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Why did the Conservatives Win in 1979?

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Thomas Bunn

on 21 January 2015

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Transcript of Why did the Conservatives Win in 1979?

Why did the Conservatives Win in 1979?
Why did they win?
The Failings of the Labour Party

Economy under Labour

Winter of Discontent

Conservatives and Thatcher
Labour Party Failings
In March 1976 there was a shock resignation by Harold Wilson, who was replaced by Jim Callaghan.
Anthony Howard- Said he was gobsmacked by the resingnation.
(Observer)

There were divisions in the party. Denis Healey often clashed with the Labour left due to his personality. Tony Benn and Michael Foot didn't want so much pressure on the Labour Unions and that there needed to be more state intervention.

The majority was reduced in by-election defeats in 1976 and 1977. There was a Lib-Lab pact in 1977. The economy improved with the help of North Sea Oil rigs. There were 9 by 1978. The Liberals pushed forward devolution of Scotland and Wales, this was granted in 1978. There were no decisive outcomes to referendums held in the countries. In 1976 there was defection by two of Callaghan's backbenchers to form a new 'Scottish Labour Party' and the defection of the maverick John Stonehouse.


Economics
There was large inflation (20%) in 1975 and for the years to follow. Pay settlements were as high as 30% and the governement was weak with the unions.

!975 Budget- Increases in taxation.
!976 Budget- Limit wage increases to a maximumof 3%.

The economic crisis of December 1976 is seen as a turning point in the history of Britain. Denis Healey had to go to the IMF for a £3billion loan and there were huge spending cuts. This was a humiliation for the goverment.
Historians have called this winter the end of the post war consensus.
Winter of Discontent
There was industrial unrest in the winter of 1978-9. It was not the biggest amount of unrest but the effects had huge impacts on public moods and the election.

There was disruption to transport, strikes by Lorry drivers and train drivers' union ASLEF. Also there were strikes by the public sector. These included hospital porters, grave diggers and dustmen. This led to mountains of rubbish on streets and postponed funerals.

The conservatives jumped on the winter. However even workers and Labour supporters swapped sides due to the winter.
Conservatives and Margaret Thatcher
The conservatives main policies were: to reduce government spending, control the money supply (monetarism) and to restrict Trade Unions Power. Thatcher wanted to keep her options open and therefore in campaigning gave a broad manifesto.

Thatcher was very driven and had good presentation, she worked with Saatchi and Saatchi to poilish this. Her Deputy, Whillie Whitlaw as important. His loyalty helped to keep the party in unity.
Harold Wilson- He said to the Daily Mail before the election his wife would probably vote Conservative because Thatcher was a woman.

Thatcher was on the whole less popular than Callaghan. However Callaghan has been seen as out of touch with the situation. During the Winter of Discontent he asked what the crisis was. Also he had the chance to call the election in 1978, when they probably would have won, but waited until 1979.


The Result

Historians Views
Young- the Conservatives were certain to win. And so, perhaps, it was, after the catastrophic winter and the draning away of Labour's claims to be uniquely fitted to rule.

John Cole- The country feels in its bones it is time for change. It was just such a mood that determined the result of the 1979 election.
Full transcript