He was notably unfussy about his political allies, who included key leaders, Trotskyist or even Stalinist, later prominent in the Militant Tendency, directing their fire against what seemed to be the tired old party leadership. One of them, in Haringey in North London, was the future leader of the party forty years on, Jeremy Corbyn.
Meetings of the party conference, even more of the party executive, became divisive and highly contentious, especially when left-wing officials like the party secretary Ron Hayward were appointed.
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In the later seventies, with a violent upsurge in the constituencies, encouraged by Benn, hostile to any anti-inflation policies or dealings with the IMF, party conferences became a nightmare. Union power made itself felt throughout the party. It was the world of industrial relations, or rather industrial confrontation, that interested them.
Allied to the Bennites and Militants in the constituents, they were pushing the party to a place far to the left of the Bevanites in the fifties.
The new, hard left was enthusiastically anti-parliamentary. The old landmarks of post-war Britain seemed to be disappearing. Concern was most memorably expressed by Roy Jenkins, now president of the European Union, in his Richard Dimbleby radio lecture of He quoted W. It was a despairing cry from the most important voice of civilised moderation.
It echoed the gloomy message of Sir Nicholas Henderson when he moved to the Washington embassy in June He had commented how the great international power of had shrunk in power and authority, with economic weakness abroad and social division at home. The Centre holding became a major theme after the gloomy events of the seventies.
In many areas, Britain, a peaceful, stable country which had not known serious internal conflict since the civil wars of the seventeenth century, seemed to be emerging in a harsh, even brutal, light. The most visible indication of this came with terrifying events in Northern Ireland. After the relative optimism felt about the civil rights movement in — 70, when Callaghan handled Ulster at the Home Office, the advent of the Conservatives, with Reginald Maudling now dealing with the province, saw things go rapidly go downhill.
A relaxed easy-going man in manner with suspect relations with the business world , he reacted to the increasingly alarming events in Northern Ireland with remarkable severity. Both the Protestant majority and Catholic nationalists moved to the extremes. Amongst the Ulster Unionists, leadership passed to the Democratic Unionists headed by a ferociously anti-Catholic demagogue, the Revd. Ian Paisley, challenging the moderate reformist premier, Brian Faulkner, at every turn. Heath had to wind up the Northern Irish government at Stormont and to impose direct rule from Westminster.
There was a rising tide of violence, assassinations, bombings and casual shootings, over the next few years. Relations between the occupying British army and the resident Nationalists amounted to a state of war. A power-sharing agreement concluded at Sunningdale in December was soon made redundant.
Our Liverpool: Memories of Life in Disappearing Britain - Piers Dudgeon - Google книги
Violent events now multiplied in Britain itself, with the atrocious murders of civilians in Birmingham, Guildford and other places, Years after these horrors, Irish anger was inflamed by evidence of police irregularities in the trials and of wrongful arrests which took years to reverse. Another tragedy was the murder of the right-wing commentator, Ross McWhirter, a strong critic of the IRA, at his home. Queasy American tourists refused to visit London as the city was deemed unsafe; Londoners, hardened by old memories of the blitz, were more resilient.
In the final two years of the Labour government, — 79, the experience of Northern Ireland was desolate. The Secretary for Northern Ireland now was the Yorkshire miner, Ropy Mason, a strong partisan of the Unionist cause, while relations with the Republic of Ireland rapidly deteriorated during its Fianna Fail government under Jack Lynch, the old party of Eamonn de Valera. There was no advance on any front now. To many in Britain, these horrifying events in Northern Ireland were the product of an alien society, so different from the tranquil continuities of mainland Britain.
But they could not fail to leave their legacy of violence there too.
Apart from the atrocities occurring on a regular pattern on the streets of English towns and cities, they served to make the United Kingdom a more authoritarian country, with the police retaining files of policies on the harsh extra-legal treatment of dissenters, including detention without trial and the more general threats to civil liberties later to be revived under the Counter-Terrorist measures passed after It was all very incongruous in the land which treasured memories of Magna Carta and he rule of law.
There were still racial tensions in areas with black communities from the Commonwealth which were to explode in riots and conflict with the police in Liverpool, Tottenham and other places in the eighties. The Wilson government responded constructively with the Race Relations Board being set up in while a think-tank, the Runnymede Trusts monitored acts of discrimination against coloured ethnic minorities in the law courts and the workplace, but tension remained. The English were frightening visitors in other countries too when their teams played away.
It was with much relief that continental Europeans noted that the defeat of England by Poland kept them out of the World Cup finals. Nor was life necessarily safer behind the closed doors of home. The police recorded a rising toll of cases of domestic violence — 89, in alone - including a growing tally of rape and wife-battering cases. Britain seemed a more uncomfortable place in which to live a normal life. One profession that suffered unduly in this abrasive new atmosphere, was the police.
Yet in fact it did not happen and many of the consequences were benign. Even with the sharp political confrontations generated in the Thatcher regime in the eighties, the United Kingdom survived and in the later nineties appeared to prosper. It could certainly be said that the reports from the economic messengers were too gloomy.
Consumer affluence generally improved as shown by the purchase of consumer goods such as cars and the rapidly growing number of holidays spent on continental Europe. It retained its dominance in pop music and popular fashion. In the Sixties and Seventies, British groups won the Eurovision song contest.
Further, university education was still totally free, with substantial maintenance grants to support less affluent students. Those who took part in lecturing to its summer schools like the present writer found it an inspirational experience.
Lifelong learning for many housewives and others was indeed now a reality. One of the striking features of the seventies is that it marked a peak in egalitarianism before things fell away under the social injustices of the Thatcher era. A notable document was the report of the Diamond Commission, The Royal Commission on the Distribution of Income and Wealth in Britain, whose findings appeared between and It benefited from the membership of distinguished progressive economists like Sir Henry Phelps Brown and Richard Layard.
Decades later the authors of The Spirit Level would point to the seventies as a rare time when Britain moved towards becoming a fairer, more socially just society.
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Heath, a difficult lonely personality, had the vision and idealism, to get his reluctant insular nation to enter the European Economic Community, a major transformation of our history. He also brought a more liberal perspective to the problems of Northern Ireland. Wilson and Callaghan look much stronger in retrospect by comparison with what followed, as does their intellectually and physically tough Chancellor, Denis Healey. He did not anticipate his victory and apparently was disappointed when it came.
He certainly handled that episode with far more skill and aplomb than David Cameron in his ill-fated campaign in June He handled a Cabinet of prima donnas including the perfidious Tony Benn most adroitly, he took important new initiatives in domestic policy especially on the issue of standards in state education, and won international prestige through acting as an effective honest broker between the US president Jimmy Carter, and the German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. Callaghan and Harold Wilson helped to keep Britain an orderly country whose institutions did not cave in and whose social fabric remained relatively stable.
This particularly applies to women two themes that occasioned much debate at the time — feminism and Celtic nationalism. Young women remained fairly conventional in their social and moral attitudes including pre-marital sex , despite the frisson they caused amongst young men with their miniskirts and absorption in pop culture. The seventies was different. On a more sombre note, the Domestic Violence and Matrimonial Proceedings Act of gave women greater protection against violent husbands or partners.
Divorce went up but so did opportunity. In the later sixties, the Scottish Nationalist Party and the Welsh nationalist Plaid Cymru mainly through the Welsh-language movement as significant political factors for the first time, but they had made little progress in the general election against the dominant Labour Party. They were taken through the Commons by Michael Foot, an old Bevanite centralizer now converted to devolution in his late years.
The English majority of Labour MPs remained either apathetic or openly hostile. In the end, referendums were held in both Scotland and Wales on 1 March Wales with no tradition of unified citizenship and long bound up with England, had little passion for devolution then and it was defeated by a vote of around four to one. In Scotland devolution was passed but with an insufficient majority of electors backing it. But it was a major portent for the future, even so.
Devolution remained on the political agenda during the years of inflexible Unionism of Mrs. Thatcher that followed. In both Scottish devolution by large majority and Welsh devolution by a tiny margin had gone through and new legislatures were set up in Edinburgh and Cardiff. Many feared that piecemeal devolutions would unravel the historic Union of the United Kingdom, and fears multiplied with the progress of the SNP from onwards which led to a referendum on Scottish independence which failed. A federal state at least seemed possible.
But it was clear, too, that in both Scotland and Wales devolution had a liberating, democratizing effect. In Scotland, it inspired a sense of dynamism in civil society, combined with a positive view on immigration and union with Europe.