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This Sceptred Isle

Edward Heath Becomes P.M.
In 1970 Harold Wilson called a General Election. He had a reservation about the date of the election because England were due to play West Germany in the World Cup just before. Wilson was confident that the electorate would vote for him because he had more or less controlled the economy and had recently allowed large pay rises. He was right about the football however. England lost and Labour was voted out of office.

Edward Heath was not to have an easy time. Almost nine million working days were lost in 1970. The dockers were the first to go on strike. This was the start of left wing union ambitions to bring down the Conservative government.

Harold Wilson
Harold Wilson
HAROLD WILSON (1916- 1995)

  • Born in Huddersfield
  • Went to Oxford and became a lecturer in economics
  • Became Labour MP for Ormskirk in 1945
  • Became MP for Huyton in 1951
  • The youngest cabinet minister since Pitt in post-war Attlee government
  • Became leader of the Labour Party in 1963 and Prime Minister in 1964 until 1970 and again in 1974
  • Resigned in 1976 and was made a life peer (Baron Wilson of Rievaulx) in 1983

did you know?
Charles de Gaulle died in 1970, he requested that no one from the French government should attend his funeral.

How Harold Wilson Decided The Date For The 1970 General Election
- Dennis Healey's memoir

"Wilson put the considerations clearly before us. In June the England football team would be defending its possession of the World Cup in Mexico. Wilson was worried that, if it were defeated just before polling day, the Government would suffer; but on learning that the match would be shown on television very late at night he decided to ignore it.
"Other factors were more compelling. It would be foolhardy to call a general election before we knew the result of the local elections in early May. After the third week in June we ran into Wakes Weeks in the North of England, when the working population in many Labour constituencies went on holiday en masse. Hoping to get a majority of Jewish votes, Wilson excluded Yom Kippur. So we faced a choice between June and some time after late September, which would severely restrict our room for manoeuvre. Harold was at his best in this type of calculation."

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1965 Winston Churchill dies
Sir Alec Douglas-Home resigns as Tory leader and is succeeded by Edward Heath
Rhodesia declares UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence)
1966 Barclay's Bank introduces the first British credit card
1967 The Pound is devalued
1968 The Commonwealth Immigration Act is passed
Anti Vietnam War riots throughout Europe
Student riots in Paris
1969 Extra troops sent to Ulster - start of present "Troubles"
Knox-Johnston, first non-stop single handed circumnavigation
1970 General Election. Edward Heath becomes Tory PM
1971 The Industrial Relations Act is passed
Decimal Currency introduced
1972 The Northern Irish Parliament is replaced by Westminster
1973 Britain joins the EEC
VAT is introduced
Yom Kippur War
1974 Labour win General Election. Harold Wilson once more PM
1975 British EEC Referendum
Sex Discrimination Act
1976 Harold Wilson resigns as leader of Labour Party. James Callaghan succeeds him as leader and PM
Race Relations Act
1977Nationalisation of aircraft industry

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