Note: The text is based on transcripts held
at the Labour History Archive and Study Centre at the People's History Museum,
1st June 1970
A fortnight ago it was my responsibility to recommend
that there should be a general election on June the eighteenth. And when
you make your decision you will be deciding to whom the responsibility
of government is to be entrusted. Your Labour Government has had the responsibility
for five and a half years. And the test we have come through is that of
making Britain strong, getting Britain out of the red into a strong surplus.
Bringing Britain up-to-date, keen, vigorous, competitive in the world markets.
Earning the respect of the world. We now have a surplus of five hundred
millions on overseas trade. A position never previously achieved in the
whole of Britain's long trading history. That is why we now are respected
everywhere as being one of the strongest economies in the world. Many things
we would all like to have done have had to take second place to the over-riding
priority of making us strong. But despite pressures from home and abroad
we have insisted on maintaining and improving Britain's standards of tolerance,
compassion and stability. That is our achievement. On June the eighteenth
you will decide between the Government and the Conservative alternative
on three tests. How each has discharged the responsibilities of government.
Whether this government or the men the Conservatives are putting forward
will provide the team you want to guide Britain through the 1970's. And
thirdly on policies. The government's proved policies, going forward, building
on economic strength, or the Conservative alternative policies. Which of
them measure up to the responsibility that you have the right to demand.
We can be proud of what we have achieved over five and a half years, when
making Britain strong had to be our first priority. Britain today is a
far more compassionate society than it was six years ago. For our old people,
the widows, the disabled, the sick, we have done more than ever before.
And for the young too. I am proud of what we have done, more than ever
seemed possible, to bring about a real equality of opportunity for our
children, ending the unfair segregation, the absurd segregation of children
at the age of eleven plus. On the Health Service with new hospital building
more than doubled. On housing, despite my very real disappointment because
of economic conditions at home and abroad, hundreds of thousands more homes
built in the past five and a half years than in any previous period in
Now with an economic strength such as we have not known for very many
years past - a strength we shall maintain - we can move much more quickly
and confidently to improve the quality of our life, and the quality of
our environment. We shall use that strength to increase the massive provision
we have already made for improving social security. Our new Pensions Act,
a fair deal for women, health and welfare, use that strength to improve
our education, housing. For our greatly expanding roads programme, the
modernisation of our decaying town and city centres. A new drive to make
Britain not only a really great country to live in but a cleaner place
to live in, dealing with the pollution of our rivers, the seas around our
coasts, the atmosphere, and the nuisance of noise. Ensure that our economic
strength is shared among all the nations and regions of Britain.
We shall strengthen still further the massive provision we are making
to bring new industry, a new prosperity, more jobs, to the Development
Areas, and intermediate areas, so long neglected by our predecessors. Vast
areas of the country now entering the seventies with more hope and confidence
than ever before. We shall use that strength to improve still further personal
and family living standards - already higher than ever before - and to
help others who need our help.
But what would happen to our strength if
the five hundred millions surplus was to be handed over to the mend of
the eight hundred millions deficit? You know the Conservative record in
office. And they have been just as irresponsible in opposition. In these
past five and a half years they have exploited for political purposes every
difficulty we have faced. And all of these difficulties had deep roots
in their years of neglect and indifference. Almost every action we have
taken to strengthen Britain has been opposed - and exploited - by them.
While we have been getting on with the job, they have been electioneering
since 1966. Running Britain down at home and abroad. Exuberant only when
Britain ran into economic difficulties, grudging even in their admissions
when Britain was coming through to success. They resent the fact that you
decided that Britain should have a Labour Government. With the Conservative
record in government and opposition, we cannot afford to hand over our
hard-won surplus to be frittered away by them. Everything we have fought
to achieve would be thrown away by the irresponsible financial policies
they are now proposing. Policies related not to the economic or social
future of Britain, but to their hope of winning easy votes on a programme
which adds up to an economic delusion. Not only do they try to win your
votes by promising to tax less, they are after other votes by promising
to spend more. One thousand five hundred million pounds of tax remissions.
Their own people criticise them for promises to increase government spending
by one thousand million. No-one seriously believes that you can promise
to cut taxes and spend more at the same time. No-one who has any experience
of industry or finance or book-keeping, no housewife, who has her weekly
budget to add up, is going to be taken in by this unscrupulous pretence
that in this life you can get something for nothing. Financial irresponsibility,
social irresponsibility too. Who is going to be taken in by the compassion,
the care and the concern, they have put on for the election campaign? Where
was their compassion, where was their concern, when there were people who
needed that care and concern, when they had the power to help and refused
to help? The widows, the old age pensioners, the disabled, poor families,
the tenants of private landlords, the victims of Rachmanism, the millions
who had the humiliation of National Assistance and now get their supplementary
benefit as a right; people made redundant by change in industry. All these
we have helped. They didn't help then. But the meaner approach of their
new abrasive policies would mean making the lot of those dependent on the
social services a great deal harder. worse, they would cut their standard
of living, and hit millions of other families as well, by policies which
are deliberately designed to push up the cost of living. Deliberately designed
to increase food prices. Deliberately designed to increase taxes on everything
that an average family has to buy. Deliberately designed to increase rents.
All of this to make possible their policy of unfairly selective cuts in
taxation for some.
They want to make law and order and the prevention of
crime - real problems in themselves - the football of party politics. To
deal with them they propose alien solutions imported from foreign countries
where law and order are breaking down. Not here. The only part of the United
Kingdom where law and order has been menaced is in Northern Ireland where
the Tories have had control for half a century - and where we have had
to intervene to guarantee an orderly - and a fair society. They propose
to import alien ideas about the serious problems of industrial relations,
from foreign countries whose record in strikes and stoppages is many times
worse than our own. These doctrines have manifestly not worked in the countries
of their origin. How can they work here and how can they give happiness
Every leading democratic country in the world envies Britain
for our tolerance, for our individual liberty, for our stability. These,
backed by Britain's economic strength, provide the framework in which every
individual, every family, can live their lives in their own way. That is
why, as I have said, the decision the British people have to take, is a
decision about responsibility. You have to judge on the records of men
tested by the responsibilities of government, and the policies which will
be put forward. And the reality behind those policies. Still more, you
have to judge the purposes they seek to serve, their ideals, their objectives.
And in judging these, you have to decide on whom you want to confer the
responsibility - responsibility for guiding Britain in a difficult and
fast-changing world during the next five years.
12th June 1970
At this stage in an election campaign you may begin to
feel that you are being deluged with propaganda, and asked to believe either
that everything in the country is perfect or that we are on the edge of
catastrophe. Now of course neither of these things is true. We have much
to be proud of in this country. A great deal has been achieved recently
but there is an awful lot still to do. I want to discuss three issues.
One, paying our way in the world where we have made tremendous progress
and got the problem well under control. Next, the cost of living, where
there's a serious worry at the present time. And the third which is the
whole question of the sort of country we want to live in in the future.
First, paying our way: the problem which had bedevilled this country for
ten years or more past. People abroad began to think there was something
wrong with this country and we even began to think so ourselves. It was
essential to show that this wasn't so and that we could do at least as
well as anyone else. This was vital to our national self-confidence. But
there was more to it than that. Unless we were paying our way, we would
not have the base on which to expand our standard of living at home or
to strengthen our influence for peace and sanity in the world. This vital
change, central to everything else, has been achieved on a most impressive
scale. We said a surplus of three-hundred million pounds was necessary,
and we got one of six hundred and six million. We have been over twice
as good as our word. As a result the pound has become a strong currency,
and our international debts have been melting away fast. It has been a
great national success story, in which the nation as a whole is entitled
to take pride, for the nation as a whole has produced the result.
issue is that of rising prices, which we have not yet solved, and which
has indeed become more acute in recent months. The Tories, I suppose naturally,
are trying to exploit this in every possible way. They show you pictures
of pound notes being snipped away at with a pair of scissors, ignoring
the fact that they cut a good third off its value when they were in office.
They suggest it's all the fault of the Labour Government, without beginning
to explain why, if this is so, the same thing - or worse - is happening
in every industrial country in the world. Of course what they are trying
to do is to disguise the fact that their own proposals would have the effect,
not of bringing the cost of living down, but of putting it up much faster.
They want to switch taxation, and pay for at least part of the change with
a Value Added Tax. They have gone quiet about this during this election,
but they talked enough about it before for us to know that it is absolutely
essential to their plans. What is involved is a new tax, at the rate of
at least four shillings in the pound, on a whole range of things which
are at present exempt. They would put this tax on such things as coal,
gas and electricity bills - on bus and rail fares, on the maintenance and
repairs to houses - and on children's clothing. Without doubt, the Tory
package would not only put up prices but make the ordinary wage-earner
- and the ordinary housewife, worse off.
But dismissing the Tory claims,
as I believe you will, you will still want to know what we are going to
do about it. And you will want to know what is to happen in this country.
It isn't all that much consolation to be told that things are as bad, or
worse, in France or Japan or the United States. We must now give as high
a priority to steadying prices as we did to the balance of payments in
the past two years. We succeeded in that, against most people's expectations.
I believe that we can achieve the same success with prices. This means
an effective voluntary incomes policy, which we are determined to make
work. It means sometimes being prepared, as a government, to say no, as
the Tories always want to do in theory but never in practice - witness
the doctors. The people of this country are not fools. They want steadier
prices, and of course they know that you cannot have this and incomes going
through the roof. It means a fair taxation policy. And it means that price
exploiters will have to face determined investigation. Mr Heath wants private
industry to be left free and to be subject to only a few 'hints' from him.
That is simply not good enough, for it won't deal with the cases - and
you know they exist - of deliberate exploitation.
But behind these immediate
issues of the campaign lie some more fundamental issues. What are the opportunities
for the future? First, we must use our new economic strength to get our
industry moving forward with greater steadiness and momentum. This is the
way, the only way, that we can increase our wealth as a nation more rapidly.
We must also get more employment in the less prosperous regions of this
country. For the past five years we have been running on the same spot
on this problem largely because of the inevitable run-down of coal and
other old industries. Only our policies of giving intensive help to these
areas - help which is opposed by the Tories - have held the position. Now
we can go forward - provided that, as we shall, but as our opponents will
not, we keep up the pressure to get prosperity better spread throughout
the country. But what are we going to use the additional wealth for ? Of
course we want to see individual living standards rising fairly and continuously.
We want to see people able to earn more money for themselves. But we must
also improve the living standards of those who cannot earn much for themselves
- the old, the disabled, the widows, the families oppressed by poverty.
We have done a lot in all these directions, but not nearly enough yet.
As the country can afford it we shall do more. We cannot allow our society
to remain disfigured by islands of poverty, however small. And we must
not forget the poverty overseas either. We cannot live in a closed country
today, even if we wanted to, and it is neither right nor sensible to shut
our eyes to the fact that two-thirds of the world are always hungry. We
also want to improve our community services at home. The standard of living
is not just the pay packet, important though that is. It is also the quality
of the schools and hospitals, the opportunity to get a decent home, and
what exists round the home too, the streets and parks and playgrounds,
the pubs, the shops, the social centres. There are still too many waste-lands
in our cities. But perhaps the greatest problem of the future is whether
we can maintain and advance the amenities of life in the midst of the monstrosities
of the modern industrial society. Unless we are careful we may find ourselves
rich in goods, but rich without purpose, with the countryside engulfed,
the coast-line destroyed, the rivers polluted, the air hideous with noise,
the cities blighted and all our lives rent with intolerable pressures and
tensions. We need the wealth-producing processes, but we also need a high
degree of positive action to civilise and mitigate the barbarities of life
in a modern industrial environment. This is one of the biggest gulfs between
the two parties. We believe the community must do a lot of the job ....
they believe it can mostly be left just to happen. But it won't. We have
a great heritage in this country. We have managed to remain a remarkable
island of tolerance and civilised living in an increasingly disrupted world.
Now we have a position of strength from which we can maintain and improve
these benefits. And we can speak with a new influence in the world too.
But only you can help us to maintain this advance.
16th June 1970
It has been like this all over the country. People everywhere
are feeling a new confidence. They are confident because their efforts
have produced solid results. Results of which everyone is proud. Confident
and determined. They realise that no Prime Minister in this century has
fought an election against such a background of economic strength as we
have got today. They are determined that this strength should be used to
benefit all our people. They are not going to let anyone take it away from
them or talk them out of it. The Tories have tried to distract you by whipping
up one issue after another. The South African cricket tour. The curious
intervention of Lord Cromer. The pay claim of the eighty pound a week doctors.
Last week the newspaper strike. Quickly ended by Downing Street intervention
followed by T.U.C. action. And last week, too, Mr. Heath invented a new
one, a so-called economic crisis. Yesterday he avidly seized on the trade
figures. Two jumbo jets imported, costing eighteen millions, swelling the
import figure. But Mr Maudling last night agreed - I quote his words 'it's
about the strongest balance of payments in the world.' The Conservatives
thought they could win this election by giving the impression of sweeping,
wide-ranging cuts in taxation while at the same time holding out promise
after promise to spend more on everything they thought would gain them
The one thing they didn't allow for was the good sense of the British
people who know that spending more and taxing less don't add up. That you
cannot spend more out of taxation and raise less in taxation. You cannot
get something for nothing. No wonder they have been so evasive about their
financial plans. There's one thing clear. If the Tories were let loose
on the nation's finances, our economic strength would soon ebb away. Their
whole campaign is based on exploiting rising prices. But everyone knows
that the cost of living in Britain is lower than almost any other country
in Europe or North America. They know that Conservative policies would
pretty quickly put an end to that. Because Conservative policies are deliberately
designed to raise prices. To raise food prices by abolishing the food subsidies
which protect the housewife and imposing levies - food taxes - on the food
we buy from abroad. To raise almost all other prices by their Value Added
Sales Tax. To raise rents, by getting rid of our present system of housing
subsidies. By ending the protection which Labour's Acts of Parliament give
to the householder in the face of rising council house rents. They would
scrap all the controls we operate to restrain price increases. But that
is not all. The best way to keep prices down is to make industry more efficient.
That is what the Labour Government are doing. Modernising our older industries
and saving them from bankruptcy; steel, shipyards. Building up new industries,
computers, with which we are challenging the world. The Conservatives have
made it clear that they would scrap all we are doing. Just as they have
said that they would cut down sharply on the hundreds of millions we are
spending to bring jobs that are needed in the development areas and other
parts of Britain.
Every election is a choice. The nation made its choice in 1964 when
we called the people to a great venture, a great transformation of Britain.
In the first years we had to put all our efforts into getting the country
strong because without a strong economic basis you cannot do what you set
out to do. We are proud of what has been achieved. But economic strength
is not an end in itself. It is only a necessary means to an end. The socialism
I believe in, means above all using all our resources for making Britain
a better place to live in.
For a Labour government this means sharing prosperity
in a way which is fair and just. It means ensuring that our old people
are cared for as they should be; that poverty, whatever its cause, is rooted
out. It means providing decent homes for families. Housing is an issue
in this election. It is an issue because the government insists it is an
issue. It will never cease to be an issue while there is one family poorly
housed, while there is one slum street in our big cities. It means caring
for the sick. And that includes the mentally handicapped. It means helping
and protecting ordinary people against the harsh impact of economic change.
It means, above all, accepting that individual misfortune is not just a
private concern but a community concern. We are all members one of another.
Even when Britain was up against it, so much was achieved. We strengthened
the social services, health and education as never before. We can now make
faster progress because we are strong. Even this is not enough; it means
a deliberate effort by our generation to prepare the way; to give more
freedom and more choice for the young people of today and tomorrow. We
have to prepare for the changing Britain and the changing world in which
our children are growing up. We must be ready to invest in their future.
Better education and equality of opportunity. End the eleven-plus by a
system of comprehensive education which extends to every child the educational
opportunities which in the past were available only to a few.
means spending more on education. It's a question of priorities. This is
the first government which is spending more on our children's education
than on armaments and defence. It means, too, training our young people
in the skills which are required for the new industries. It means a much
better chance for our young executives in industry. Because what we have
done is to reform and modernise industry on the basis of greater equality.
Compared with six years ago, more top jobs are going on the basis of professional
qualifications, not of family connections, school connections. Now industry
itself is proud of the fact that more young people from ordinary families
are coming to the top.
And again because we are concerned with the future, we must see to it
that we develop as one community; that the rights and opportunities that
we want for ourselves are not denied to minorities, whether they be religious
minorities in Northern Ireland, or racial minorities in our big cities
and towns. This is the kind of Britain we want. A great country, tolerant
and compassionate; respected, today, not for its imperial power, but for
the way in which we live, our ideals, the causes we fight for, the values
for which we stand. A great country, admired and respected throughout the
world because it combines stability with change. Great because we have
broken the bonds of poverty and privilege and of class. These are the assets
we hold in common, assets built up in six years of shared endeavour and
experience. As we hold in common our compassion and our concern. This is
the moment where we have to decide whether we are prepared to build on
our success. What is at stake this week is our future, our children's future.
The choice has to be made. Too vital a choice for anyone to stand aside.
We have made it our country - all of us - a country to work for. Above
all in the choice that has to be made on Thursday.