tvParty Election Broadcasts

Labour Party Television Election Broadcasts 1966

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

12th March 1966


I don't suppose you are any keener than I am to have another general election less than 18 months after the last one. For something like three years public affairs in this country and the job of the government - have been conducted against the background of an expected early election. In October 1964, you elected a new government. You gave us a job to do, and we've been doing it.

But the government's majority in the House of Commons, the smallest in our modern parliamentary history, has been three, and when one of our members died it was two. This has not so far stopped us from getting on with the job of governing. From the moment we came into office, finding that we had inherited the gravest economic crisis of the post-war years, we acted firmly and decisively, without regard to political popularity or unpopularity, or to the fact that at any time if we were defeated, an election might be only a month away, and as the Chancellor's progress report to the nation last week showed, in 1965, with a new sense of purpose in British industry, the eight hundred millions trade and payments gap of 1964 had been cut to less than half, exports were up and the rise in imports had been contained.

That is not all: and indeed in the last three months of the year we were just about paying our way, but there is still a long way to go. And again nor has our small majority prevented us from carrying through a massive programme of government legislation, eighty-five Acts of Parliament in just over five hundred days. In 1964 we promised to build a new Britain. We have made a powerful start. A great number of the measures that we outlined in the last election are now the law of the land, often after the most bitter parliamentary opposition, often carried by only the smallest of majorities. And what has been achieved is the result of our decision to tell the nation the facts, good or bad, encouraging or discouraging, and then asking everyone whatever their political views, to buckle to and take the measures that have had to be taken. And this is what I am going to do now and throughout this election. Never mind what they say.

The facts are these. However encouraging the progress we have made - and don't let's underrate that progress - we have still a long way to go to reach our target of paying our way abroad, standing on our own feet, of paying off the debts that were incurred to pay for the deficit we found awaiting us seventeen months ago. We are not offering you any soft easy road, any smooth election promises that can't be honoured. And if we ever thought of doing it, well, we are all too grown up for anyone to fall for it. And what has to be done is urgent. I have said that 1966 is our make or break year, the year when we - not the government alone but the nation, all of us together - have got to decide whether this country is going to go forward, vigorous, assertive, independent, or whether we are going to get into a situation where we are content to drift about in the shallows, while other nations leave us behind. And this means that the urgent measures that we have taken to revitalise British industry, to increase investment in new and more modern machinery, to get firms and industries in the less prosperous areas of Britain, these must be pressed home. And for this we need an adequate parliamentary majority to overcome time-wasting obstructions by those who are opposed to these measures, without seeing parliament paralysed, brought to a standstill, for perhaps months at a time by illness, or by the death of one of our colleagues. Last year, when we were trying to get a major programme of tax reform through parliament, they told us we had no right to try and enact a major controversial programme with a majority of three. What they were saying was that we had no right to try to govern, to do the job you gave us to do, with a majority of three.

All right. What we are asking now is for a mandate to do that job. Our Government Bills on housing, finance for local councils, who are clearing the slums and fighting over-crowding, for helping with rates, for dealing with land shortages and rocketing land prices, our proposals to end the leasehold problem, the Ombudsman measures - and many more - all the things that weren't done in the thirteen years - we can't have these imperilled. But it's not only Bills in Parliament. That is only part of a government's job. There are our relations with industry. The need to get a sense of urgency into industry - both sides of industry - to fight and get rid of restrictive practices, costly waste of manpower, inefficient attitudes of management. This means what we need is a full day's work by everybody for a full day's pay. This means that the Government must be able to speak with authority about everything that needs to be done. If we are going to do everything that we need to do to keep sterling strong, and to build up confidence abroad in sterling, in Britain, we must be free to act and act with decision.

But it's not only at home: Britain has begun to count again in the counsels of the world. But you've got to be able to plan ahead, with some degree of certainty. Whoever speaks for Britain must be seen to speak for Britain. You may not like what I say on behalf of Britain, and if you don't you'll decide to vote for one of the others. But whoever speaks for Britain must speak with authority - and this means a good working majority. Now how should you decide who ought to get that majority? Well one thing I will say, the Labour Government has promised nothing we cannot and will not fulfil. Our manifesto contains nothing that we have not been working on, carrying through as a government. You are not going to listen to any party which glibly promises you the earth in increased expenditure, expenditure which would cost one thousand millions a year extra - and promises at the same time to cut taxation. We have taken over the last year a grip of government expenditure. The expenditure estimates for this year are only one point eight per cent up on last years in fixed prices: for the first time for heaven knows how long, expenditure is under control. And this has meant tough decisions in defence where we have for the first time a government programme based on realism; military realism, yes and economic realism. In social expenditure, too; some programmes we cherish have had to be cut back or postponed. But everything we are promising is covered within our programme - control and costed expansion year by year, for the next five years. On the records, on the credibility of the various party programmes, the credibility tested in measures, and in terms of men, you will be the judge. On their record - over thirteen years - you have formed your views, and no words of mine would move you one way or the other now.

On ours? We have tackled the economic challenge. We have a good record to show. Facing a formidable deficit, we cut back, while we were waiting for our positive policies of industrial expansion and modernisation to take effect. But you know this has not been the old stop-go. Unemployment is lower today than for ten years. We have brought new hopes to the neglected areas of the north-west and north-east and Scotland and Wales. And while we have been fighting the crippling economic crisis we have pushed ahead with social reform. Increases in pensions, prescription charges abolished, the earnings rule for widows abolished, redundancy payments introduced, earnings related sick and unemployment benefits introduced: security against evictions, our Rent act, repealing the vicious Tory Rent Act of 1957; all these are now the law of Britain. And our further programmes, rates, help with rents, leaseholds, mortgages: these are part of our policy. So far then - but there is so much more to do. And it's for you to decide. So what is this election about? A party battle? Yes, in a way it is. But it is really about government. The government you elected in 1964 - is it to have the tools to do the job that you gave it to do? This election is not about promises. It is about records and it is about policies. Their record - twelve years of it. Our record - only seventeen months, with a small majority, but with an unconquerable determination to do the best for Britain and for all of us. Their policies - I hope you will study them against their record. Ours, I hope you will study ours too, against our record after only seventeen months. So let's have an end, for five years, to electioneering by coming to a decision now and when we have taken that decision, let all of us then get on with the job.

16th March 1966


In the studio live tonight are three journalists from national newspapers. They are Trevor Evans of the Daily Express, John Bourne of the Financial Times and Alan Watkins of the Spectator. They are free to put any questions they wish to the Minister of Labour, the Right Honourable Ray Gunter.


Mr Gunter, one of the main claims of the Labour party is that it has shown how it can govern. But has it yet evoked a response from the nation? Now I ask this because a few hours ago the Department of Economic Affairs issued the latest index of industrial production which, for January of this year, was a hundred and thirty three - precisely what it was in January of 1965, but I think I should add that since the last general election there was an increase of nearly four per cent in production, but it happened in the first three months of your government, but it happened in the first three months of your government, but that there appears to have been stagnation during the past year. Why?


I think it's quite true that the government has governed and there have been responses from the nation, particularly industry. But, as I have said before, that response has not been large enough. It has not been quick enough. And I emphasise here that we are faced here with fundamental problems of increasing our production and of holding our consuming power in line with that production. In other words, that we may become an honest nation, and get out of debt. This can only be done by stern measures. Indeed, by hard government, and the response, I hope, will be more freely given in the future where restrictive practices, restrictive arrangements, bad management, will really come to terms with what is the fundamental problem of this nation - to earn an honest living by increasing its production.


Minister, I think this leads on to the related point, that the most important, vital thing for the economy is to bring productivity up to the rate which wage earnings [increasing] recently. Now how precisely would a Labour government set about increasing the rate of productivity?


One of the first tasks - and we have tried very hard indeed, with some success over twelve months - is to get away from any practices or arrangements in industry that restrict production. It must be remembered, of course, that certain practices in industry, formulated years ago, were created because men were afraid of their jobs. They were afraid that they'd work themselves out of those jobs. We have to come to terms with many of those practices and those arrangements. You ask me what a Labour government would do. We are already doing our best and getting the response. Many of our trade union friends, with the management, are now entering into good agreements, productivity agreements, and we are on the move. But the speed is not sufficient to satisfy any government.


Mr Gunter, isn't the reason why the speed is not sufficient that the present government has set up this Royal Commission? Now, why did you have to set up a Royal Commission on the trade unions? The government contains you, it contains Mr Brown, it contains Mr Cousins - all very eminent trade unions. There's your department, there's Mr George Woodcock. Surely you could have got all the information you wanted in a matter of months, instead of delaying another two years I believe before the Royal Commission reports? What is the point of this Royal Commission?


I fear you've over-simplified the issue, and, indeed, have a basic misunderstanding of what the Royal Commission is about. It's over sixty years ago since a Royal Commission had a look at the powers, the functions, the responsibilities of the trade unions in society. It happened at a time when the trade unions were weak. Things have changed. We live in a new world. The trade unions have great power. Two or three years ago, two years ago, it was found by their Lordships in the House of Lords, the judges there, that what we had thought had been the law - which was largely formulated sixty years ago - was to be interpreted in a different way. There was confusion even amongst the learned judges. Therefore, it was clear that a government who wanted to come to terms with the problems that arise from the place and purpose and power of trade unions, and employers' associations, in society, wanted to have a complete review of the whole of the facets of industrial relations and industry, not only the law as it should be laid down to define the power and responsibility but indeed a survey of what flowed from it in terms of the closure, restrictive practices and a host of other facets of industrial relations. Therefore it was right that eminent lawyers, men of industry, should calmly survey the whole scene and give us guidelines as to what should be the law in the future. It is surely beyond doubt that had the Conservative party, two years ago, seized the opportunity when that famous legal case was fought out where the confusion was highlighted, then the Royal Commission had been established we should now have had the results and we should have been in legislate in the present circumstances


Now there's one other aspect of this business of response from the nation, Mr Gunter. Unemployment, happily, has remained fairly low but we have heard economists urge that if we had more unemployed people might be more ready to work. But Mr Callaghan said a very interesting thing yesterday. He said he didn't want any more unemployment but he would like more production from those in employment. Now, have you the feeling that there's some over-manning, or that some employers are holding too many workers, or that there's too much anxiety to have overtime without any regard to the cost of the product? Is there some cheating, as it were, going on in industry?


On the first point that you make, no-one wants unemployment. Those of us who saw it and suffered from it, we don't want it. But it is absolutely true - this is one of our major problems - that there is overmanning in certain industries, that we ought to have on the pay-rolls more men that are required to do or produce at a certain rate. And this is the problem of how to get men out, particularly out of contracting industries. This is why the government has given emphasis to re-training; given emphasis to redundancy payments, so that men may be conditioned to come out as the new machines pour in, and as it can be seen that the labour costs are too high, they can come out and be re-trained for other jobs and other crafts. I accept it immediately. There is over-manning. That is why we are trying to get unions and employers together to arrive at just and humane agreements that we can reduce in those industries that are over-manned and, at the same time, increase in what you might call the science-based industries - the new industries - the trained men that may come out of the over-manned industries.


But Minister this all comes back, surely, to this question of productivity and how you get it up. Now one of the few places of the Labour manifesto where they are specific on this subject is where it says that there's going to be a productivity conference, chaired by the Prime Minister; then there are going to be pay and productivity councils. Well, now how are these things going to work? How are they going to be prevented from being what they've so often been before, this sort of body talking shop?


The Prime Minister has said that he would like a national conference, comprised from the leaders of the trade unions, so that he might outline his thoughts of how down the line, throughout industry, we may have these productivity councils, which are related to pay, which can be related to pay. In other words the effort is to be, and this leads me to the point that I am sure is at the back of your mind, how we can get a greater measure of co-operation with industry itself between the employer and the men so that wages can be related to increased productivity, so that we may eliminate those practices that are deterring our production. This is what's at the back of our mind and we want a great urgent drive throughout industry to do it.


We've just heard, Minister, on the television, that one of the so-called kangaroo trials was not as serious as it was supposed to be. But this investigation has been carried out by unions. Now, with great respect, you seem to have been standing on the sidelines whilst deploring the reports that they're true. When do you, or your ministry, of the Ministry of Labour come into this and what is likely to be the outcome do you think?


I don't know exactly what you mean by standing on the sidelines. I thought it was the basic fact of British justice that before you came to conclusions you ascertained the facts.


Now, may I interject here? What I mean is that the Ministry of Labour might have made the enquiry rather than leaving it to the unions concerned who might be considered bias.


If I may say, Mr Watkins, this is a revelation of inexperience in how industry works. I immediately demanded that the trade union leaders should meet me, that they should conduct their enquiry in what was alleged to be the misconduct of their own members. I understand now, this night as I left the ministry, that the facts do not appear, or would not seem to be quite as have been published in the press. I understand that in view of the investigation that has been made by the unions the matter is now to be referred to the Press Council, so that they may have a look at the facts that may emerge. I haven't stood on the sidelines. All I've wanted to do in justice to the trade unions was that the facts might be known before we arrive at conclusions.


Minister, on this point and getting away from that particular dispute, in a recent statement, since the election campaign started, you said, and I quote here, 'the state must protect individuals against the tyranny of employers and trade unions', and then you went on to say that this could mean labour courts and possibly new legislation. Now how could these courts and this legislation work? How would they work?


I was speaking of legislation of a basic character. To clarify what is now in confusion as to the rights, responsibilities, duties of employers' associations and trade unions within society itself. But I allowed myself to think aloud, and rightly so. I believe that we may emerge, when we can get the law right, to a state where industrial courts may be established, where amongst other things disputes of a local character may be referred to for immediate arbitration, where indeed the trade unionist who has to make a protest, who has a legitimate complaint against his union, can take it there, that we have courts that can sit immediately in justice. If I may say I don't want these to be solely composed of lawyers because you know in industry there is far more than the letter of the law. It is the interpretation of the spirit.


Minister, I must say that, from what you're saying, there is a threat - or at least a promise, as you look at it - of interference by the state in to the normal legislative processes of industry, or are you still going to rely, to some extent, on the continuation of voluntarism, in spite of its short-comings?


I am fundamentally convinced that free negotiations, with a minimum of government interference in industrial relations, is the right course. It must be, because we all know round this table industrial relations are human relations and all the laws in this world will never remove the old [...] from men who want to be responsible. What I have endeavoured, through my ministry and my colleagues, is to try and bring both sides together so that a better spirit may be created. Let us have better personnel managers. Let us have well-led trade unions and then let the spirit develop where production is the great objective. Not production for the sake of production, but that men's standards of life may be improved.


And what you want is a national revolution in attitudes.


It is indeed. I believe that this nation is almost on the edge of this. I have the impression over this last twelve months, in industry, and my activities are closely confined to industry, that there is a growing willingness and understanding on the part of employers, and of the trade unions, that the nonsense must stop and we must get together. But it must always be remembered it is not a matter of the law it is a matter of attitudes. How man reacts to man. And how he conducts himself at his place of employment. That is what it is. I repeat, it is a matter of the spirit more than the letter of the law.

22nd March 1966


You know Labour Government works! Manifesto of the Labour party, General Election, 1966. Time for Decision.  The Family in the new Welfare State. Heath and Welfare Services. The Minister of Health.


The Tories were always against a free Health Service. They've now promised to bring back prescription charges. They say they'll raise thirty million pounds a year doing this and on their proposals, that would mean a prescription charge, not of the two shillings we got rid of but more like four or five shillings per item. And let's be quite clear about this. The nation's drug bill has to be paid for. The only question is do you want to share the cost over the whole community or should you pay individually when you're sick and least able to afford it, as the Tories propose? And who's going to decide who pays, and who doesn't? Your overworked doctor or the chemist or perhaps one of these proposed Tory Inspectors of Welfare? Under the Conservatives, who never really believed in it from Nye Bevan's day onwards, the National Health Service was steadily running downhill. Not enough doctors, too few hospitals, nurses driven to march in protest. In seventeen months, we've coped with the family doctor crisis largely created and wholly ignored by the Tories. This year we'll be spending half as much again as the Tories on new hospital building. They cut the intake of medical students and we are expanding it by the equivalent of three new medical schools. Even with the highest priority, a Labour Government cannot, in seventeen months, make good the neglect of a dozen years. But give us a five-year Parliament and we'll have a Health Service we can really be proud of.


Full employment. Richard Marsh.


Jim Callaghan has twice asked the Tory leaders if they would create unemployment in order to keep wage levels down. It's a simple question but as far as I know, they just won't tell. Labour Government is the only government which has coped with an economic crisis without creating unemployment. The Tory answer, every time, has been to throw men and women out of work or to reduce them to short time, and worse still, they left thousands of our youngsters out of work when they finished school - unemployed before they even started work. And it didn't end there. Industry in this country is changing rapidly. New technologies are springing up, old industries are dying, and men who'd worked ten, twenty or thirty years in an industry suddenly found themselves redundant and often with only a week's notice. It really was monstrous that we had to wait for a Labour Government to do something about this because in all their thirteen years, the Tories did nothing. Now the Redundancy Payments Act brings relief to a man coping with what is, for him, a terrible crisis and often in the prime of his life. The Labour Government did a great deal more than this. It so developed the government training schemes that a man like this can acquire a new skill. You see, once men in this position, and they're proud of their skills, suddenly found they were not wanted unless it was for sweeping floors or making tea in factories, and now they can acquire new skills. They can make a new contribution to our society and keep their dignity. It was left to Labour to do these things and they did it in seventeen months. You can't trust the Tories to do a job like this.


Social security. The Minister of Pensions speaking in Edinburgh.


The Tories intend to abandon the Welfare State. That is what the Tory Sunday Telegraph says. It is now plain that what they want to see is the Means Test nation, and to do this they have promised to appoint a lot of new inspectors. In the last general election, the Labour Party promised help for those in need - the old, the sick and the disabled. We have done all that, and we did it speedily. The new Ministry of Social Security will do more. It is bold, imaginative, and will meet people's needs. From Labour we have had action and not only words. The Tories are now talking of compulsory occupational pensions. It sounds well enough but take a closer look. They haven't said how much, and they haven't said when. Today, over half the occupational pensions are less than two pounds per week, and even that sum takes forty years to accrue. And they take no account of rising prices. And what is more, they take no account of widows. Must people really wait till the next century before they get an adequate pension? The Tories seem to think they should. The Labour Government will create a fair and just scheme for everyone now, not in the twenty-first century. Our scheme will give retirement on half-pay, and build-in safeguard against any rise in prices. The Labour Government created the Welfare State. The Tories mean to destroy it. This is one of the fundamental differences between the parties. You must judge for yourself The decision is yours.


Fair rents and mortgages. The Minister of Housing.


The Conservatives have said it. They're going to dismantle our new rent control wherever they decide it's unnecessary. As you know, one of the first things I did as Minister of Housing was to annul the Tory Rent Act of '57, restore security of tenure to eight hundred thousand homes and then I set up machinery for rent control and for fixing fair rents. The Opposition didn't vote against us in the Commons and the control is now operating very well in London and parts of the Midlands. But before we can even set it up in the rest of the country, Mr Heath announces he'll get rid of it wherever he likes. It might be a good idea to ask your local Conservative candidate whether yours is one of the districts where his party leader would set the landlords free. And while you're at it, you might go on to ask him whether he supports or opposes the new rate rebates for two million hard-pressed ratepayers which come into force next week. Or our new plan to reduce the interest rate for one and a quarter million of the least well-off of our owner-occupiers. Then, just a word to the council house tenant. When we took over, we found a desperate shortage of decent homes at rents the average wage-owner could afford, and we launched a huge housing drive to put it right. Because I wanted the councils to build a lot of houses without forcing up the rents too high, I increased the basic subsidy I inherited from my predecessor from a paltry twenty-four pounds a house to sixty-seven pounds a house.

And now what do the Tories say? Well, only today Mr Heath told us in a press interview that one of the places he'd economise is subsidies for council housing. And this must mean that if the Tories won, they'd revert to their old scale of subsidies and that would mean the burden on council house rents will be increased by just sixteen and sixpence a week for each new house the Council built. Let's see what all this adds up to. This evening you've heard about four things we've done to help ordinary people. Four things the Tories are just waiting to wreck if only they could win this election. First, we abolished the prescription charges, and the Tories would re-impose them with exemptions which would raise the charges to four shillings an item. Number two, we're going on to make half-pay on retirement as well as half-pay in sickness and unemployment already on the statute book. And, the Tories have said they're determined to dismantle this part of the comprehensive Welfare State and introduce so-called 'selective aid', which would, in fact, put some seven million people on the means test. Number three, council house rents. We're trying to build many more council houses, while calling a halt to soaring rents. And the Tories have said they'll drop our new subsidies and force council-house rents still higher. Fourthly, rent control - we shall restore security of tenure to every tenant in the country, the Conservatives have announced their determination to dismantle it. Here, then, are four things we've done which help, between them, almost everybody in this country. And each of then is under attack by the Conservatives. On Thursday week, you can decide this vital question: were we right, when we kept our promise and helped people in these ways? Or are the Tories right, in threatening to destroy our work?


Time for decision!

25th March 1966


After twelve days, more than two thousand miles of travel across Britain, nearly one hundred meetings, I have come back with rather a husky voice, I fear, but with one clear impression outstanding in my mind. People really regard this as the decisive election. They understand that the choice before us is whether Britain shall go on with the economic and social advance so recently begun with Labour, or whether we slide back. Now in the seventeen months since we took office the Labour Government has been firm: it has acted to control the basic causes of our troubles; it has set out to revitalise our industry and it has led a successful drive to increase our exports. The government's determined action has brought about the most striking difference in Britain's economic situation.

In 1965, our only full year, the Conservative deficit of eight hundred million pounds was reduced to three hundred and fifty million - a far greater cut than anybody would have thought likely in such a short period. And this has been achieved against enormous difficulties, and not the least of those was our tiny parliamentary majority. This has inevitably created uncertainty in the minds of many whose co-operation is most needed both at home and abroad. However, unlike the Conservatives who ran away from all decisions throughout 1964, we determined from the very beginning not to let these problems inhibit us from doing everything necessary to get the disastrous Tory legacy under control.

Nor have we been deterred from our course either by fear of unpopularity or by consideration of possible electoral consequences. We felt sure that so long as we explained the situation fully to you and gave you honestly the reasons for all our actions you would understand and support us. And so it has turned out to be, as my tour has shown. Now the future will not be easy. Far from it. We still have to get rid of the remaining deficit which again, unlike the Conservatives, we are not hiding from you. Our aim is that the nation shall be in balance by the end of this year and that we shall start to accumulate a surplus from 1967 onwards. This will then make the pound strong and secure and it will enable us to repay the money which had to be borrowed to finance the Conservative deficit.

We must at the same time achieve a faster and a greater rise in productivity: we also need greater efficiency in the management and organisation of our industry: and we must have greater flexibility in the way we use our manpower together with the ending of all out of date restrictive practices in industry. The Government, after consultation and mostly with the agreement of all in industry, has embarked already on a large range of new policies that will bring about this long term and permanent improvement in Britain's position.

The Conservatives left us with another major problem. Some regions of England were over-strained by the amount of industrial activity going on; while in other areas we were wasting their resources and had large numbers of their men and women out of work. This has led also to the disruption of life in those neglected areas because so many of the younger and the more active people were forced to leave home in order to find work in the busier areas. But already we have brought about a quite dramatic change in the fortunes of Scotland, Wales and of the North of England. As we saw on our tour, unemployment has been greatly reduced and new industries are now opening up. It was quite clear we have brought new hope and a good deal of happiness to the people who have lived so long in those neglected parts of our country. Because of the years which the Conservatives wasted we have to speed up the major changes in industry which are so very essential.

Labour accepts that it is the Government's business to see that men and women who may be affected by these changes are enabled to meet them without the discomfort, the hardships or the cruelties which so marked previous periods of industrial change in Britain. That is why we are increasing so substantially the facilities for training and for retraining our people: why we are planning the phasing of the changes so that the new jobs become available as the old ones contract: and why we have also provided generous tax free compensation, based on years of service, for those who may become redundant and may have to move to other jobs.

There is one remaining critical key to the success of these industrial policies. We must end the inflationary spiral of prices chasing incomes and incomes chasing prices, each forcing the other up, and thereby reducing the value of our money at home and our competitive position abroad. This has been a standing feature of our life for a long time past. But the only remedy the Conservatives ever tried was through higher taxes, credit squeezes, heavy unemployment and wasted factories. This caused much human misery and, of course was a totally irrational waste of the very productive capacity we needed so much. And it always failed to solve the problem. Our first and successful effort was to get agreement and thereby establish the Prices and Incomes Board. This we did by last May. Our policy has, therefore, been operating for only ten months. Yet in that time we have not only maintained full employment: we have increased industrial activity and prices are being stabilised. As the figures published only this week show - since the policy started prices have risen by no more than four pence in the pound, whereas in the last ten months of the Conservatives' same period prices rose by exactly twice as much. And the situation is improving steadily all the time. Manufacturers and distributors are now not only consulting us about proposed price increases but in quite a number of important cases recently have been coming forward voluntarily with proposals to peg their prices for long periods ahead in accordance with our policy.

It was always clear to me that prices had to be the point at which the vicious circle should be broken. Claims for wages and salaries are clearly influenced by prices, as are profits and dividends. It is not surprising, therefore, that on the incomes side the going has been tougher but we must succeed with this too if our money is to keep its value. And therefore it is most encouraging that in recent months so many settlements have been made in line with the policy. The Government is determined to push on with this policy because it remains the only constructive way to deal with this very crucial problem. Our opponents denounce it as they denounce everything else we do. But they have no alternative to put in its place. You have already seen how a Labour government tackles the job. You have seen the kind of results that can be achieved even under the greatest of difficulties and pressures. Give us a good majority in the next parliament: support us afterwards - and Britain will continue to go ahead. So make sure of it. Vote Labour next Thursday.

29th March 1966


This Thursday - for Britain, for all of us - is the day of decision. We have had the tumult and the shouting, the heckling, the charges and the counter-charges of party in-fighting. Now it is my duty to present the real issues, the issues we stall be deciding for five years. It is a choice between parties, the record of each, the policies of each. But going even beyond policy is the vision that each party offers you for the future, the kind of Britain we want to see, the kind of Britain in which we want our children to grow up, the opportunity they will have in life. The influence this new Britain can have in leading the world to peace. There are those whose horizons for Britain are confined to company reports and the counting house. Do we want to see Britain no more than a glorified super-market? We want a Britain which tempers economic efficiency, and strength and independence, with compassion for those amongst us who most need our help, with respect for their human dignity. In my final broadcast before the last elections I quoted the words of Franklin Roosevelt: 'Better the occasional faults of a government living in the spirit of compassion than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference'. The task of government - and it is a parliament and a government that we shall be choosing on Thursday - the task of government is to translate that vision into reality. This is the central choice in this election. The government you want.

For two years and more before 1964, Britain had no government. Their vision for Britain, whatever it may have been, had withered and perished. For seventeen months now Britain has had a government. You may not agree with everything this government has done. But you will agree that - facing the most formidable economic problem a government can have been left to deal with, and with a parliamentary majority of only three, we have taken the decisions that had to be taken, we have neither feared electoral unpopularity nor been pushed around by any vested interest, however powerful. And this has to go on. With the problems we are still facing, we need government. We cannot afford to relapse into the thirteen year posture of drift, and indecision and indifference. We offer no soft and easy road. I do not believe this nation is in a mood to be lulled by easy, unattainable promises. It is a call to action we offer you and our people will respond only if the government gives the lead. It is the economic challenge which dominates the whole life of the nation. I have described 1966 as make-or-break year. That is one reason why we cannot afford another six months or more of electioneering, or of a parliament, with urgent tasks before it, paralysed and frustrated month after month by an inadequate majority. But that challenge is one that can be met only by the government and the whole nation working together in partnership. In my first broadcast, from 10 Downing Street, on that October afternoon of 1964, I said then that there is nothing we cannot do together. And already, after only seventeen months, we have shown what can be done.

There may be election arguments in Britain but the world recognises the reality of our achievement over this seventeen months. It pays tribute to the unconquerable determination of this government and this people to make our country strong again, and sterling strong again. I never believed that this nation, with its history, with its skill, its aptitudes, and inventiveness, was to be for ever condemned, as for so long we seemed to be condemned, to miss the tides of history and of economic challenge. The success we have achieved so far, in a bare seventeen months, towards paying our way, towards achieving a lasting economic strength and independence, let this not be underrated. There have been those who, for political reasons, have been prepared to belittle and to disparage the efforts of our country, to belittle the achievements of the British nation working in partnership with the government they elected. They may, in the heat of this election battle, want to discredit the achievements of your government, but that is no reason for selling Britain short at home and abroad.

The progress we have made has been achieved because we were not afraid to apply emergency measures, to cut back costly programmes that were beyond the capacity of a nation facing external crisis. We faced great unpopularity through cutting back extravagant defence projects and even putting off for a time some of our most cherished social objectives. We held back and postponed less essential public expenditure and commercial expenditure alike. But our economic strategy was based on priorities. This was no return to the blunt axe, of Conservative stop-go policy of the past years. We have maintained full employment. What we have sought to achieve and what we are in the process of achieving is not unemployment, but redeployment on the priority tasks that Britain faces. We have brought new work, new life, new hope to the areas the Conservatives neglected. We have safeguarded house building, school building and hospital building. Indeed we are building more houses, more schools, more hospitals than ever before.

But however necessary the measures of the past seventeen months have been, these cannot be the main theme of our attack on the underlying economic problem Britain has been facing. We had been brought to the brink because for thirteen years British industry had lost ground in the world. Productivity lagged behind every other industrial country because investment in new plant and machinery lagged behind. We failed to modernise, restrictive practices and attitudes were entrenched, almost enshrined, because of long periods of industrial stagnation, with profits easy to earn on the soft, home market. From the word go, we have set out to get a new and more dynamic approach in industry. With a new partnership with productive industry, the government has become a forcing house of change, pressing industries to apply the results of scientific research in factory and workshop, probing the sources of industrial weakness and building up the hard centre industries we need to develop. We have taken direct action to change attitudes in industry. There has been firm and positive action industry by industry, to deal with unofficial strikes. Across the table talks, as we had a few weeks ago with management and unions in the railway industry, to link, pay with productivity and productivity with pay. We have attacked the problem industries. Devlin taking the lid off dockland, followed by firm action by government and industry. Plowden tearing away the illusions about the aircraft industry, and laying down the plan which we are following, for a viable and securely-based industry. Now Geddes on shipbuilding, which the government will follow up urgently.

No-one expected us in seventeen months to revolutionise British industry, to build the factories, to redeploy our industrial strength, from an over concentration on the home market to meet the challenge of world markets. To carry through a scientific revolution in less than a year and a half to turn the results into a second and new industrial revolution even more far-reaching than the first. But the job has begun. We are getting results. Industry is stirring itself. Britain is on the move again and it is on the move because we are making a direct frontal attack on out-dated industrial methods, on selfish and sectional attitudes in British industry. And the attack is not a series of unrelated expedients - it is based on one central strategy, set out for the nation to see - our National Plan for the next five years. A plan worked out with the most enterprising and far-sighted men in British industry to carry us into the 1970s. The National Plan is a breakthrough in national economic policy, a breakthrough too in our history of economic government by partnership and consent. Economic regeneration, social advance, a plan not only for Britain, but for every part of Britain, and for the rebuilding of the smoky, dingy, environment we inherited from the Victorian industrial revolution. For economic achievement is not an end, but a means. It is essential for Britain's independence for our influence abroad. It will provide the munitions to fight the only war your government seeks, the world war against hunger, poverty and disease.

For economic efficiency, the solution of our industrial problems, means nothing if the Britain we are building is not tampered with the spirit of compassion. But, even though the life of this government has been overshadowed by the economic crisis we inherited, we have carried through in seventeen months one of the greatest programmes of social advance in Britain's parliamentary history. In 1964, we all accepted the vision of a New Britain, of a fairer and juster society. From the moment the government was formed, we have been building that New Britain. We restored a sense of social priorities - with the speediest possible help for the old, the sick, the war disabled, the widowed. Just as building the New Britain involves care for those in need, equally it has meant quick action to deal with the housing problem -the greatest social challenge of the 1970s. That challenge has to be met, as we are meeting it, by an attack on the slums, and over-crowding in our big cities. For the children, who are to inherit the New Britain we are building, will never have the start they ought to have in life if they are condemned to live in conditions which no civilised society can tolerate.

The task is not only to build more houses, we have had to deal with problems created by the Conservative Rent Act. We have restored security to families in their homes and have set up machinery for fixing rents which are fair as between landlord and tenant. Urgent, and high among the priorities for the next parliament, will be our measure to deal with the land problem, further help to ease the burden of rates, and rising council house rents, our charter for the leaseholder and our practical help for those who are buying their own homes and those young couples who want to buy their own homes. For what we are concerned with is the security, the happiness, the welfare of every family in Britain and for a fairer opportunity in education, and in life, for every child in every home.

We are building a Britain where human values count, where we are members one of another, concerned for the community, for others, for our families, not just for ourselves. This is the Britain we are building, the Britain we have started to in these seventeen months. It is a task worthy of the energies of a great people. Its foundations lie in the firm base of economic strength we have to create. We can achieve it by the efforts of a united people, of one nation, when the divisive clamour of these recent weeks has died away. There are too many people prepared to write us off abroad and even nearer home. Let them realise that the nation they saw, or thought they saw in those thirteen years, is not the real Britain. We face a tremendous challenge and we have not at any time during these seventeen months, or in this election period, sought for one moment to conceal the fact that a hard road still lies ahead for us. But all our history proclaims that there are deep reserves of strength and power which are brought out to the full when Britain has a government prepared to tell the people the facts, to tell the people what has got to be done. So this Thursday can mark a new stage in the partnership between the people of Britain and their government - a government which is prepared to say, and to mean: This is your country, now let us join together to work for it.

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Last Modified: 22 Oct 12
© Richard Kimber