tvParty Election Broadcasts

Labour Party Television Election Broadcasts 1964

Note: The text is based on transcripts by Dr Michael Pearce held at the Labour History Archive at the National Museum of Labour History. Some sections have been divided into paragraphs for ease of reading

28th September 1964

HAROLD WILSON:

The choice we are making in this election will affect every, family and every member of every family. Let's get right down to the problems that practically all of us face today. First there's the problem of making ends meet. Our Conservative opponents have spent a great deal of money on advertising, on telling you about the prosperity they say they have given you. They haven't, you've done it, often in spite of them. And in very many cases it's only been possible through long hours of overtime and because of wives going out to work.

Of course our standard of living is higher than it was five or ten or twenty years ago. So it ought to be, that's natural. It's true of every industrial country. But it has risen a great deal less in Britain than most others. A fact the Conservatives simply can't deny and to be fair to them, they haven't tried to. But what does our standard of living depend on? It depends on how much is coming into the home, which is mainly a question of wages and salaries. And it depends too on how much goes out. The government which now tries to take credit for your prosperity has spent most of its time fighting to keep wages down. Remember the wage freeze, the pay pause? You remember Selwyn Lloyd telling us that we shall be bankrupt if he didn't put up prescription charges for old age pensioners and that they just couldn't afford to pay nurses a decent wage. Yet the same Chancellor could find money for the surtax payers. Remember how the teachers, the civil servants, social workers and only a few weeks ago the postmen have had to struggle to get reasonable wages? Remember how Conservative ministers have said flatly that if anyone pressed for higher wages the government would dry up the supply of money so that unemployment would result? And in fact the direct result of Selwyn Lloyd's cuts was a sharp rise in unemployment and it's taken three years and an election to get the unemployment figures back to where they were then. Now they're claiming the credit for the higher incomes that you have earned.

But there's another side to the problem. It's not just a question of incomes, it's what a family has to spend out of their income and the first charge of every household is the rent or the mortgage payment for those who are buying their own house; and with that goes rates and if you own your own house, the heavy cost of house maintenance and repairs. High rents have been deliberate government policy. We have the Rent Act, rising rents swelling the incomes of property companies and driving thousands of tenants from their homes. This is still going on and it will get worse unless something is done. We shall repeal the Rent Act, restore security of tenure and see that rents are fixed at a fair level. We shall help people seeking to buy a home and reduce the mortgage payments they have to make. The government as a matter of policy have raised interest rates; this is why council house rents and building society mortgage payments and rates have gone up. Then we have the problem of continually rising prices - meat, milk, bread - very soon groceries; rising fares, children's clothes and shoes, and shoe repairs as well.

These things I have just been talking about are facts within the acknowledged and day-to-day experience of every one of us.  Why is it then that after thirteen years of unusually favourable world economic conditions for Britain, the Tory government have simply failed to cope with these growing problems? At any rate the facts of the Conservative record are not in dispute and now I'm going to ask Christopher Mayhew to illustrate just for a minute or two some of the things that have been happening.

CHRISTOPHER MAYHEW:

In the past we've often used charts and diagrams to set out the facts of the Conservative record. We've made them very accurate and they've never been challenged. And now we're glad to see non Labour newspapers doing the same and reinforcing many of the points we've been making ourselves. The Guardian has just published a chart comparing the rise in living standards of different countries over the last ten years. That's Britain there, a rise of twenty five percent a quarter. Look how much less that is than other quite representative countries like the Netherlands, Sweden - a wealthy country, France, Italy, Germany and Japan. Looking at this chart it seems absurd that the Conservatives should be making the rise in our standard of living as one of their main election issues at the present time.

The Guardian, of course, only shows a few countries but, unfortunately, if we compare ourselves with other larger groups of countries, the results are equally disappointing. You may have seen our programme last month in which we showed that if we'd simply kept up with the rate of advance of the fourteen other countries of Western Europe under Conservative rule we would now be producing extra goods and services worth eight thousand million pounds per year; that's the equivalent of four pounds ten shillings a week for every employed person in the country. We costed the Conservatives stop go programme and it cost us all four pounds ten shillings a week. The Guardian has also just published a chart on housing. This shows that in the United Kingdom, that's the United Kingdom there, we are now spending about three percent of our total production on housing - about the same as Japan but much lees than the United States, France, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Switzerland. If we'd devoted as large a proportion of our resources to housing as they have, we'd be right on top of our housing problem today.

And then there's education. Well I'd like to present you with the latest facts in the famous Hogg report, but Mr Hogg, of course, has declined to let us see the facts of his report until after polling day. Meantime we have to make do with other official reports. I have the Newsome Report here on secondary schools. It shows about school buildings as a whole, one-fifth only are up to standard, two-fifths have some serious deficiencies and the remaining two-fifths have many serious deficiencies. And the facts about the balance of payments. The Board of Trade is more forthcoming than the Ministry of Education; and this chart, the latest official chart of the Board of Trade, shows the gap in our trade. Those large columns show the gap between our exports and imports. The amount by which we are failing to pay our way in the world. Look how the gap grew in 1960. It was after that we had the pay pause and the unemployment and look how it's growing again today. We're getting into debt today at a rate of between one and two million pounds a day and if the chart doesn't speak for itself, today's Daily Mail I have here. It says "Our trading deficit is described even officially as massive and is larger than at any time since the war. Exports have been disappointing and imports too high" and so on. Now these are just a few facts. We shall show many more in these broadcasts - just a few facts to set against the Conservatives election propaganda.

HAROLD WILSON:

How can we get these things right? How can we get Britain ahead again? It's nice to feel when we lose some international contest that we're perhaps sporting losers. But isn't it about time we started winning? Anyway, good luck to our team in Tokyo. But in the international economic league, aren't we getting a bit sick of being told it can't be done? How is it going to be paid for the Conservatives ask? For a start we might well ask them that question. For after twelve years in office they suddenly last winter rushed out a whole series of promises on all those issues which for years have been the nation couldn't afford. You know I think the Conservatives have done a very valuable service in this election in admitting frankly that their programmes cannot be fulfilled unless we get a steady four percent increase in production.

That's all very well. But what they don't tell you is that this four percent is nearly double the rate they actually achieved during the last thirteen years. Judged on their record the Tories' modernisation plan is a phoney. It can't be achieved without the steady expansion which just has not happened under three successive Tory governments. Why, even the election boom is petering out after only a few months and the prosperity they're talking about they're getting on the slate - borrowing abroad. If they were allowed to go on like this the country would soon be in pawn, with all that means. All the experts agree on this as you saw in Christopher Mayhew's talk a minute ago.

So I must warn you whoever wins this election is going to be faced with very grave economic difficulties right away. Of course a government determined to master the crisis could cope with it. But I must tell you in order to pay for the houses, the schools, the pensions, to improve living standards we've got to have a steadily expanding economy and the Tory's stop go stop is not the way to do it. There's much more to do than raising the money. It's a question a physical resources and how we use them. Take housing. Like everything else it means planning, it means drive and that's what we haven't had. They've just blithely announced an increased housing programme after thirteen years and they forgot to plan the bricks. To get rid of the slum schools, schools without even the minimum needed for good teaching. The schools described in the report Mr Quintin Hogg wants to keep from you until after the election. This means physical action - bulldozers to clear them away - bricks and mortar or timber and concrete and glass - to build the new schools. That's why I keep emphasising the production that they've failed to achieve.

So here we have it. Planning, work, priorities. There's nothing mysterious about it. The problem is how do we as a national family allocate our housekeeping budget in such a way as to see that individual families are getting the best out of life. I was talking about housing just now. We can only solve this problem if we set aside more of our resources to this job than we've been doing. If we make it a number one priority instead of letting it trail behind less essential but of course much more profitable projects such as building luxury office blocks as a nice money making speculation. And then, social security. It's not the government, any government, Labour or Tory which provides pensions. The British people as a family has to make provision for those who are in need. To look after the older members, giving them the chance as a right, not as a charity, not as a donation, to live in their retirement in dignity and comfort - the widows, the sick, the disabled. If a family's income rises, it doesn't spend it all, it makes provision for the future by taking out insurance policies, it provides more generously for the father or mother living in retirement and this is what we're going to do as a nation. We've said clearly how we're going to do it and in our future election broadcasts my colleagues will be coming along to show exactly what we propose to do and how we're going to do it. It's just a matter of common sense and of common humanity, deciding which things are important, which things must be done first, but it does mean having a government, a government which isn't afraid to take decisions, a government which won't sit back and let the money-makers, the take-over bidders, the tycoons, shape our future. A government which is concerned with the national interest, the interest of mothers and fathers and individual families. A government of the people, yes but we believe bringing in all the people, not just a privileged few. It's a tremendously [the rest of the transcript is missing]

2nd October 1964

ANTHONY WEDGEWOOD BENN:

The Conservative message in this Election is really very simple. Everything's all right. There's nothing to worry about. Leave it to us. To get this message across they've spent millions of pounds, in hired advertising agencies, paid actors to appear on posters, had hand-picked street interviews, the whole apparatus of advertising normally used for selling soap or detergents or washing powders or tooth paste. But in our hearts we know this picture of Britain is not true.

GEORGE BROWN:

Now there's no point in beating about the bush any longer. We've got to face facts and face facts now. This country is lurching towards the biggest economic crisis since the war. Britain is losing over one million pounds every day. The gap between what we export and what we import has been widening for the last fifteen months and the very latest figures show that this gap is growing faster and faster. This is a crisis which affects every single one of us. If the present trend continues it will mean that our jobs, our wages, our hire-purchase payments, our mortgage rates, are all in jeopardy. Now I know that Mr Maudling half denies it but then the Tory Leaders denied that there was a crisis in 1955 and after that we had the Credit Squeeze; they denied that there was a crisis in 1960 after which we had the infamous Pay Pause. But the situation to-day is far more serious than either of those examples. All of us in Britain and especially the Conservatives must face this fact for until we do there is no hope of our being able to do anything about it. However, what is even more worrying than the economic situation itself is the fact that the Conservatives still pretend that nothing is really the matter and that nothing should be done. Conservative Leaders in a last desperate attempt to cling to office are holding this country to ransom for Party political reasons. This is both blind and irresponsible. For the next government, whichever Party it is, will have to pay very dearly indeed for this mistake. There is one over-riding reason why we are now faced with this crisis. The Conservatives throughout their thirteen years have refused to plan - our roads, houses, schools, hospitals are utterly inadequate for this reason. And abroad, we are falling behind the other industrial countries of the world. They are exporting far more than we are. To-night I want to show you not only what is wrong but also, and this is far more important, how the Labour Government will plan the new Britain.

Examples of bad planning are not hard to find. Look around you at the long delays, frustrating waits, all our cities seem to be jammed with cars. And it's the same on holiday too - long waits, heavy lorries on the roads, many of them dangerous, no transport planning here. Motorway construction - too slow and badly planned as well. For the railways it's been another story - the axe, the axe wielded by Dr. Beeching, hundreds of stations to be closed, thousands of miles of line that could have played a useful part in economic development.

No social costing here, just pounds shillings and pence. And for those people who really could be fitted into new towns, a government failure to plan ahead. For the Tories it's been the Rent Act - thousands of people evicted, Mr Henry Brooke the Minister responsible. Those who are looking for homes in our new towns find the same signs everywhere Offices to be let, to be let, to be let. It's the same with education - some beautiful new comprehensive schools built but many other schools in appalling condition - the figures Mr Hogg won't release. Bad planning. Over-sized classes. All this could have been anticipated if someone had looked ahead. The worst example - our old industrial areas, worst victims of stop and go, left to decay and only last year eight hundred thousand men out of work because of stop and go. Bad planning once again.

WILLIAM ROSS:

Nowhere is it more clear the consequences of the absence of planning and real government than what has happened in Scotland during these past thirteen years. We've seen Scotland become a land of diminishing opportunity. In thirteen Tory years we've lost three hundred and seventy thousand people; they've left Scotland - mainly young men of talent, skill and craft, crowding into the already over-crowded South and the Midlands. This can't go on. If Scotland is going to be able to play its part in the economic expansion that Labour plans, we must have these opportunities. Between 1961 and .1963 there wasn't an increase in jobs in Scotland for men and for boys, there was an actual decrease of thirty-three thousand at a time when the Tories boast of having created a million new jobs in Britain for men. The actual facts are stark - they're grim for Scotland and only Labour planning will improve the position and give us the forty thousand jobs a year that we really need. Their housing - it's a tragic story. In 1953 thanks to Labour Government's planning, they were able to build thirty-nine thousand houses; last year it was down to 28,000 - a loss over these years to Scotland of one hundred thousand much needed houses. Their social policies and their employment policies have been such as to deny us what we think are our rights in respect of employment and social conditions. But it will take more than thirteen years of Toryism to quench the spirit of the people of Scotland. We will come through and we will play our part in the New Britain under a Labour Government.

LADY MEGAN LLOYD GEORGE:

Wales with all her magnificent potential has not been able to develop her own resources or take a full part in the British economy in the last thirteen years. Under Tory planning we've had uncontrolled expansion in the South and a slow steady tragic drift of young people from Wales. Now unemployment has gone down it's true. But de-population has not and this means that there is still a serious shortage of jobs in Wales. It is indeed another form of unemployment. How can we reverse this migration? I'm convinced that we can under the Labour plan to induce industrialists to come to Wales, to improve our transport system and Mr Marples has been in reverse and has chosen Wales as one of the places for some of his major closures. Now at last we are to have Welsh people planning for Wales with a Secretary of State for Wales, a voice at last in the Cabinet of Great Britain.

SPEAKER NOT KNOWN:

The policy of stop and go has also had a serious effect on British industry. With me are two men who are actually concerned with running large business firms. One of them is a Chairman, the other a Managing Director. What do you think of government economic policy at present?

WILFRED BROWN:

The point is this, that every Manager is a professional planner whether he accepts the term or not. And we Managers have to predict the future of the economy so that we can order our investment plans for increased expansion and all the rest of it. Now if there's no government plan, and particularly if the government is stop, go, stop go, our plans are nearly always wrong. Now if there's a broad industrial plan, we've a much better chance of optimising output and increasing exports and all the rest of the things that the country demands of us.

PETER PARKER:

I entirely agree. I mean the fifties have proved we've been fumbling with the management of the economy. I think industry, both employers and Trade Unions, deserve some credit in trying to persuade the Tories of the importance of planning in a reliable and steady way. We have got to do our jobs, have a frame-work in which you can get on serving the community, making a fair profit if you do it that way, but the one thing that we are most afraid of is topless management.

SPEAKER NOT KNOWN:

May I put this to you because it's sometimes said that if you do have real planning as Labour intends, industry won't co-operate with you. Is that your experience?

WILLIAM BROWN:

Those who say that are political scaremongering. I don't think many say it because a manager's job is to make his business prosperous and to optimise output and all the rest of it. Well is it conceivable that a manager would ruin his own business because he didn't like the political complexion of the government? Managers are really not quite so foolish.

PETER PARKER:

Well, a manager is not doing a political job. But I think all managers do appreciate that politics affect their business decisively and this is the first point. I think the second point is that industry's job is to work with the government of the day, to serve the community and the national interest and I believe that industry is going to try to do that but to do it, it must be sure that the strategic objectives are going to be firm and firmly supported by a government that believes in planning.

GEORGE BROWN:

So it is clear that the essential issue at the Election is which of the two Parties do you trust to change and modernise Britain. And make no mistake, without change, without modernisation, we can't get the expansion that we need to carry out those programmes which are put before you. Now which Party do you think will change all this. Labour - which created the Health Service, fought steadily for the Welfare State or the Tories who fought against that and now grudgingly talk of giving donations to old age pensioners? Mr Maudling says that the whole economic situation will come right on the night provided he has an incomes policy. But where are the plans to secure this real incomes policy? Where are the plans to control land prices, to control profits, where are the plans for tax reforms to stop fiddling, where are the plans to modernise and energise British industry?

There are none and without planning, without change, the Conservatives clearly couldn't possibly carry out any of their precious promises. We in the Labour Government are going to plan for two main objectives - for efficiency and for prosperity. This country is losing ground to the other industrial countries in the world simply because we are so inefficiently led. Since the beginning of this year more people have started working. That should have meant more production, but it hasn't. The Labour Government will reverse this trend. We cannot just trust to luck and hope that things will turn out well in the end. The last thirteen years have shown that things simply do not work out that way. We can no more hope that the economy will expand without our doing anything about it than we could hope to have a pretty garden just by sitting back and watching the weeds come up.

But efficiency isn't everything, and it would be a dull and stodgy country if it were. We shall also plan to increase prosperity in order that everyone, not just a few privileged people, can get a fair share of the increased wealth that this country can produce. We shall ensure that the land speculators do not grow rich by making house buyers pay huge sums for their homes. We shall plan so that the North of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, do not steadily decline while the South-East is filled to overflowing. And as a consequence of doing this the Labour Government will have created the climate for a real incomes policy. The Conservatives have failed to achieve this because they simply mean limiting wages and salaries - they refuse to deal with profits, dividends, rents, land prices. Labour's incomes policy will include profits as well as wages, it will also include rents and land prices - this is why we have the complete backing of the Trade Unions, without which no incomes policy can succeed.

Once we have got a comprehensive national plan then we shall be able to ensure the steady expansion of the economy which is so essential for our increased prosperity. The Conservatives accept the state that this country is in as being inevitable and indeed they appeal to you not to change it. But we know that not only can things not stay as they are, our problems can and must be solved. Britain can still be the most successful industrial country in the world and with a Labour Government and with your active participation it will be. Britain has the skill and the experience as well as the capacity for work. To succeed in our task getting Britain moving again, we must get rid of all the tired complacency. Britain has a vast job on its hands. It's going to be exciting work and it'll often be difficult, but it's a challenge we cannot ignore. When you decide on October the fifteenth for a change, then together we can get on with the job.

5th October 1964

SHIRLEY WILLIAMS:

Prosperity. That's the main theme of the Conservatives in this Election campaign. Of course we're better off. Practically every country in the world is better off than it was a few years ago. But we haven't been given these things, we've had to work for them. Work for them by doing extra overtime, work for them by both husbands and wives going out to work and get a lot of them by running up a big hire purchase debt. Yes, there are plenty of things in the shops if you've got the money to pay for them.

We bought this basket of shopping today in London. Just a basket of ordinary groceries, bread, milk, butter, meat. And this is what it cost us. This is the shopping list - two pounds, four shillings and five pence. A year ago exactly those same items would have cost us one pound, nineteen shillings and six and a half pence. But now one year later they cost two pounds, four shillings and five pence. I'm going to speak to one of the men who knows most about food prices in this country - Lord Sainsbury - and see what he has to say about it. Lord Sainsbury, from your own experience do you find that food prices are going up?

LORD SAINSBURY:

They are definitely dearer than this time a year ago. I estimate one shilling and three pence in the pound.

SHIRLEY WILLIAMS:

And what do you think that we can do about it?

LORD SAINSBURY:

Well I think for example we can improve marketing. Take vegetables, there can be set up more producer co-operatives and by such means we can lessen the gap between what the grower gets and what the housewife pays. And then in manufactured foods, I would like to see set up a watch-dog price commission that had the power to compel companies to reveal their costs, to see how these costs were built up and I believe if that was done it would act as a very effective brake on what I would describe as socially irresponsible price rises.

SHIRLEY WILLIAMS:

So if there was a sudden jump in prices the Price Commission would come in and investigate the reason?

LORD SAINSBURY:

Exactly.

SHIRLEY WILLIAMS:

Prices are bad enough, but the weekly rent, the monthly mortgage payment are the first charge on any family budget and these have gone up the very most of all.

MICHAEL STEWART:

We know what land prices can do to rents, rates, mortgages. Recently a Council had to pay for every person it re-housed from some slums, one thousand pounds per person for land alone. Ever since the Tories repealed Labour's Act of 1947 Councils pay profiteers' prices. Houses are dearer, rents up, rates up. Labour will buy land needed for building at a fair price and not a profiteer's price. Now let's take some examples. Do you pay rent to a private landlord? If you were de-controlled by the Rent Act you might at any time get four weeks notice to quit. If you're still controlled, remember that while the Rent Act is law, a Minister can make an order and you would be de-controlled and your security gone. Then those who are buying their homes know the burden of high interest. If you're hoping to buy you see as well house prices forced up by dear land. That is why Labour will provide in the future mortgages at lower rates. Or are you waiting on a Council List for something better than a home you can just fit in to and never enjoy?

Between 1953 and 1963 the Tories cut in half the number of Council homes built every year. We shall reverse this policy. Or is yours a home without a bath, hot water, separate toilet? Two years ago Labour stated its plan for giving councils power to modernise if the landlord will not. Recently the Tories have begun to echo our policy. But it's the same all the time at every point. As the Election approached the Tories began to talk of doing something about land, something to help the owner-occupier. They have had thirteen years in which to act. We need new policies and a new government that believes in those policies.

KENNETH ROBINSON:

The people who are most cruelly hit by prices that keep on going up are, of course, the elderly, the pensioners. Two million of them, one out of every four, have to go to the National Assistance Board to get enough each week not to live on, but to buy the barest essentials for existence. Nearly a million more qualify for National Assistance but for reasons which seem good to them don't choose to apply. If you happen to be ill as well as old, then you have to scrape together the money for prescription charges as well, week after week. We believe that taxing the sick is just about the meanest way a government can raise money and that's one reason why Labour will get rid of these charges once and for all and find the twenty odd million pounds to meet the cost. We've poverty enough in Britain today, especially amongst pensioners, to make the Tory boast of an affluent society sound to them like a bitter mockery. There's no need in a prosperous Britain for these forgotten pockets of misery and a Labour Government will tolerate them no longer.

How do we aim to do away with this poverty in old age? We intend to bring in an incomes guarantee to replace the National Assistance supplement. Under this system every pensioner and those on sickness or unemployment benefit will get their supplement not by going to the Board but from the Post Office as of right. On October the fifteenth you will be choosing between our proposals for ending poverty in old age and the Conservative's donation to the older pensioner, which can only mean that those under say seventy-five, or seventy in the case of women, get something less. I often think of another group of forgotten fellow citizens. The unmarried woman, perhaps going out to work to support an aged mother, coming home tired out to look after her, never getting a holiday. She gets little fun and little consideration. By helping the old we can at least ease her burden a little and give her some hope of security when she too is old; or will she, if the Conservatives have their way, she'll be forced to wait till she's 70 for Sir Alec's little donation.

RICHARD CROSSMAN:

But how much can the nation afford to spend each year, not only on schools but on pensions and on all the other social services? Of course it's perfectly right and proper to ask that question and I'm going to answer it this evening. But I want to say something first. The Conservatives talk a lot about the austerity and the rationing of those early post-war years under the Labour Government. What they never call attention to is the austerity and rationing which still exist in affluent Britain today. There's not much doubt about the austerity of the lives of the old age pensioner dependent on National Assistance, and as for rationing - well what about the government's attitude to school building? This year for example, the local authorities submitted school building programmes worth one hundred and seventy million pounds and every school in that programme was absolutely essential or it wouldn't have been included. But the Minister cut them back from one hundred and seventy million pounds to fifty million pounds - in fact he forbade the Councils to build two-thirds of the schools they desperately needed and which they could build if they hadn't been prevented from doing so. I call that rationing even if another name is used today. And I'm not surprised that Mr Hogg has suppressed the official report on the state of school buildings submitted to him over a year ago.

But even without it we know quite a lot. We know that half our Primary Schools were built in the Victorian age, that nearly half of them have no inside lavatories, that nearly half of them have no playing fields, that two-thirds have no proper science accommodation and that three-quarters have virtually no library. Yes, it's a strange world we live in. Any company which wants to build for profit, which wants to build luxury flats, offices, bingo palaces, no matter what, is completely unrationed by this Conservative government. Yet local authorities each year are forbidden to do the essential school building, without which nearly half our children are now being denied a fair chance in life. And the government's attitude to the teacher shortage is just as puzzling. It was twenty years ago that forty was fixed as the maximum size for a class in a Primary School and today one child in five is still being taught in classes of forty in this country. Despite all the government's boasts this situation isn't going to get better, it's going to get worse if these people stay in office. So that by 1970 under a Tory government nearly half our children in Primary Schools will be being taught in classes of over forty.

Now that seems to us intolerable, so we've worked out an emergency plan for dealing with the teacher shortage, for recruiting far more young teachers, for winning back more married teachers, to get to part-time work. We know the plan will cost money but we believe we can't afford to postpone the education of our children. So I come back to this question of cost - how much can the Nation afford. Well, it depends on how much the nation is earning. What we can afford if we double the present rate of economic expansion will be far more than what we are affording now when we're expanding slowly and every three years production is being virtually halted by stop go stop. Our plans for raising the old age pensioners above the National Assistance level, for abolishing prescription charges, for building more schools, for training more teachers, all these plans are based on one single assumption - that we can and we must double the rate of expansion we've had for these last thirteen years under Conservative rule. And if anybody tells me that this can't be done by the British people, I reply that's what our neighbours in Europe have been doing for years and we're convinced - give Britain the chance, we can do it too.

8th October 1964

JAMES CALLAGHAN:

A welcome development in election politics has been the coffee meeting where people meet comfortably in each other's homes and talk about politics and meet their candidates. Now this evening we've got a version of that, but four of us are here in the
Studio and then in a North London suburb Mrs. Murphy has gathered a group of her neighbours. Now when we establish contact with her we would like her and her neighbours to ask us questions to which we will do our best to give replies. Mrs. Murphy are you getting me clearly.

MRS. MURPHY:

Yes thank you Mr Callaghan.

JAMES CALLAGHAN:

Good. Well now would you like to fire some questions at us?

MRS. MURPHY:

Yes. First of all I'd like to talk about the rising cost of living. We're all very concerned about this and recently I read about the tea boys on building sites getting forty-two pounds a week. Don't you think this is a contributory factor?

GORDON WALKER:

Well I don't hold with that particular wage. I think it's an example of the way things have got out of proportion in this country to-day. But the question of the cost of living really raises much deeper issues than that. One of the first things we would have to do would be to make a real attack on monopolies, on price fixing. You know the present government allowed the Monopolies Commission almost to lose power. We will restore those powers. We will give it greater speed of action and we'll act upon its reports. Up to the present Government there are I think thirty reports which have not been acted on. Another thing we won't, we can't tolerate is the way some managements use wage increases for quite improper increases of price. Recently in the engineering industry there was an increase of five percent in wages - prices were put up five percent. But wages are only half the cost of production in that industry and would have justified therefore a much smaller price increase. That's one of the things we've got to stop.

QUESTION:

But how on earth can cost of living be stabilised for constant strikes and wage claims?

RAY GUNTER:

I don't know that there are constant strikes - let's get one fact clearly in our minds. That although there's a lot of press talk, there are less strikes in this country than in the majority of industrial countries. But the point to be remembered is this - that men are always blamed for strikes and you know any objective person looking into causes of strikes knows very well that half the strikes are caused by bad management. (Hear, hear) The channels of communication are bad inside industry. Now the Conservative Government you see has soured the whole thing. They have been unfair in this period of change. The great problems of redundancy are abroad because of changeover to automation and the rest of it. You remember the pay pause don't you in 1961? They cut right across the negotiating machinery, they placed a terrible burden on the nurses and the teachers, they acted unfairly. Now the British workman has not got low mentality. He understands the justice of a case. Put to him reasonably and on the understanding that justice will be done, he is prepared to share his responsibility and the Labour government when it is formed will do all within its power to really get a better attitude, well of confidence inside it.

QUESTION:

I wonder if I could possibly ask Mr Gunter a supplementary question here? Reading the newspapers this morning there was reported the fact that the Labour Party intended, if they were returned to power, to conduct urgent discussions with the Unions. Could you outline precisely what form these discussions would take?

RAY GUNTER:

Well one of the great problems this nation has to face of course is that we cannot spend more than we earn, that unless productivity rises by a sufficient amount then pay increases are a danger. What we want to do is to get the Unions with us, to sit down and think out how in equity the various and varied claims of different sections of the workers can be dealt with. And we shall do that in consultation with them and indeed I know that a large area of management of British industry would join with us in trying to find the answer to this most difficult problem.

QUESTION:

I know of a number of cases of old age pensioners who are very poor and yet are too proud to ask for National Assistance. What would the Labour Party do about this?

JAMES CALLAGHAN:

What we want to do is to establish a national minimum income. This will be a tremendous step forward in the whole of our social programme. Because for the first time we would try to fix levels below which no one living in this country should be allowed to fall. We would then like, having raised the pensioners incomes to that level so that they got them as of right and without recourse to the Assistance Board, we would then want to relate increases in pensions to increases in earnings so that as the average workers earnings went ahead so we could ensure that the pensioner didn't fall behind and create the conditions to which the questioner referred.

QUESTION:

What does Mr Callaghan think is the civil pension for an old age pension - the average pension.

JAMES CALLAGHAN:

Well it's much higher, it should be much higher than it is now and we shall certainly try to fix a level which will take pensioners off of National Assistance for all normal purposes. As to the future in the long run. If you ask me what the long run pension should be, well looking well ahead, I believe we ought to aim at pensions that are about half of average earnings, average earnings, I think this would be the sort of standard of life on which you could expect old people to live reasonably but that would have to be worked to by stages.

QUESTION:

Mr Callaghan I wonder if I could ask the panel a question on the subject of immigration. Now when the Immigration Act was introduced this was very firmly resisted by the opposite Party and I see no evidence to date of any intention on the part of the Labour Party to repeal this Act. Could you explain this?

GORDON WALKER:

There hasn't been any change of policy here. The Labour Party always believed and said that there must be controls over immigration. What we were arguing about in the House of Commons was the proper means of doing this. We didn't like the particular way the government suggested. The policy of the Labour Party is perfectly clear. We will keep on immigration controls, we hope by agreement with Commonwealth countries. We will give help from the central government to towns, areas where there is a concentration of immigrants. We believe that immigrants here, as the Prime Minister said, must be treated like everybody else but, of course, they must also live like the people they've come to settle amongst. We want them to get a good day's pay for a good day's work. We will also enact legislation to prevent incitement to racial hatred. We want to create the conditions under which good race relations, good harmonious race relations can steadily arise.

QUESTION:

I'd like to ask a question. One talks a lot and hears a lot of talk at election time on defence particularly. One of the things I've heard said quite a lot is that the Labour Party are going to leave the defence of Britain to the Americans. Is this true - what is going to happen if the Labour Party gets into power? What are you going to do about it?

DENIS HEALEY:

Well of course that story is complete nonsense. But no country in the world can stand alone in defence nowadays. Our security depends on our alliance and the Prime Minister has said this a great deal himself. Thanks to our alliance nuclear war has become very unlikely. If it did come we couldn't conceivably meet it alone. But it's vital to prevent every single country in the alliance having its own control over its own independent deterrent. That would mean Germany getting atomic weapons and a much greater risk of war than we have to-day. So we in the Labour Party think that our first priority in defence should be to equip our own troops properly where they are in fact fighting on the ground to-day - in Borneo, in the Middle East, all over the world. And we can't do that, we're not doing it at the moment because we're pouring hundreds upon hundreds of millions of pounds down the drain in a search for nuclear independence although in fact as you know, the latest thing is five hundred million pounds on building a Polaris programme entirely dependent on missiles from the United States.

QUESTION:

I'm very worried about the American bases in this country. Surely if America gets involved in a war, for example the Cuban crisis, we would also be involved and be a number one military target? What would the Labour Party do about this?

GORDON WALKER:

I'm perfectly certain there isn't going to be a nuclear war, but if there were, I'm afraid the whole world would be involved in it and it wouldn't matter where bases were. I think the essential thing is the first thing a Labour Government must do in the field of Foreign Policy, is to go to the United States and negotiate with them a transformation, a re-organisation of NATO so that we and the other European allies can share, participate with the United States in the control of nuclear strategy and policy for the alliance as a whole.

QUESTION:

I would like to ask Mr Callaghan of leasehold houses, and to get the ownership of the land.

JAMES CALLAGHAN:

Ray, you deal with this.

RAY GUNTER:

Well, of course, our proposals have been made very clear about the leasehold reform and we have said to the country that those leaseholders who are owner-occupiers and have had a lease that is over twenty one years in duration, we shall give them the chance to buy it at proper and decent rates. We shall ask them to pay, of course, the proper value of it. And that is that and that is how the leaseholder will be defended in the future.

QUESTION:

On the larger issue of housing anyway. This is a rich borough and yet I know that there are thousands of dilapidated houses, crowded with people. Just how quickly can the Labour Party get its programme for building these four hundred thousand houses a year into operation?

JAMES CALLAGHAN:

I think this is the whole case for economic planning. It's absolutely vital that we should have proper planning in this field of housing as elsewhere. Systems of industrialised building which have been in existence on the Continent for many years and are only just now coming into force in this country will help us to speed up new house building. We shall encourage local authorities by means of lower interest rates to go ahead and build as well as encouraging the house owners themselves, the new house owners, by lower interest rates and I think as important as anything, we shall deal with this land racket business. It really is intolerable the way the government has gone on year after year saying there's no solution and pouring scorn on the rest of us when we try to find one. We believe our Land Commission is the best solution that yet's been devised and I believe a combination of all these ways would enable us to get rid of what is a very considerable social scourge.

QUESTION:

If the Labour Party get in, how soon can they make all the changes regarding housing and land?

JAMES CALLAGHAN:

We'll make a start straight away. Leasehold reform that Mr Gunter spoke of, that can be introduced into the first session. But generally speaking, this has got to be a long term plan and I am not pretending, none of us has, that we're going to perform all these reforms within the space of twelve months. After all there are thirteen years in which some of these reforms could have been put into force and they haven't been put into force. But we believe, and we really mean this, that the fresh energy and the new leadership and policies that are based on the interests of the people will enable us to make a fresh start at an early date towards making a Britain of which we can all be proud.

QUESTION:

I'd like to, if we've still got time, to ask a question about education. That's a thing that most housewives are very concerned about. In State schools the classes are particularly large, much larger, unfortunately, than in private schools - forty and fifty in a class, I mean thirty is a small class. The only way to get over this obviously is to get more teachers. How are the Labour Party going to set about getting more teachers into the profession to reduce the size of classes?

DENIS HEALEY:

First of all I think we must encourage a lot more married women to go back to teaching when their children have grown up. But of course the real key is the wages of ordinary teachers. This must be improved. It means a new review of the wage structure in the teaching profession and of course it means building better schools than the schools the government is so ashamed of at the present time, it's actually suppressed its own report about the condition of them.

JAMES CALLAGHAN:

There's a representative group of questions from representative voters. They're not all members of the Labour Party, I just don't know how many of them are or how many of them are not - we've never met any of them, nor did we know the form that these questions were going to take. But we hope they've been as interesting to you as they were relevant to those who put them and to those of us who were trying to answer them. Good night.

12th October 1964

SPEAKER NOT KNOWN:

Three days to go and before Harold Wilson speaks from Manchester, a few words from Lord Attlee.

LORD ATLEE:

I see Sir Alec Home says they wouldn't feel confident in meeting leading politicians from other countries unless they had an independent deterrent.  I never felt like that nor did Mr Ernest Bevin and of course Ernest Bevin was a great personality. As a matter of fact this idea of the independent deterrent is nonsense. The same order of things - the Conservatives under Neville Chamberlain on national defence. There was no such thing as national defence. You had to have collective security. Winston Churchill and I both said it without effect. And now today the idea that somehow we shall be stronger if we had a nuclear weapon is absolute nonsense. They cannot tell me of any possible occasion in which we ourselves independently should want to use a nuclear weapon or how you could use it us a threat. You have two enormous countries, Russia and the United States, they have the deterrent, it would be better if the deterrent was only in the hands of U.N.O. ... for the more ... nuclear weapons in other hands the more danger there is of their falling into the hands of some trigger-happy fool. You have France wanting it, China wanting it, kind of every self-respecting person must have their own bomb. Well if a man had any personality he could put across British policy without a nuclear bomb in his hand.

HAROLD WILSON:

This Election is about the standing of Britain in the world. When we vote on Thursday we're deciding the future of our country, we're deciding the well-being of our people and of our children, we're deciding whether we're going to go on trailing behind other countries or whether as we believe Britain can recapture the lead we once held amongst the nations of the world. We're tired of being pushed around. But if we're going to assert ourselves this means we must have economic strength at home, for if we stand still at home we stand still abroad. But it's not only a question of restoring a sense of economic purpose to our national affairs and getting Britain on the move again. On Thursday we shall be deciding whether we can make this country a country which cares, which can combine efficiency with new vigour in our economic life but also which can ensure that the prosperity of the nation is shared by every family.

Why is there a choice? There are deep differences in policies first. But more important there's a basic difference between the philosophy and approach of the two Parties, to the kind of society that we want to create. President Roosevelt said once "Better the occasional faults of a government living in the spirit of compassion then the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference". And the Labour Party which sprang from the people is concerned about people, people as individuals, people as families, their health, their happiness, the opportunity they have to develop their talents and live a full life.

Our opponents approach the problem of government in a much more materialist way. To them the supreme test is how well business is doing, how high is the level of profits, how are Stock Exchange prices doing. Because they believe in the old Victorian idea that the profit and loss account is the sole criterion of the national welfare. And this is one reason why we've had in these recent years a decline in the values on which our society is based. A feeling that the man who makes money, however he makes it, is more highly esteemed than the man who earns his money, producing for his fellow men or providing the necessary services on which a civilised society depends. In this election we're choosing a government for the next five years.

The Conservatives want us to have government by a closed and privileged circle, to have a government which will keep things as they are, which is content with second best, which will abdicate responsibility in favour of those who owe no sense of accountability to the national interest, whose only concern is with their own private gain. We reject this one-sided and selfish approach. We seek to create an open society in which all have a vital and vigorous part to play, in which life has colour and variety, but in which the pursuit of happiness is matched by a sense of purpose. We believe that government by the people must be by the whole people and you can't talk of political democracy if there's no economic democracy. When I fly the Atlantic in a jet plane, I want to know that the pilot of that aircraft is highly skilled at his job, concerned with the safety of his passengers. Frankly I don't care who his father was or whether he went to the right school, and if your father or mother or child has to face a major operation, all you care about is whether the surgeon known his job, you don't want to know if he mixes with the right circles or has the right friends.

And you know when it's a question of our strength and independence, we want to feel that those who are deciding what we produce, what we invest, or how we're going to crack open tough export markets, are men trained for the job - whether it's a job of production or a job of selling abroad. We're fighting for our lives in a world of tough professionals and we can't go on as we have been. Let's look at the two parties' philosophies against the issues with which we're faced because it's this fundamental approach that lies at the heart of all the issues that dominate this Election this week. Land prices, housing, the cost of living, pensions, education.

Take land prices. If you're clever enough to get hold of a piece of land which the ratepayers need for a school or a housing project and if you sell it to the community at an exorbitant profit, you're honoured as a smart operator and you know the Conservatives glory in a system which enables our urgent housing needs to be exploited by a handful of privileged men who have perhaps inherited vast landed possessions, or by speculators who've moved in and bought land in the hope of a quick profit. Millions have been made in these speculative deals and the cost comes out of our pockets. It's paid by your family when you come to pay your rent or your mortgage payment. We believe that the land of Britain should be used for the benefit of the people of Britain not for private profit. When new building pushes up land values the increase in value should come to the community and be used for the benefit of the whole community. That is why we're going to take urgently required building land into public ownership.

Or again take housing. Conservatives think of housing as a legitimate field for private profiteering. This explains their inhuman Rent Act which has put up rents to a record level. It has forced hundreds of thousands of families out of their homes and the Tories with their Rent Act have enabled unscrupulous landlords to exploit the housing shortage, even to the point of creating Rachmannism. We believe that the government should act to help owner-occupiers by lowering interest rates and of course help them by providing cheaper land. That families paying rent should be able to live in their homes without being held up to ransom by private landlords. So one of our first acts will be the repeal of the Rent Act. We shall restore security of tenure, we shall create machinery for fixing fair rents.

Then again, take rising prices. They've called off the fight against the abuse of monopoly power which Labour began with the Monopolies Act of 1948. And their concern for the profit of middle-men has meant that year by year the gap has been widening between what the farmer gets for his produce and what the housewife has to pay. To the Labour Party you know, the cost of living is not just a question of economic management, it's a matter of living or just barely existing, for old age pensioners and others living on small fixed incomes. The Conservatives' treatment of the pensioners reveals all the underlying meanness and selfishness of the "I'm all right Jack" society. Time after time they've rejected our demands for increased pensions and now with an Election they make a promise to increase the weekly pension by about half-a-crown a weak each year - less than the current rise in the cost of living. And Sir Alec Douglas Home talks on television of these pathetic increases in pensions as donations. But this is not a subject for charity. Old age pensioners are entitled to live in conditions of dignity and comfort as a right as members of our national family for whom they've done so much. This is why I pledge the Labour Government to urgent action to deal with this problem with a humanity that has been lacking. To ensure to each a guaranteed and adequate income on which our old age pensioners, widows and others can live, without the need to go cap in hand to the National Assistance.

It's the same with education. As democrats, as socialists, we believe in the right of every boy and girl to educational opportunity which will develop their talents to the full, develop their abilities to get the best out of life and to put the best into life. But that isn't all. We believe in Britain and in this ruthlessly competitive age in which we live, our best brains are our finest asset. We're faced with the formidable industrial and technological challenge from the Soviet Union and from other countries. This challenge has been dramatically underlined to-day by the new Soviet spaceship, and faced with this kind of challenge we can't as a nation afford to neglect the development of a single child.

Once again it's all a question of priorities and what we think is important. However dedicated a nation's teachers, they can't do the job they want to do if classes are over-crowded, as they are all over Britain. But teachers stand low in the Tory scale of values, much lower than many others who contribute nothing to the country's welfare. And you don't get fair educational opportunity either. In slum schools in these grim relics of the Victorian educational system, in which so many of our children still have to be taught. You don't get it either under a system of segregation in our schools where the eleven plus cuts off three-quarters of all our boys and girls from almost any hope of higher education. To deal with these problems we've put forward our ideas and plans for creating a new Britain. They say that it can't be done, that we can't afford it, that it's beyond our grasp. What they mean is that they can't do it, they won't do it and on the basis of the halting, limping, faltering Tory record of the past thirteen years, of course they're right. We mustn't try to achieve this programme they say, we might strain ourselves. You know this is a language of defeat. We believe this country can do it, we can do it if we get away from the sterile waste of stop go stop pay pause policy. If we get a new sense of urgency into industry, if we harness the tides of scientific and technological advance, if we can get both sides of industry to shed their addiction to out of date practices to which they cling because they fear the consequences of change. We've got to re-discover and recapture the spirit of adventure.

So this is the choice we face on Thursday. If you're content to settle comfortably into a standard of living which is rising not by as much as it ought to be rising, if you're content to see this country sink into a rut of cosy complacency, if you feel that we mustn't reach out to heights that are within our grasp, if you feel that as things are they must remain, if you think that Britain's role in the world depends upon our ancient monuments and nuclear posturing, if you're satisfied with the stop go stop see-saw which is a Tory substitute for real economic planning, then your choice is clear, you stick with the Tories. Lloyd George once said and President Kennedy repeated it in his Election four years ago, a tired nation is a Tory nation. But if you want to see Britain moving ahead and getting ahead, if you want to sweep away outmoded ideas, the old boy network that has condemned so many of our ablest young people to frustration. If you want to see that at every level of our national life talent and ability are recognised and given their head, then you'll feel with us the sense of challenge and of excitement and adventure. For it the past belongs to the Tories, the future belongs to us, all of us. Isn't the choice that we're making on Thursday just this? That we want the children for whom all of us are voting to look back and to say that these were the great days, this was the moment when the people of Britain said enough in enough. When they decided to take their future and the future of our country into their own hands. This is what we shall be voting about on Thursday.

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Last Modified: 22 Oct 12
© Richard Kimber