1974 -“Who Governs Britain”?

Yesterday, when I heard Theresa May was going to announce a General Election, I immediately thought of Ted Heath’s massive gamble in 1974.  Is this her “Who Governs Britain” moment?

In February 1974, a petulant Ted Heath called a general election on the premise that he was the best person to lead the country.  Weeks later, he got his answer in no uncertain terms. “Not you, Ted”.

Here’s the Tory Party Election Broadcast from February, 1974. You’ll notice how little has changed since then.

That General Election resulted in a hung parliament.  Heath tried to convince the Liberal Party, led by Jeremy Thorpe, to support him in coalition. But the Liberals demanded some movement on proportional representation before entering into such an agreement.  Heath refused to budge, so the Queen asked Harold Wilson to form a minority government.

Wilson went to the country in October to consolidate his government’s position and won 18 more seats.  Heath had clearly bitten off more than he could chew.  His outgoing administration left a massive balance of trade deficit, which precipitated the Sterling Crisis of 1976, and led to the Labour government applying for a short-term IMF loan, which was paid off in 1979.

Throughout the 1980s, Thatcher’s Tories used the same language of crisis that May and Cameron have used since 2010.  Namely, that Labour “bankrupted” the country and they were “cleaning up the mess” (sic) left by them. Yet, if they’d been faced with the same decision, the Tories would have also applied for an IMF loan. The same is true of the 2008 sovereign debt crisis. They’d have borrowed money to bail out the banks.  When most of the media is on your side, you can tell as many lies as you like and get away with it.

The myths and lies of the 1970s have been woven into the political fabric of this country by the corporate media, and have been accepted uncritically by Tories, Liberals, voters and right-wing Labour MPs, who are too cowardly to fight back.  It’s time to put an end to this madness. Voting the Tories out on 8 June is the start of that process.



Filed under 20th century, General Election 2017, History, History & Memory

13 responses to “1974 -“Who Governs Britain”?

  1. Strange isn’t Heath dumped us into the “Common Market” 2 years later we were going broke. Now we have a chance to put the greatest mistake ever right.

  2. Jim Round

    “Voting the Tories out on 8 June is the start of that process.”
    The word on the street does not sound good, away from opinion polls, good old fashioned door knocking is getting a worrying response “I won’t vote for Labour, I don’t like Jeremy Corbyn” Labour may have gained over 100,000 new members, but thats not enough to convince the majority of those who bother to vote not to put a cross next to a right wing party/candidate.
    Thats what happened in 2015.
    There were threats of protests at the barricades that never materialised and The Tories got on with the destruction of The UK.
    Unfortunately they look set to finish the job.
    Voter apathy reigns supreme.

    • Yes, but you can only speak for your local area and of your personal experience.

      You and others who share your view regarding members have failed to understand that parties with a fraction of Labour’s current membership don’t win elections, and don’t form the official opposition. That’s a matter of historical record. To claim a superior number of members don’t matter or make a difference is foolish and naive.

      By the way, that’s a nice corner you’ve painted yourself into.

  3. Jim Round

    It’s not just my local area, I travel up and down the UK and its the same everywhere.
    Voter apathy is not my corner, I have been a Trade Union and Labour member all my voting life, I am concerned about what I am hearing from Union members more than ever, we are really going too far down the road of the “I’m alright Jack” mentality in The UK.
    Proof of this can be seen in recent Union ballot results and the fact that local fireworks displays get more attendees than council meetings about cuts.
    Same thing goes for Union branch meetings, unless pay or job losses are involved, people just don’t turn up.
    Until that changes I fear for the future.

    • Again, you’re only speaking anecdotally, and with all due respect, you’re not a social sciences researcher. Anecdotes and personal recollections aren’t evidence. They’re apropos of nothing.

  4. Jim Round

    The evidence is voter turnout, not just for a GE but for local elections, Union ballots, Police and Crime Commissioners etc… They are all publicly available.
    The current DOO dispute on Arriva North, Southern and Merseyrail also show this.
    ASLEFs (who publicly wanted a leave EU vote like the late Bob Crow) recent ballot may have been rejected thus far but give it twelve months (if The Tories gain a bigger majority, even sooner) and the members will have voted in favour. For evidence read:
    The drivers voted by 54% to 46% against an agreement that offered limited assurances on rostering a second, safety-trained crew member in return for accepting Southern’s government-led plans for more driver-only operation
    For Facebook groups you have to be a Union member.
    For different industries:
    “Nearly half of midwives eligible voted in the ballot”
    Total number of papers issued: 210,458
    Total number of ballot papers returned: 51,530 (turnout 24.5%)
    Total number of spoiled papers: 27
    Number voting ‘YES’ 47,218
    Number voting ‘NO’ 4,285
    Percentage voting ‘YES’ 91.7%
    I have been involved with Unison, Unite (and its T&G predecessor) and RMT, I find those turnouts to be very worrying.
    After June 8th (and May 4th) we can debate it further, I like you will be going out to vote and doing what I can to convince others.
    Wether we like it or not, there are now more than ever, interesting times ahead.

    • You’re rather fond of your straw men, Jim. You’re not in a position to predict voter turnout for the forthcoming GE on the basis of plausible looking data from union ballots. Turnouts for union ballots tend to be low. Many Police and Crime Commissioners were elected on less than a 20% turnout. You seem to forget that there have been elections in which turnouts were high. 1945 is one such example and 1997 is another. In 1997, turnout was 71% and in the election before it in 1992, it was 77%. In February 1974, turnout was 78%. Not as high as many European countries but better than a local council by-election.

      I’m glad you’re going to vote. May I ask which party you’re likely to vote for, or are you one of those ‘floating voter’ types?

  5. Jim Round

    Labour all the way, never any different, even through Blair.
    It would be great if there was a high turnout, that shows a sort of democracy, even with FPTP.
    Its easy for me to say now but I predicted a leave vote with a (sort of) high turnout, even though I voted remain. Also Donald Trumps win (although I also predict impeachment there)
    From your posts and tweets you sound like a person who like me, travels around the country a lot, you are also a fan of Unions.
    From this the above turnouts must concern you as much as they do me.
    Also you must hear from people on your travels their take on issues, some must concern you, as they do me.
    As I said previously, it is best to debate after the results, because no matter what they are, there will be a lot to discuss.

    • I’m a member of three unions: one for each sector that I work in. I do travel the country but it would appear that my experiences are rather different to yours.

      I will be voting Labour for the simple reason that we have FPTP (*spits*) and also because I live in a marginal.

      Like I said in my previous reply: you can’t extrapolate from union ballots and then apply that extrapolation to a possible election outcome.

      By the way, the bookies have been tipping a Corbyn win for some time now. The odds are beginning to shorten.

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