Harold Wilson Election
The End of the Miners' Strike.
Weeks of talks between the miners and the government had got nowhere. And now, the miners raised the stakes, as their overtime ban became an all-out strike.
Miner "We're not going to accept pennies this time well, my hope is, we're not going to accept pennies this time."
Two years earlier, Ted Heath had lost the first round to the miners. But this time, he appealed to the country.
Ted Heath "it's time now for the ballot that really counts, it counts because the government you'll return will have the strength of your confidence to tackle the new problems that face us. We shall need that strength to cope with the world in crisis."
The shock general election was set for the last day of February. The papers called it the crisis election. And never had one been fought under grimmer circumstances.
As the Daily Mail put it "it was the strangest, most exciting, and most wide-open election for decades." For Ted
Heath, the choice was simple, the elected government or the union militants. The British people, he said, must
decide. Who governs?
Ted Heath "These men want to bring down the elected government, not just this government, but any government, and control events."
Britain's yachting Prime Minister thought this was an election about union power. But sailor Ted had misread the political
wind. It soon became clear that this was really an election about something rather closer to ordinary families' hearts. In
crucial marginal seats, like Falmouth in Cornwall, the great inflation was eating away at the prosperity that people had
got so used to, and most local voters were only interested in one issue, runaway prices.
Denis Healey "prices. They've come smack into the middle of the election with a bang tonight."
In just four years, the price of eggs, cheese, and beef had almost doubled. In 1970, if you'd spent ninepence, you'd
have been able to buy this nice, big, white loaf. By 1974, it would have bought you barely half a loaf.
At the end of February, Suzi Quattro went to number one, and an anxious Britain went to the polls. In Falmouth, the Tories
just clung on, but late that night from the state-of-the-art, and tastefully beige BBC election set, came news of an historic
muddle. And when he failed to do a deal with the Liberals, Labour's Harold Wilson returned as a minority prime minister.
Heath had asked the British people, who governs? And the nation had answered, not you. And while Heath's political career
sank beneath the ocean waves, Wilson gave the miners what they wanted, a pay rise worth a cool £110 million.