The Early Seventies in British politics is a period that starts with the Heath Ministry of 1970, through to the 1974 General Election that lost Edward Heath and the Conservatives the Government. It was the period in which the parties were radicalising, with the formerly dominant One Nation Conservatism whithering away in the Conservative Party and the Labour party moving to the left in order to appease the increasingly militant trade unions. The Liberals were reduced to a group of MPs from the Celtic Fringes.

The Heath Ministry (1970-1974)[edit | edit source]

Full Article: the Heath Ministry

In the 1970 General Election, Conservative Leader Edward Heath, a One Nation Tory, was victorious. Despite the fact that he was a One Nation Tory, Heath's premiership was an accession to the later rise of Thatcherism, as he was a Commoner rather than an Aristocrat, a self-conscious meritocrat. However, Heath's Government ran into the Northern Ireland Troubles, deficits, strikes, and rising unemployment.

The Northern Ireland Troubles[edit | edit source]

The most notable failure of the Heath Ministry may have been during the bloodiest days of the Northern Ireland Troubles, fighting between the Provisional Irish Republican Army and the British Armed Forces over Northern Ireland. Heath was responsible for the derogation of the Parliament of Northern Ireland after the Parliament refused to hand Law and Order over to the British Government. On Bloody Sunday, 14 unarmed men were killed by British soldiers during an illegal march in Derry. Heath is alleged to have been behind the shooting. However, Heath was finally coerced into the Sunningdale Agreement negotiated by Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Lee Newman and the Provisional Irish Republican Army. Despite the negotiations making an end to violence, they were ill-received, and resulted into a loss of the parliamentary support of the Ulster Unionist Party for the Government.

The European Community[edit | edit source]

Under Edward Heath, the Conservative Government took Britain into the European Community through the signature of the Treaty of Accession in 1972, the passage of the European Communities Act through Parliament in that same year and Britain's formal entry into the Community in 1973. The UK's entry was obtained in the teeth of fierce opposition from up to 40 rebel Conservative MPs (most notably Enoch Powell) and the bulk of the Labour Party. However, thanks to Liberal support and some Labour pro-Europeans, the European Communities Act managed to pass both Houses of Parliament. This was a festering sore upon the Heath Government, as many Conservatives were opposed to EC membership. Labour took advantage of the situation (and opinion polls which appeared to suggest that over 50% of the public was against Community membership) by promising renegotiation of the terms of entry, and a referendum.

The 1972 Local Government Act[edit | edit source]

Full Article: 1972 Local Government Act

Another of Heath's feats-in-arms was the 1972 Local Government Act, which created a two-tier system of county and district councils and made distinction between Metropolitan Counties and Shire Counties.

The NUM Strike of 1974[edit | edit source]

The Heath Ministry in the end fell over a strike of the National Union of Miners. Heath had before attempted to reform the increasingly militant trade unions, trying to slim them down in power and trying to curtail their actions by means of a court. However, the Industrial Relations Act designed to do this was forced back by the Unions after the noteworthy captivity of the Lord designated as head of the court by union activists. In 1974, the Unions had become so militant and went on strike for seven weeks, costing Edward Heath the Government. He headed to the polls in February, 1974, and lost the general election.

The Hung Parliament[edit | edit source]

After the General Election of 1974, Edward Heath resigned as Leader of the Conservative Party[1]. The General Election itself resulted in a hung parliament, with neither the Labour Party nor the Conservative Party firmly established, but with Labour having a plurality of the seats. The Liberals would soon be able to make demands of both parties in return for their needed parliamentary support.

Footnotes[edit | edit source]

  1. Unverified as of yet. This is purely speculative. ~Roland
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