed to pay for their own benefits. All too often they are little or no better off at work than they are on social security.

This was one of our principal reasons for proposing a tax credit scheme. Child benefits are a step in the right direction. Further progress will be very difficult in the next few years, both for reasons of cost and because of technical problems involved in the switch to computers. We shall wish to move towards the fulfilment of our original tax credit objectives as and when resources become available. Meanwhile we shall do all we can to find other ways to simplify the system, restore the incentive to work, reduce the poverty trap and bring more effective help to those in greatest need.

Restoring the will to work means, above all, cutting income tax. It also involves bringing unemployment and short-term sickness benefit within the tax system an objective fully shared by Labour Ministers. The rules about the unemployed accepting available jobs will be reinforced and we shall act more vigorously against fraud and abuse.

We welcomed the new Child Benefit as the first stage of our tax credit scheme. One-parent families face much hardship so we will maintain the special addition for them.

The Elderly and the Disabled

We will honour the increases in retirement pensions which were promised just before the election.

However, like others, pensioners have suffered from the high taxes and catastrophic inflation of Labour's years.

It is wrong to discourage people who wish to work after retirement age, and we will phase out the 'earnings rule' during the next Parliament. The Christmas Bonus, which the last Conservative government started in 1972, will continue. We will exempt war widows' pensions from tax and provide a pension for pre-1950 widows of 'other ranks' who do not receive one at present.

Much has been done in recent years to help the disabled, but there is still a long way to go. Our aim is to provide a coherent system of cash benefits to meet the costs of disability, so that more disabled people can support themselves and live normal lives. We shall work towards this as swiftly as the strength of the economy allows.

6. A strong Britain in a free world

Improving Our Defences

During the past five years the military threat to the West has grown steadily as the Communist bloc has established virtual parity in strategic nuclear weapons and a substantial superiority in conventional weapons. Yet Labour have cut down our forces, weakened our defences and reduced our contribution to NATO. And the Left are pressing for still more reductions.

We shall only be able to decide on the proper level of defence spending after consultation in government with the Chiefs of Staff and our allies. But it is already obvious that significant increases will be necessary. The SALT discussions increase the importance of ensuring the continuing effectiveness of Britain's nuclear deterrent.

In recent times our armed forces have had to deal with a wide variety of national emergencies. They have responded magnificently despite government neglect and a severe shortage of manpower and equipment. We will give our servicemen decent living conditions, bring their pay up to full comparability with their civilian counterparts immediately and keep it there. In addition, we must maintain the efficiency of our reserve forces. We will improve their equipment, too, and hope to increase their strength.

The European Community

If we wish to play our full part in shaping world events over the next few critical years, we must also work honestly and genuinely with our partners in the European Community. There is much that we can achieve together, much more than we can achieve alone.

There are some Community policies which need to be changed since they do not suit Britain's - or Europe's - best interests. But it is wrong to argue, as Labour do, that Europe has failed us. What has happened is that under Labour our country has been prevented from taking advantage of the opportunities which membership offers.

Labour's economic policies have blunted our competitive edge and made it more difficult for our companies to sell in our partners' markets. What is more, the frequently obstructive and malevolent attitude of Labour Ministers has weakened the Community as a whole and Britain's bargaining power within it.

By forfeiting the trust of our partners, Labour have made it much more difficult to persuade them to agree to the changes that are necessary in such important areas as the Common Agricultural Policy, the Community budget, and the proposed Common Fisheries Policy.

The next Conservative government will restore Britain's influence by convincing our partners of our commitment to the Community's success. This will enable us to protect British interests and to play a leading and constructive role in the Community's efforts to tackle the many problems which it faces.

We shall work for a common-sense Community which resists excessive bureaucracy and unnecessary harmonisation proposals, holding to the principles of free enterprise which inspired its original founders.

Our policies for the reform of the CAP (see Chapter 3) would reduce the burden which the Community budget places upon the British taxpayer. We shall also strive to cut out waste in other Community spending programmes.

National payments into the budget should be more closely related to ability to pay. Spending from the budget should be concentrated more strictly on policies and projects on which it makes sense for the Community rather than nation states to take the lead.

We attach particular importance to the co-ordination of Member States' foreign policies. In a world dominated by the super-powers, Britain and her partners are best able to protect their international interests and to contribute to world peace and stability when they speak with a single voice.

Africa and The Middle East

In Africa and the Middle East, there is an increasing threat from the Soviet Union and its Cuban allies. That threat must be countered, not only through collaboration with our European and American allies but also by the people and governments in Africa and the Middle East whose independence is threatened.

We shall do all we can to build on the Egyptian/Israeli peace treaty, to seek a comprehensive settlement which will bring peace to the whole region.

Rhodesia

The Conservative Party will aim to achieve a lasting settlement to the Rhodesia problem based on the democratic wishes of the people of that country. If the Six Principles, which all British governments have supported for the last fifteen years, are fully satisfied following the present Rhodesian Election, the next government will have the duty to return Rhodesia to a state of legality, move to lift sanctions, and do its utmost to ensure that the new independent state gains international recognition.

Trade, Aid and the Commonwealth

Like other industrial countries, Britain has a vital interest in bringing prosperity to poorer nations which provide us with a growing market and supply many of the raw materials upon which we depend. The next Conservative government will help them through national and international programmes of aid and technical co-operation and by the encouragement of voluntary work. But we also attach particular importance to the development of trade and private investment through such instruments as the European Community's Lomé Convention. In particular, we will foster all our Commonwealth links and seek to harness to greater cifret the collective influence of the Commonwealth in world affairs.

7. A new beginning

IN THIS MANIFESTO we have not sought to understate the difficulties which face us-the economic and social problems at home, the threats to the freedom of the West abroad. Yet success and security are attainable if we have the courage and confidence to seize the opportunities which are open to us.

We make no lavish promises. The repeated disappointment of rising expectations has led to a marked loss of faith in politicians' promises. Too much has gone wrong in Britain for us to hope to put it all right in a year or so. Many things will simply have to wait until the economy has been revived and we are once again creating the wealth on which so much else depends.

Most people, in their hearts, know that Britain has to come to terms with reality. They no longer have any time for politicians who try to gloss over the harsh facts of life. Most people want to be told the truth, and to be given a clear lead towards the action needed for recovery.

The years of make-believe and false optimism are over. It is time for a new beginning.


The 1979 General Election

The 1979 general election inaugurated the premiership of Margaret Thatcher and an eighteen-year period of Conservative government. It took place after the ‘winter of discontent’, marked by public sector strikes which destroyed the Labour government’s social contract. The results signalled the end of the post-World War II political consensus, based on an enhanced role for the state in economic management, strong trade unions, a broad welfare state and the pursuit of full employment.

The election came at the end of a decade that had seen numerous political upheavals, including two hung parliaments and record levels of support for the Liberal Party. But the Liberals’ share of the vote fell sharply in 1979, and two-party politics seemed to be back.

Join Lord David Steel, Professor Sir John Curtice (University of Strathclyde) and Baroness Shirley Williams to discuss the 1979 general election and its significance.

The meeting will start at 7.00pm, after the Liberal Democrat History Group’s AGM at 6.30pm.


1979 General Election - History

The first elections under the 1979 constitution were held on schedule in July and August 1979, and the FMG handed over power to a new civilian government under President Shehu Shagari on October 1, 1979. Nigeria's Second Republic was born amid great expectations. Oil prices were high and revenues were on the increase. It appeared that unlimited development was possible. Unfortunately, the euphoria was short-lived, and the Second Republic did not survive its infancy.

Five major parties competed for power in the first elections in 1979. As might be expected, there was some continuity between the old parties of the First Republic and the new parties of the Second Republic. The National Party of Nigeria (NPN), for example, inherited the mantle of the Northern People's Congress, although the NPN differed from the NPC in that it obtained significant support in the non-Igbo states of southeastern Nigeria. The United Party of Nigeria (UPN) was the successor to the Action Group, with Awolowo as its head. Its support was almost entirely in the Yoruba states. The Nigerian People's Party (NPP), the successor to the NCNC, was predominantly Igbo and had Azikiwe as its leader. An attempt to forge an alliance with nonHausa -Fulani northern elements collapsed in the end, and a breakaway party with strong support in parts of the north emerged from the failed alliance. This northern party was known as the Great Nigerian People's Party under the leadership of Waziri Ibrahim of Borno. Finally, the People's Redemption Party was the successor to the Northern Elements Progressive Union and had Aminu Kano as its head.

Just as the NPC dominated the First Republic, its successor, the NPN, dominated the Second Republic. Shagari won the presidency, defeating Azikiwe in a close and controversial vote. The NPN also took 36 of 95 Senate seats, 165 of 443 House of Representatives seats and won control of seven states (Sokoto, Niger, Bauchi, Benue, Cross River, Kwara, and Rivers). The NPN lost the governorship of Kaduna State but secured control of the Kaduna legislature. The NPN failed to take Kano and lacked a majority in either the Senate or House of Representatives. It was forced to form a shaky coalition with the NPP, the successor of the NCNC, the old coalition partner of the NPC. The NPP took three states (Anambra, Imo, and Plateau), sixteen Senate seats and seventy-eight House of Representatives seats, so that in combination with the NPN the coalition had a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Nonetheless, the interests of the two parties were often in conflict, which forced the NPN to operate alone in most situations. Even though the presidential form of constitution was intended to create a stronger central government, the weakness of the coalition undermined effective central authority.

The UPN came in with the second largest number of seats and effectively formed the official opposition, just as the Action Group had done in the First Republic. The UPN took five states (Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, and Bendel), 28 Senate seats, and 111 House seats. Awolowo continued as spokesman for the left of center. The Great Nigerian People's Party managed to win two states (Borno and Gongola), eight Senate seats, and forty-three House of Representatives seats. The People's Redemption Party, which was the most radical of the parties, won Kano and the governorship of Kaduna, seven Senate seats, and forty-nine House of Representatives seats.

A number of weaknesses beset the Second Republic. First, the coalition that dominated federal politics was not strong, and in effect the NPN governed as a minority because no coalition formed to challenge its supremacy. Second, there was lack of cooperation between the NPN-dominated federal government and the twelve states controlled by opposition parties. Third, and perhaps most important, the oil boom ended in mid-1981, precisely when expectations of continuous growth and prosperity were at a height.

There were many signs of tension in the country. The Bakalori Project, an irrigation scheme in Sokoto, for example, became the focus of serious unrest in the late 1970s when thousands of farmers protested the loss of their land, and police retaliated by burning villages and killing or wounding hundreds of people. Widespread dissatisfaction became apparent with the Maitatsine, or Yan Tatsine (followers of the Maitatsine), a quasi-Muslim fringe group that who sparked religious riots in Kano in 1980, and Kaduna, and Maiduguri in 1982 after police tried to control this activities. The disturbance in Kano alone resulted in the deaths of 4,177 people between December 18 and 29, 1980. In 1981 teachers staged a strike because they had not been paid. As the political situation deteriorated, the federal government looked for scapegoats and found them in the large number of foreign workers who had come to Nigeria in response to the jobs created by the oil boom. In the crackdown on illegal immigration, an estimated 2 million foreigners were expelled in January and February 1983, of whom 1 million were from Ghana and 150,000 to 200,000 from Niger.

The recession that set in with the fall in oil prices after the middle of 1981 put severe strains on the Second Republic. For political reasons, government spending continued to accelerate, and the frictions among the political parties and between the federal government and the states only reinforced financial irresponsibility. Nigeria's foreign debt increased from N3.3 billion in 1978 to N14.7 billion in 1982. By 1983 the nineteen state governments had run up a combined debt of N13.3 billion. Heavy investment in economic development continued unabated. In addition to finishing a steel mill at Ajaokuta in Kwara State, for example, a second plant opened at Aladje, near Warri, in 1982. Steel-rolling mills also were built at Jos, Oshogbo, and Katsina--sites chosen for political reasons. By 1987 N5 billion had been spent on the steel industry alone, most of this committed under the Second Republic, even although the economics of steel development were questionable.

Corruption once again was rampant under the Second Republic. It had been a serious problem since the civil war, when wartime contracts often were awarded under dubious circumstances. Corruption became more serious after the war, most notably in connection with the cement scandal of the early 1970s, the Festival of African Culture (FESTAC) in Lagos, and the development of Abuja as the new federal capital. Corruption under the Second Republic was even greater. Major scandals involved the Federal Housing Scheme, the National Youth Service Corps, the Nigerian External Telecommunications, the Federal Mortgage Bank, the Federal Capital Territory Administration, the Central Bank of Nigeria, and the Nigerian National Supply Company. In addition, the halfhearted attempts to license imports and to control inflation encouraged smuggling, which became a major crime that went virtually unchecked. Umaru Dikko came to the attention of the international community because of an abortive plot to kidnap him in London and return him to Nigeria to stand trial for corruption. British authorities found him in a shipping crate on a runway moments before he was to be sent to Nigeria. Dikko was involved in many scandals, including the issuance of licenses to import rice--rice imports had risen from 50,000 tons in 1976 to 651,000 tons in 1982.

As elections approached in August 1983, economic decline that reflected low oil prices, widespread corruption, and continued government spending at record levels was proof to many that the Second Republic was in sad shape. The lack of confidence was evident in the massive flight of capital--estimated at US$14 billion between 1979 and 1983. The second elections under the Second Republic were to be its last. When the results were tallied in 1983, it was clear that there had been fraud. The NPN increased its control of states from seven to twelve, including Kano and Kaduna. Shagari was reelected president, and the NPN gained 61 of 95 Senate seats and 307 of 450 House of Representatives seats. Not even the supporters of the NPN expected such results. Considering the state of the economy and the public outcry over the rigged election, the Shagari government stayed in power for a surgprisingly long time.


March 1979: What really happened when the SNP brought down a minority Labour government

On its 36th anniversary, Ben Wray speaks to Dennis Canavan, Gordon Wilson and Isobel Lindsay, who all had a part in what has been described as one of the most dramatic nights in UK political history: the vote of no confidence against Labour’s minority Government in March 1979

ON 28 March 1979, SNP votes helped bring down a minority Labour government in a vote of no confidence in the House of Commons. Under Margaret Thatcher’s leadership, the Tories went on to win the General Election that took place a few months later, and the Conservatives went on to rule Britannia for 18 years. The event is seen as one of the most dramatic in UK political history, and has been used as a stick to beat the SNP with by the Labour party for years since. But as the 2015 General Election nears, and the possibility of a minority Labour government relying on SNP votes to stay in power increases, is there more than petty political point scoring to take from the 1979 experience?

1.) The 40 per cent rule

Gordon Wilson became SNP leader shortly after the 1979 General Election, where he was one of only two (out of 11) SNP MPs who managed to hold onto their seats, and his recollection of the reasons behind the SNP voting against James Callaghan’s minority government is calm and clear.

“The SNP’s support had been collapsing for a year or two,” Wilson tells CommonSpace. “Against that background, combined with the fact that the party felt Scotland had just been robbed of devolution, the National Council [the key decision making body in the party at the time] decided our new strategy would be to give an ultimatum to the government: either accept the yes result of the referendum, or we won’t support the government.”

The referendum on devolution of powers to Scotland had taken place just weeks earlier, on 1 March. A majority backed a yes vote, but ‘The Scotland Act’ was not passed as anti-devolution Scottish Labour MPs managed to get a provision passed that stipulated up to 40 per cent of the total electorate had to vote yes.

The referendum had a 64 per cent turnout, and therefore with 51.6 per cent voting yes, it only amounted to 32.9 per cent of the registered electorate. The same vote would have secured an independent Scotland in the referendum last year, but was not enough to secure devolution in 1979 because of Robin Cook’s clause (introduced by George Cunningham) in The Scotland Act.

Wilson says a good insight into the mindset of SNP MPs after the 1979 referendum is to look at the intensity and commitment of the independence movement after September’s referendum last year.

“Let’s imagine there was a referendum now,” Wilson says, “and the UK government decides to put an arbitrary number on how much of the registered electorate has to vote yes. And then a majority votes yes, but not a big enough majority to suit the government. Then that same government has a vote of no confidence a few weeks later. Given the movement that exists today, what would those SNP MPs decide to do?

“You have to put yourself in the situation at the time,” Wilson concludes.

2.) “What are they going to do? Back the Tories?”

It is highly unlikely the crop of SNP MPs, that is set to grow substantially after May’s General Election, will face a referendum scenario to deal with. However, it is well within the realms of possibility that they will face a minority Labour government that has little sympathy with the SNP’s cause.

A Labour insider told The Herald that, if there is a minority Labour government, the SNP will not get “anything” in return for Scottish nationalist votes.

“What are they going to do? Back the Tories?” The source said.

Prior to the vote of no confidence in 1979, Callaghan refused to give the SNP any concessions either, and the outcome was that the SNP did vote for the Tories motion against the government.

Isobel Lindsay was on the SNP’s national council at the time of the vote, and tells CommonSpace that she, as well as others in the party, thought that “there would be some concessions because Labour would not want to face an election”.

“The view that prevailed among Labour ministers was that the SNP would lose their nerve and make sure that a few of their MPs would abstain and that was their expectation right up to the vote,” Lindsay added.

This view was based on the fact that Callaghan’s minority Labour government had constantly sought to negotiate to stay in power for three years previously. In that time, it had lost many votes in parliament, and scraped through on others.

Lord Hattersley, Labour prices secretary from 1976-79, said in a BBC Documentary that “the sick and the lame were constantly being brought in” to secure majorities for Labour in tight votes.

“There was quite often two or three ambulances in the lobby,” he added.

In December 1978, Thatcher had lost a no confidence vote against Callaghan’s government by 10 votes, with the SNP’s support crucial in propping up the government.

Callaghan had by then already missed his opportune time to call a General Election in the summer of 1978, when his government was ahead in the polls. By the time winter had come round, Labour’s pay policy had collapsed in the face of striking trade unions that sought pay rises at a time of high inflation.

The ‘Winter of Discontent’ saw dead bodies unburied and rubbish pile up on the streets as the trade unions flexed their muscles, and Callaghan’s support collapsed.

In this context, Lindsay says: “Labour were almost certain to lose” the General Election, whether they survived a vote of no confidence was fairly inconsequential.

“All the claims of letting Thatcher in are nonsense – Thatcher was going to get in within six months. It was the anti-devolution Labour MPs who undermined their own government and prevented the majority Scottish opinion from prevailing,” Lindsay adds.

One Labour Lord, who describes himself as just “a low level foot soldier in 1979”, told CommonSpace he agrees that “the SNP cannot be wholly blamed for Thatcher”.

“People love to re-write history,” he added.

Could a compromise have been found between Labour and the SNP to prevent the government falling?

Some Labour MPs have admitted that Callaghan was fed up and unprepared to offer the sort of concessions that would have allowed him to win the vote of no confidence.

Appeals were made to Callaghan by Lord Donoghue, head of the Downing Street policy unit, to “make some concessions” to win the vote, but Callaghan was described as “priggish” in response.

He acted, according to Donoghue, like an “honourable vicar in the face of corrupt politicians, when he ought to have done those things to win the vote”.

Wilson concurs with this, saying Callaghan “had basically had enough”, and the SNP would have been prepared to compromise if Labour offered something.

“If, for example, we had been offered a serious industrial development fund for Scotland,” Wilson says, “we could take that to the public and to our party and say: ‘we’ve negotiated a package’.”

Wilson says Michael Foot, who would become the next leader of the Labour party, went to Callaghan with an offer to buy off the SNP, but it was rejected by the prime minister.

“To be honest we were desperate for some sort of compromise,” Wilson adds. “But we got nothing. So at that point it’s retreat, or go ahead.

“If you back down, and just let all your demands go, with no compromises from the other side, people would say we were just bluffers. That we’d never hold the line. So sometimes you’ve got to hold a line,” Wilson concludes.

The SNP held the line, and in the House of Commons, in a famous speech, Callaghan lambasted the Scottish nationalists and the Liberals, who also voted against the government, as “turkeys voting for Christmas”.

“We can truly say that once the Leader of the opposition discovered what the Liberals and the SNP would do, she found the courage of their convictions,” Callaghan said.

“So, tonight, the Conservative Party, which wants the Act repealed and opposes even devolution, will march through the Lobby with the SNP, which wants independence for Scotland, and with the Liberals, who want to keep the Act. What a massive display of unsullied principle!

“The minority parties have walked into a trap. If they win, there will be a general election. I am told that the current joke going around the House is that it is the first time in recorded history that turkeys have been known to vote for an early Christmas.”

Callaghan did seek and win the support of the three Plaid Cymru (Welsh nationalist) MPs by offering them support for slate quarries, an important factor in two out of three of the Plaid Cymru MPs’ constituencies.

Labour whips also attempted to convince Callaghan to agree to a pipe line to Northern Ireland to secure the votes of Ulster unionists, and there were also discussions about increasing the number of constituencies in Northern Ireland that would boost the number of Ulster unionist MPs.

Callaghan apparently refused these deals too, but two Ulster Unionist MPs did vote with the government because they got a new deal from Hattersley on Northern Ireland’s prices policy.

The flirtation with the Ulster unionist MPs was part of the reason that two moderate Irish republican MPs voted against the government, which was the deciding votes in defeating Callaghan.

The story about how Frank Maguire abstained from voting is notorious. Maguire was known to be sympathetic to Labour, but was on strict orders from republicans not to back the government. When he travelled over to vote he was rushed into meetings with Labour party whips and pressured to vote with the government.

Gerry Fitt, the other independent republican MP, spoke during the debate, saying it would be “despicable” if Maguire voted with the government. Maguire’s wife was in the public gallery, and as soon as she heard the speech she found her husband and rushed by this stage a very drunk Maguire out of the parliament and back home.

There was one final way Callaghan could have secured the vote. Dr Broughton MP was fatally ill and in hospital, but wanted to come down for the vote as he was loyal to the party and knew he was going to die anyway. He could have voted from the ambulance in the court, but Callaghan said no.

5.) “If you are given a promise by a UK party, don’t believe it”

And the rest, as they say, is history. It was the first time a government had been brought down in a vote of no confidence since 1924. What lessons are there for today?

Wilson says he doesn’t think it likely SNP MPs will face a similar situation in the next government, but does concede that a vote over Trident renewal as part of a government budget, for example, could create a similar dilemma as in 1979.

The possible political permutations are difficult to follow: it’s not clear, for example, that trident renewal would be part of the government’s budget, and therefore it’s possible that the SNP could support the government on a “vote by vote basis”, as Alex Salmond has described it, and support the government’s budget while voting against it on other votes, like over trident renewal.

The complications arise from the simple fact that the Westminster system is not predicated on clear rules: almost everything is subject to political machinations.

Wilson’s advice for new SNP MPs entering this Machiavellian political cauldron is not to get “caught up in Westminster politics not relevant to Scotland”, and to make sure decisions that are taken are “to the benefit of the people of Scotland, and seen to be so”.

“And also,” Wilson adds, “if you are given a promise by a UK party, don’t believe it.”

6.) Salmond and the 󈨓 Group

Wilson says that one of the outcomes of the SNP’s decision vote against the government was the rise of a new generation of SNP politicians in the left-wing 󈨓 group’, a faction within the party with Alex Salmond among its leading figures.

“One of the 󈨓 group’s issues is they were very defensive about bringing down the Labour government, and they didn’t want to get into that position again,” Wilson said.

Dennis Canavan, who was a Labour MP at the time of the 1979 vote of no confidence before later leaving the party and leading the Yes Scotland campaign in the referendum debate, believes the SNP has “learned from past mistakes”.

“Many people, especially traditional Labour voters, never forgave the SNP for voting with the Tories and it took the SNP a long time to recover from their 1979 blunder,” Canavan tells CommonSpace.

“But a lot of water has gone under the brige since then,” Canavan says. “Labour has lost its soul, whereas the SNP is proposing a social democratic anti-austerity agenda and is standing by its commitment to get rid of trident. Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond have also made it absolutely clear that they will never do a deal with the Tories.”

Time will tell if Salmond, a keen student of political history, will take different decisions to his predecessors, and whether those decisions will fundamentally shape Scottish and British political history, like on 28 March 1979.


The government of John Major (1990–97)

Despite having presided over the country’s longest recession since the 1930s and owing partly to the Labour Party’s overconfidence, the Conservatives won their fourth consecutive election in April 1992, albeit with a diminished majority of 21 in Parliament. That they did so was largely a result of the ongoing conflict within Labour as it continued to undergo “modernization.” As the recession lingered, the popularity of Major—and of the Conservatives—plummeted, and the party fared poorly in by-elections and in local elections. Major’s economic policies were questioned after the “Black Wednesday” fiasco of September 16, 1992, when he was forced to withdraw Britain from the European exchange-rate mechanism and devalue the pound. Despite having pledged not to increase taxes during the 1992 campaign, Major supported a series of increases to restore Britain’s financial equilibrium. When he sought to secure passage of the Treaty on European Union in 1993, his grip on power was challenged. Twenty-three Conservatives voted against a government resolution on the treaty, causing the government’s defeat and compelling Major to call a vote of confidence to pass the treaty.

Tory troubles mounted with scandals in local governments, particularly in Westminster in 1994, and thereafter Major was seemingly unable to shake off the growing reputation of his government not only for economic mismanagement but also for corruption and moral hypocrisy. A seemingly unending series of financial and sexual scandals took their toll, and paper offensives like Major’s “Citizens Charter,” attempting to stop the growing rot of concern about the efficiency and responsibility of privatized industry by laying down citizens’ rights, made little impact.


The 1979 General Election

I have been teaching History for over ten years and also work as an A level examiner. I also teach Citizenship. I have uploaded lots of resources to tes and I try to make my resources relevant, interesting and fun. I really appreciate any feedback you provide and can be contacted through the tes community or Twitter.

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I have been teaching History for over ten years and also work as an A level examiner. I also teach Citizenship. I have uploaded lots of resources to tes and I try to make my resources relevant, interesting and fun. I really appreciate any feedback you provide and can be contacted through the tes community or Twitter.


Turnout at elections (2 MB , PDF)

Democracies hold elections to enable citizens to vote for their representatives. Turnout at elections refers to the proportion of citizens who make use of this opportunity to vote. Turnout here is calculated as the total number of votes as a proportion of all people registered to vote, unless stated otherwise.

In the UK, elections are held at different levels of governance. This paper covers the most important elections: those for the UK Parliament&rsquos House of Commons, the devolved administrations, local councils, and the European Parliament (up until 2019). It does not cover elections for Police and Crime Commissioners or local mayors.

Since 1918, turnout at UK Parliament (general) elections was highest in the 1950s (83.9% in 1950) and lowest in 2001 (59.4%), after which it has increased again. The 2019 General Election (67.3%) saw a slight decline in turnout compared with the 2017 General Election (68.8%).

Turnout is normally highest in general elections, followed by devolved administration elections, local elections and European Parliament elections. The chart below shows turnout at the most recent UK elections by type.

There is substantial variation, for all these elections, among the different countries, regions, constituencies and local authorities of the UK. Younger people are less likely to vote than older people at general elections.

Further detailed charts and appendix tables are available in the PDF document.


How important was the Winter of Discontent in deciding the outcome of the 1979 British General Election?

The 1979 General Election changed the landscape of British politics and changed the course of British history dramatically. It signalled the end of Callaghan’s Labour government and brought about a new Conservative government, which was led by Margaret Thatcher. There are a number of reasons why the Conservatives won the 1979 election, and it was a synergy of events which combined to allow the Conservatives to gain the majority vote. One of the most important factors in the Conservatives defeating Labour was the winter of 1978-9, which was later dubbed, ‘The Winter of Discontent’. However, it was not just the, Winter of Discontent that allowed a Conservative victory, but a combination of issues and factors such as Callaghan and Labour’s own failings to secure their re-election, the strength of the Conservative’s election campaign and Margaret Thatcher’s personal qualities amongst other factors which will also be looked at. This essay will highlight how it was a combination of factors that led to a Conservative victory, and also how these events linked together to bring about the reincarnation of the Conservative Party. It will also highlight how significant the Winter of Discontent was and show how it led to a decrease in support for Labour and a dramatic increase in the support for the Conservatives. Furthermore, this essay will show that although the Winter of Discontent did allow the Conservatives to get elected into Government, I will use Leicester as a case study to show that their victory was not collective throughout the whole country as Labour won the local election in Leicester, due to the policies of Labour being more suited to the city, which was more multicultural than most others, which proved to be a huge factor.

By the time of the 1979 General Election, Britain was in economic meltdown. Kissinger was reported speaking to Gerald Ford in 1975, where he was quoted as saying, ‘Britain is in tragedy- it has sunk to begging, borrowing and stealing until the North Sea oil comes in’.[1] It was common knowledge that Britain was struggling due to its dependence on North Sea oil, which occurred due to oil from the Middle East having a trade embargo placed upon it, which combined with inflation made the situation even more dire (See Figure 1). However, Callaghan’s government also had more pressing issues closer to home which required attention. By 1979, Unemployment had reached 2 million, and pressure was being placed of Callaghan from members of the public and the Conservative party.[2] Unemployment began to rise significantly from 1974 (See Figure 2), and was a catalyst in the Conservatives election campaign, as they promised that they would cut unemployment and lower the high levels of inflation, which was something they claim was caused by the Labour Party themselves. Furthermore, Healy announced in 1976 that an application had been made to the IMF to borrow $3.9 billion, which was seen as a huge loss to British prestige and also seen by many as worsening the current situation.[3] Tony Benn labelled the IMF application as the, “dangerous farce of 1976”.[4]

It was this economic meltdown, combined with unemployment and inflation which led to a series of strikes, which combined together to grind the country to a near standstill. The Winter of Discontent refers to the winter of 1978–79 in the United Kingdom, during which there were widespread strikes by public sector trade unions demanding larger pay rises, following the on-going pay caps of the Labour Party government led by James Callaghan against Trades Union Congress opposition to control inflation, during the coldest winter for 16 years. Thatcher, whilst speaking in Parliament, addressed the issue and expressed the gravity of the situation. “The strikes today are not the only ones we have experienced recently.[5] The tanker drivers’ strike, thank goodness, is over. We have had the bread strike, hospital strikes, strikes at old people’s homes, and strikes in newspapers, broadcasting, airports and car plants.”[6] Thatcher then goes on to highlight that it was not just the large firms that were striking. “Many people who thought previously that strikes were a characteristic only of large firms and that most firms were strike-free received a rather rude shock… nearly half our factories had some form of industrial conflict… and nearly one-third suffered from all-out strikes.”[7] One of the biggest and most problematic strikes was the Ford strikes, which occurred in September of 1978. 26,000 workers walked out in protest due to the proposed 5% cap on pay increase.[8] The year before, Ford had thrashed out a deal which set the pay increase at above 10%, which was the catalyst for such an uproar.[9] By the 25 th September, Sid Harraway, the Chairman of the Ford negotiating Committee, had said there would be a full service shut down which could last, “…Weeks, months or even years”.[10] Their demands were for an extra holiday and a minimum of £44.50 per worker for a 40 hour week.[11] However, Callaghan refused to move on his stance, and in the end threatened restrictive financial measures if wage increases hiked up inflation.[12] Despite this threat, a 2:1 majority consisting of Unionists and Party workers rejected Callaghan’s requests, and they accused him of only offering short term concessions.[13] It was the fact that the Labour government refused to move on their proposals that dragged out the strike. Furthermore, the Ford strike encouraged other companies to demand more, which piled the pressure on Callaghan’s government. Figure 3 highlights how pay increase percentages had declined dramatically from 1975. One of the biggest and most influential effects of the strikes was the images of London’s Leicester Square, which were broadcast over the world. Figure 4 shows huge piles of rubbish stacked up in Leicester Square one of London’s biggest attractions. This visual image represented the drastic measures of the strike, and was one of the main things that highlighted the severity of the strike, and the urgency for resolve. It was images like this being broadcast that brought about further discontent with the Labour government, and was one of the key reasons that the Winter of Discontent had such consequences for the Labour party, because as they stood firm on their policies, the problems were stacking up. Labours firm stand was beginning to look like an inability to react to the crisis.

Another key reason that the Conservatives won the 1979 General Election was because of the strength of their election campaign, and also the weakness of Labour’s campaign. The Conservative campaign was mainly focused on gaining support from traditional Labour voters who had never voted Conservative before, first-time voters and people who had voted Liberal in 1974. Towards the end of the campaign, Thatcher urged anyone who wanted Labour out to not fritter away their votes on minor parties but to vote Conservative, which rallied last minute support.[14](A MORI Opinion poll had suggested the Conservative’s lead had slipped from 10% to 3%).[15] Thatcher urged any person who was worried about Labour’s drift to the left should support the Tories.[16] One of the main strengths of the Conservative’s campaign was the amount of funding they had received. The Conservative’s had Alistair McAlpine within their ranks, who excelled at raising the profile of the Conservative’s and was a very good fund raiser.[17] Further support for the Conservative party came from disgruntled members of the working class. Throughout the campaign, Thatcher toured the country visiting factories and other workplaces, and was filmed whilst helping around, whether it was stitching pockets in a textile factory in Leicester or sorting Chocolates in Bourneville.[18] She was also photographed holding a calf to help gain support from the agricultural sector.[19] The sight of Thatcher doing manual work would have gained her support as it would have humanised her, and made her more relatable to the working class people of England. Callaghan had already claimed that the Conservatives had already gone further right in the political spectrum, so this was a way that Thatcher could keep in touch with her more central voters, and she would have appeared to be more supportive of the working class.

The actual Conservative manifesto was impressive, and Labour fell into a trap of criticizing the manifesto before it had even been published, which gave the impression that Labour were focussed more on attempting to trash the Conservatives manifesto rather than working on their own.[20] The Conservative manifesto focussed on the rebuilding of Britain, and focussing on, in Thatcher’s own words, “…a new and exciting future”.[21] It was straight to the point and jargon free, which would have made it more straight forward and easier for the people to understand.[22] The manifesto promised to: Support family life Create new jobs Uphold Parliament and the rule of the Law and to Strengthen Britain’s defences.[23] This appealed to the British people, and was seen as a much suitable alternative to the Labour manifesto, which Thatcher claimed was tired. Hennessy claims that Callaghan was, “a man of 1945”, which supports the theory that the Labour campaign was tired and outdated.[24] Furthermore, Conservative propaganda helped gain them more votes in the electorate. They produced images claiming, ‘Labour’s Not Working’ (See Figure 5), and Thatcher was seen at the Kleeneze factory sweeping away dust and cobwebs, signalling the Conservative’s sweeping away the old, tired Labour party.[25] Labour’s campaign was mainly focussed on attacking the Conservative’s, and Callaghan’s style of leadership was put under the microscope. Thatcher claims that Callaghan was ‘over-rated’, and that he only got to the position he was in because he allowed the trade unions anything they wanted.[26] This being the case, Callaghan’s proposed cap on wage increase was disastrous, as it was bound to disgruntle the trade unions, which were central to his support.[27] Furthermore, Callaghan’s ineptitude was highlighted further when he announced on a televised broadcast that there would be no election in 1978. Callaghan had miscalculated badly, because he had antagonised the trade unions and he failed to put his impressive economic record to the test at the polls before winter.[28] It is suggested that Callaghan would have won the election had it have taken place before the Winter of Discontent. Furthermore, during their election campaign, Thatcher claims that Labour had slipped into arguing that nothing could work, and that Britain’s problems were insoluble. This put Labour in conflict with the British people’s basic instincts that improvement is possible.[29] She goes on to claim that the Conservatives represent that instinct.[30] This suggests that by claiming over and over that the Tory policies would not work, Labour had failed to suggest how they would tackle the problems Britain faced, which would not have helped their campaign in the slightest. Labour’s woes were compounded when Thatcher’s motion of no confidence in the Callaghan administration was carried by 311 votes to 310, which was the first time a government had been defeated on a confidence motion for 55 years.[31] This all but signalled the end for Callaghan’s government. However, despite everything appearing to be against Labour, they still may have won the 1979 election had it not been for Thatcher herself.

Thatcher was seen as a strong, fearless and driven person who was adamant and confident she could bring Britain out of its lull, by lowering taxes and reducing inflation. She was a terrific speaker and debater, and was considerably more impressive when compared to Callaghan. Callaghan himself said in later years that he wished he was younger whilst he was Prime Minister. He stated, “I think I ran out of steam”.[32] Also, during the election campaign, Thatcher gave powerful, rallying speeches around the country, perhaps the most notable of these being in Cardiff, which was right in the heart of ‘Callaghan Country’.[33] She promised to be rid of the bleak and dismal past, and to rise out of the darkness into a new era of British dominance. The speech was an extremely powerful one which was received extremely well.[34] She handled criticism extremely well during the campaign, and acknowledged the failures of the former Conservative government.[35]

However, despite the dramatic effects of the Winter of Discontent and the strength of the Tory election campaign, which proved pivotal in winning the Conservative party the 1979 Election, Leicester can be used as a case study to show how there was a transfer of power to Labour. Thatcher, in an interview with the Leicester Mercury in May 1978, predicted a huge vote from immigrants for the Conservatives in Leicester.[36] She had polarised the Conservative party away from the National Front, and hoped to gain the vote from the immigrants because of this. However, as the eventual results showed, Labour won all three available city seats.[37] (Labour also swept back to power in Leicester City Council, winning by a comfortable 14 seat majority).[38] Thatcher also complimented the people of Leicester’s levelheadedness, and said, “…Leicester people are practical people, and practical people have a lot of experience and common-sense. We could do with more people like that in Parliament”.[39] This quote, whilst complimenting the people of Leicester, also shows that Thatcher is trying to say that the people who were currently in Government at the time, i.e Labour, lack common-sense and there should be change. However, Labour’s policies were seen as sufficient enough for them to suit the people of Leicester. Labour promised to improve and expand the council house building schemes, and increase the amount of building built.[40] This was seen as a healthy alternative to the Conservatives plans to cut public expenditure. Another reason that the Leicester vote swung to Labour’s side was the turnout of voters from ethnic minorities. Anwar states that 73% of ethnic minorities voted within Leicester, which was a large majority.[41] This had significance because Leicester was seen as a very diverse and multicultural City at the time, and because of this the votes of ethnic minorities would have a larger impact within a city like Leicester. Anwar continues with his analysis of the ethnic vote, and shows that throughout the country the majority of ethnic minorities voted for Labour, with them gaining 52% of the vote to the Conservatives 23%.[42] This National statistic shows the political leanings of the majority of ethnic minorities to be Labour, which suggests that it was inevitable that Labour would win the vote in Leicester. This can also be supported by the fact that a new and reformed Race Relations Act was introduced in 1976 which aimed to eliminate discrimination.[43] The Race Relations Act would have helped Labour gain the support of ethnic minorities because it was passed whilst they were in power, which would have definitely won some support. Moreover, Labour also condemned the Conservatives proposed policies. Labour suggested that the Conservatives were not going to prepare a fair deal for women, and they refused to take up the issue of creating money for Nursery education.[44] Labour was prepared to do this, so they were more likely to gain the vote of the women. Furthermore, the Unions supported spending on healthcare, schools and homes, where the Conservatives were planning cuts.[45] This would have appealed to the majority of the people of Leicester, especially the immigrants that had come over in the 1970’s hoping to get a better deal. The promise of better housing, schooling and healthcare would be appealing to them, whereas cuts in that area would have made them turn away from the Conservative party. Labour also opposed Conservative plans for higher prescription prices, and claimed they had helped nearly 1,000,000 people get a job or secure training.[46] It was a combination of all of these issues which allowed Labour to win the Leicester vote, as the people of Leicester were more suited to the policies of Labour rather than the Conservatives, although the result still did come as a shock to Thatcher, who predicted a Conservative victory in Leicester.[47]

To conclude, the Winter of Discontent was crucial in determining the outcome of the 1979 election, because it appeared that the Labour party had polarised the trade unions and lost a huge chunk of their support as a direct result of Labour’s policies which ultimately ended up culminating in the Winter of Discontent. However, it was not just the Winter of Discontent that decided the election, but a combination of the Winter of Discontent, the strength of the Conservative’s election campaign, Thatcher’s personal strengths and Labours weakness and failures which led to a Conservative victory. If Labour had have called an earlier election, and had focussed their campaign on the issues at hand rather than focussing on trashing the Conservatives then they may have gained victory. Instead, there campaign lacked any real merit and was overshadowed by the Conservative campaign. Callaghan did later stated, “I let the country down”.[48] Furthermore, the Conservative’s may have still lost the election if it was not for Thatcher’s cunning campaign, in which she appealed to traditional Labour voters and gave powerful speeches. Despite Labour gaining the Leicester seats, the Conservative’s overall victory was comprehensive, and was due to a combination of the issues discussed in this essay, and they are all just as important as each other when determining the key reasons for the Conservative victory in the 1979 General Election.

This shows the huge hike in oil prices in the 1970’s, which combined with inflation led to more dependence being put on North Sea oil. This was caused due to the Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries placing an embargo on fuel.

This image charts the levels of Unemployment in Britain in millions. Despite the figures rising significantly in the 1980’s, you can clearly see the rise in unemployment around the time of the oil crisis in 1974, which was a key reason discontent with the Labour Government arose.

This shows how the percentage of wage increases dropped significantly after 1975, and reached its lowest peak around 1977. This would have caused discontent within the workplace, especially as the percentage increase did not rise significantly. This was a key reason that the strikes occurred.

This image shows Leicester Square in 1978 during the ‘Winter of Discontent’. This image sent shockwaves through Britain as it allowed the people of Britain to visualise the effects of the strikes for the first time. Another example of this would be that of the Liverpool Gravedigger strike, where images of dead bodies piling up was also shown.

Conservative’s, ‘Labour isn’t working’ Campaign. This image was used to highlight the huge levels of unemployment the Labour government was creating, and subsequently not dealing with. The Conservatives smear campaign against the Labour government was one of the reasons they won votes against them.

[1] www.margaretthatcher.org, Kissinger briefing Ford, 8 th January 1975.

[2] O’Morgan Kenneth, The Oxford History of Britain, (2010 Oxford University Press), p649

[3] Hennessy Peter, The Prime Minister: It’s Office and its Holders since 1945, (2001 Penguin), p385

[5] Here Thatcher is regarding the Railway workers strike, which can be summed up by the British Rails report which stated simply, “There are no trains today”.

[6] www.margaretthatcher.org, Thatcher addressing the House of Commons, 12 th January 1979

[8] Leicester Mercury, 25 th September 1978

[9] The Daily Mail, Friday September 22 nd 1978

[10] Leicester Mercury, 25 th September 1978

[12] Leicester Mercury, 3 rd October 1978

[14] Thatcher Margaret, The Path to Power, (2011 Harper Press), p458

[15] Daily Express, Saturday 28 th April 1979

[16] The Daily Mail, Tuesday October 10 th 1978

[24] Hennessy, Office and Holders, p378

[27] Hay Colin, The Winter of Discontent 30 Years On, The Political Quarterly, Vol. 80, No. 4, 2009, p546

[31] The Daily Mail, Thursday March 29 th 1979

[32] Hennessy, Office and Holders, p337

[36] Leicester Mercury, 19 th May 1978

[37] Leicester Mercury, 5 th May 1979

[39] Leicester Mercury, 19 th May 1978

[41] Anwar Muhammad, Votes and Policies: Ethnic Minorities and the General Election 1979, (1980 Commission for Racial Equality), p38

[43] Panayi Panikos, The Impact of Immigration: A documentary history of the effects and experiences of immigrants in Britain since 1945, (1999 Manchester University Press), pX

[44] Leicester Mercury, May 1 st 1979

[46] Leicester Mercury, May 2 nd 1979

[47] Leicester Mercury, 19 th May 1978

[48] O’Morgan Kenneth, Callaghan: A Life, (1997 Oxford University Press), p665


Watch the video: BBC 1979 General Election 2019 Broadcast - Part One (January 2022).