Western Cycles

History through politics and economics

UK Prime Ministers

Harold Wilson 2 (1974-1976)

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Took office auspicious to be strong on compensation and hard on trade unions, and it was fights with the unions that characterised the four years of Edward Heath in Downing Street. There stood extensive strikes – no rubbish was collected for six weeks – interminable power cuts, a three-day working week and a pay freeze.

Tardily, the government exasperated to deal with joblessness, through greater interest rates. Also, the Heath government tried topping wages. This remained fuel for business unrest, leading to recurrent and extensive raids. In 1973, the miners went on strike and were joined by compassionate trade’s unionists – led by, among others, the new and infectiously strident Arthur Scargill. When the 1973 oil crisis prompted the three-day week in 1974, more than 9 million days were lost to strike action under the Conservative government of Edward Heath, plus more to practises such as ‘working to rule’. Hovering pickets productively congested coal and coke factories, which at the time created the majority of the nation’s power. Abruptly the life foundation of Britain’s energy was being congested. At the elevation of the strike, Britain was on a 3 day week, with the Prime Minister, Edward Heath creating public petitions to save energy.

As prime minister, Heath’s procedures seemed cluttered. His only clear achievement was in satisfying his long-held determination of captivating Britain into the European Community, in 1973. He conserved the consensual and modest policies of his 1950s precursors, but he also sensed appreciative to restrain public expenditure through deflationary policies, and to tackle cumulative labour unrest by demanding to reduce the influence of trade unions. Mass strikes sustained, in matching with constant violence in Northern Ireland. With unemployment rising, he completed a famous U-turn on economic policy.

Heath also shadowed a policy of associate British industry. In 1971 Rolls-Royce faced insolvency and received significant funds from the government. The Upper Clyde Shipbuilders was also bailed out when it got into financial troubles.

This was followed by high rates of inflation in the mid Seventies, which in turn produced strife amongst trade unions amid anxiety that wages were deteriorating to keep pace with the cost of living.

The Conservative Government of Edward Heath was ended in by labor strikes and chaos. This government passed the Industrial Relations Act of 1973 that pre-strike consulting of union membership and mandated cooling off periods comparable what was compulsory under the U.S.’s Taft-Hartley Act. Labor leaders disliked and opposed this legislation. In 1972 there was a six-week strike of coal miners which was ended only by a 22 percent wage increase. In 1973-74 the coal miners union introduced a ban on overtime work, which hurt production, and finally there was a cessation of manufacture. The short provisions of coal led to the announcement of fewer work days by the Government. The Conservative Government engaged in a good deal of interference in the economy even the labor distress.

Heath came into battle with the trade unions over his efforts to execute a prices and incomes policy. His efforts to legislate in contradiction of unofficial strikes led to industrial disagreements. In 1973 a miners’ work-to-rule led to regular power cuts and the imposition of a three day week. Heath called a general election in 1974 on the issue of “who rules”. He failed to get a majority and Harold Wilson and the Labour Party were returned to power.

Moreover, in one detail his premiership was a victory: thanks in large part to his personal mediation with France’s President Georges Pompidou, he increased French reception for Britain’s bid to join the EEC—and then won the vote in Parliament. It was a rare specimen in politics of clearness of purpose uniting with mastery of factors, and occasioned in a transformation that could appropriately, and strangely, be called historic amid the glitches.

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2 Comments

  1. A major controversy that arose during Wilson’s first government was the decision that the government could not fulfil its long-held promise to raise the school leaving age to 16, because of the investment required in infrastructure, such as extra classrooms and teachers.

    • alpuerto

      It is correct. But his governmental period brought higher education standards for the United Kingdom. Thanks for your comment.

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