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James Callaghan and Gordon Brown

Thousands of civil servants disrupted schools, government departments and the coastguard service on 24 April and unions have not ruled out further strikes.
  Leicester Square
Comparisons with the 1970s are being made.

The winter of discontent is remembered as one of the worst periods for industrial unrest Britain has seen, a time when rubbish piled up in the streets and some hospitals were forced to take emergency cases only.

So is the comparison fair? Is 2008 turning into 1978? 


In a broadcast to the nation on 7 September 1978, Callaghan announced he would not be calling an election.

Callaghan’s personal popularity was high - after he had turned down the option of an October election, Labour were well ahead on the polls, with the PM's rating pushing up towards 60%.

In 1978, inflation finally fell below 10%.

Callaghan’s government sought to impose a 5% pay norm.

The winter of discontent began in private industry before spreading to the public sector. The strikes seriously disrupted everyday life, causing problems including food shortages and widespread and frequent power cuts.

On 22 January 1979, the public sector unions held a 24-hour strike. This was the biggest individual day of strike action since the general strike of 1926.


Average house price: £13,820

Milk (1 pint): 11p

Bread (800g loaf): 28p

Cigarettes (20): 58p


The Good Life, The Sweeny and Opportunity Knocks come to an end.

Grange Hill, Dallas and Battlestar Galactica begin.


Gordon Brown announced he would not call an election on 6 October 2007.

Brown’s personal popularity has fallen, while a YouGov poll in the Sunday Times on 13 April showed the Conservatives on 44% with Labour on 28%.

The CPI puts inflation at 2.5%, the RPI (which includes house prices) at 3.8%.

The government has set its pay target at 2%.

Unlike 1978, the strike in April was among public sector workers. But the prime minister is worried that if public sector workers get more money, it could trigger requests for pay increases among private sector employees as well.

Up to 400,000 teachers, lecturers, civil and public servants walked out on 24 April in a one-day protest at what they said were below-inflation wage rises.


Average house price:

Milk (1 pint): 58p

Bread (800g loaf): 65p

Cigarettes (20): £5.90


The Good Life is on UKTV Gold, The Sweeny is on ITV4, Britain's Got Talent is a Saturday night hit for ITV.

Grange Hill ends while the all-new Battlestar Galactica begins another series.

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