Labour Party Election Broadcasts from February 1974
Note: The text is based on transcripts held
at the Labour History Archive and Study Centre at the People's History Museum,
12th February 1974
Do you think it's a fair government like Heath says? Heath's
fighting this election that their government is being fair and firm. Do
you think it's ...
No, definitely. You know how he got in, don't you, kidded the women
He did, because prices are going up.
Kidded all the women that's ...
Prices would be all kept down. Cost of living would be kept
down. What did he do when he got in? Cost of living went up, rents went
up, mortgages went up.
Oh it's a joke, it really is a joke what that man's promised
us and what he's done since.
A small tin of spam ten pence in the Wilson government, twenty-two
and they'd crossed it over to twenty.
It's such a worry and when you've got a family to feed.
When you want a raise in your wage you can't have one, it's
phase one and phase two and phase three, but that's not stopping prices
going up, is it?
They'll be carrying me out in a box I think, if this goes on
for another five years, because it's a problem.
Well, despite that lady's troubles at least she's got
wry sense of humour. I've got a feeling we're all going to need that during
1974. There's no doubt what this election is about: it's about Mr Heath's
clear failure, in the face of his promises in the matter of prices and
rents. It's about the breakdown he's created in industrial relations and
it's about how we can make a fresh start. But although we know what it's
about I have been puzzled about why he's called it now. At first I thought
it was because Mr Heath didn't intend to pay the miners a penny piece more,
come hell or high water, but not a bit of it. Since the election was declared
he's started to retreat on that issue. Last night he gave another reason:
ah, he said, my quarrel is with a small group of extremists in industry,
we've had enough of you. Fair enough. But how does an election help to
get rid of them - if he has the same policies after it's all over? The
Tories do not know how to handle industrial relations. Look at their record
on strikes. For every day's work lost through strikes with a Labour Government
the Tories have lost three days - three times as many. And look at some
of the unprecedented groups of workers who've been on strike for the first
time in the whole of their professional existence: hospital workers, fire
brigades, ambulance-men, professional engineers - even civil servants.
A few years ago it would have been unthinkable. Now is it because they've
all suddenly become extremists or is there a more down to earth reason?
Is Mr Heath so remote that he doesn't understand that these groups of men
and women have been struggling to keep their heads above the flood waters
of rising prices, high rents and record mortgage interest rates? And some
of them because they have a deeply felt comparative grievance about what
their just reward should be.
Before Mr Heath deludes himself into believing that many of the groups
of workers who've settled their pay claims without strike accept that his
pay policy is fair, you ought to talk to some of them, talk with some of
the young teachers who are now leaving London, because they can't afford
the rents - let alone contemplate buying a house. And as to the groups
who've been on strike for the first time in their lives - these people
I've been talking about - well, whatever Mr Heath may say, you will make
up your own mind whether you think these kind of people are extremists
or not. Mr Heath's actions and policies leave nearly wrecked our industrial
relations system. He's. undermined faith in arbitration as a means of settling
disputes. That's why some groups have gone on strike for the first time:
people who always preferred arbitration, in preference to striking. I've
yet to meet the trade unionist or the manager in industry who has any confidence
in Mr Heath's handling of industrial affairs. And if by any mischance he
were re-elected and went on like he has been there'll be more extremists
in this country in five year's time than there are now. It isn't sufficient
for him to say we've had enough of you, we've got to find a way out. if
we're to end industrial disruption then it will need a Labour government
to do it because of our intimate links and understanding with industry,
and the trade unions.
The first step we'll take will be to rebuild some confidence in the
integrity of our industrial relations system. Unions and management will
be urged and encouraged to take their cases to independent arbitration,
instead of trying to settle through the medium of strikes. Good, you may
say, that's good, but will it work? Will the trade unions agree? The answer
It's now a year since a group of us were deputed by the Labour Party
to have a long series of meetings with the T.U.C. leaders and they and
we agreed on this - to make a new conciliation and arbitration service
a central part of Britain's industrial relations system. It will be independent;
it will be non-governmental. Its offices will be established throughout
the land, not only to deal with national disputes but also to be in a position
to resolve local disputes. Separate from it will be a new high-powered
commission to begin an examination of the relative values of different
kinds of work and the proper rewards that should be paid. These first steps
will help us to reduce disruption, because ordinary groups of workers will
not have the same feelings of frustration to resort to strikes. Far more
useful approach than Mr Heath's philosophy of bash 'em all.
Of course this isn't enough. Ending industrial unrest is important in
itself, and important for industry, but that alone isn't going to be sufficient
to deal with inflation. This country's in real trouble with rising prices.
Some of the reasons are outside the government's control but others - increase
in rents for example, due to take place again in April - due entirely to
the government's own decisions and could be reversed by them.
Yesterday we had the announcement of a crushing blow of another eight
pence a gallon on petrol. Some increase there must be, but the
oil companies are making huge profits. Unless our tax laws are changed
they will be able to arrange their affairs in such a way that they will
pay virtually no tax in this country. According to the parliamentary public
accounts committee the nation stands to lose fifteen hundred million pounds
on North Sea oil if this happens - enough to pay for one year's increase
in the old age pension. I challenge Mr Heath now to state how he proposes
to ensure that we do not suffer this tax loss.
No wonder people have a feeling that 1974 is going to be a bad year
- it is. Perhaps that's why we're having the election now and not later.
So, what action can a Labour Government take after February the twenty-eighth?
First we will stop the government order to increase rents again in April:
this is within the government's control and we shall do it. Secondly, we
shall try to cushion the effect of high prices on the housewife by subsidising
some of the key foods. Third - we shall help the worst off by increasing
the old age pension to ten pounds and sixteen pounds per week and we shall
also help the long-term sick and disabled, although it may mean taxing
the better off to do it. There'll be greater fairness with a Labour government.
We shall work to get rid of the two standard society in matters such as
hospital treatment and education. We shall work with industry, through
a new national enterprise board, to agree with large companies and firms
their programmes for modernisation for up-to-date plant and machinery,
and for their expansion. Now none of this will have an at-a-stroke effect:
we're not as rash as that, or as he was. We have got a difficult period
to go through first, everyone knows it, but gradually, by combining all
these measures I've outlined, and others, we shall begin to have an effect
on the cost of living and therefore on inflation and also on the sense
of fairness in our society. We shall get Britain on the road again. There
is a way out. Let us get together - let's get to work with Labour.
15th February 1974
Prices - they've come smack into the middle of the election
with a bang tonight. The news you've just been hearing about last month's
price increases means your cost of living will go up twenty-five per cent
this year if you send the Conservatives back. The average family in Britain
is already spending ten pounds a week more today for the same amount of
goods than when Mr Heath got in and by this time next year it will be twenty
pounds a week, that's a thousand pounds a year in price increases, if you
let him in again.
MAN 1 :
People on the streets, the people who are voting, they are not
worried about the miners. What they are worried about is the pound in the
pocket and the money it's doing for them. It's got no value.
If more emphasis was based on price restrictions, then wages
wouldn't have to go up you know, it might even mean a subsidy by the government,
it could mean more taxation.
Yesterday I went shopping with the wife and items which were,
two items, one was eighteen p last Thursday, yesterday it's twenty-five p.
I've been in a shop this morning, yesterday I went in the same
shop and it were...it were seven and a half p for a tin of tomatoes. They've
gone to ten p, they were doing them like that as we walked in this morning,
that's in a day's time.
You try and plan a week ahead but next week the prices are
completely different from the ones you budgeted for last week so it's impossible
to deal with them intelligently.
I had a pensioner come in this morning and she wanted a bar of
household soap, I said: sorry it's up twopence on last time. She says:
My mother always used to say to me that poverty was no excuse for being
dirty but I've got second thoughts about it now. Oh it's a ridiculous situation.
It's costing me a fortune in new price tickets every week just re-marking
I'm standing beside two shopping baskets. One that
was bought in 1970, the other in 1974. In 1970, an ordinary shopping basket
full of the items that we buy every week cost five pounds thirty seven.
Exactly the same items bought in 1974 cost eight pounds. And let's take
some of these items. Bread, standard white loaf. In 1970, you could buy
it for nine pence. Today, it costs no less than fifteen pence, the three
shilling loaf is here. Take a dozen eggs. In 1970, you could buy a dozen
eggs for nineteen pence for twelve. Nowadays, it costs you nearly forty,
sometimes a little bit more. Take New Zealand cheddar cheese. You could
buy a pound of this cheese for nineteen pence in 1970. Today, it will cost
you thirty-three pence. And last of all, that precious item that is fast
disappearing, an English roast beef on Sunday. Three pounds of topside
is what I am holding, would have cost you one-pound-twenty in 1970. Today,
it will cost you two pounds ten. The Conservatives say: Don't blame us
for this massive increase in prices. It's not our fault. World prices have
risen. There's some truth in that. World wheat prices for example jumped
from fifty pounds a ton to a hundred and seven pounds today. But it's by
no means the whole truth. The increase in the profits of flour millers
and bread makers, over the last year, has been as much as seventeen and
twenty per cent. That means that extra costs go on your loaf of bread.
Take another example: cheese. In 1972 New Zealand knew that we were
going to join the European Economic Community, the Common Market, so what
they did was to find other customers. They sent their cheese to Japan and
to other countries and the price of cheese soared in that year because
New Zealand knew that we were joining the Common Market.
Take beef. The price to farmers at auctions has actually fallen, in
the past year. But have you seen the price in the butchers' shops fall
to cover that? Of course not.
And, finally, take eggs. The government says it's all due to the cost
of feed going up. Again, there's some truth in that. What they don't tell
you is that the profits of one of the biggest companies in egg production
rose by more than double last year. Eastwoods declared a profit of more
than double what it had been the year before.
Now you may say what can Labour do about it? And I'll give you the answers.
We can't control the world food prices. Of course we can't. What we can
do is to subsidise the absolute essentials. Things like eggs, like bread,
like cheese that loom large in the diet of the ordinary family and of the
old age pensioner with very limited money.
We secondly believe that those large profits, and those are the kinds
of profits that companies have been declaring in the past year at a time
when wages have been pegged down to seven per cent, that those large profits
ought to be pegged back and that that can be done by a government with
the political will.
And thirdly we believe that we ought to re-negotiate the Common Market
Agricultural Policy so that the British housewife, so that you, can gain
the benefit of lower food prices abroad. These are the things
that Labour will do. We can't promise to cut prices at a stroke, but
if you elect us we will do everything in our power to prevent food jumping
in price and other prices in the way that happened between 1970 and 1974.
Food prices are only part of it. Rents have gone up even more
and house prices have doubled. And mortgage payments are nearly three times
higher. Now Mr Heath can't blame the floods in China for that and it's
not those Reds under his bed either. The guilty men are sitting round him
in Number Ten Downing Street because the main responsibility for inflation
in Britain today lies with the Conservative Government itself and the disastrous
policies it has followed both at home and abroad.
What about the Common Market?
Well it's ...
He's dragged us into the Common Market, because of that we are
paying exorbitant prices for our food.
Now he's in trouble he wants us to help him out.
He knocked Labour for devaluing and what's he done with it? He
floated it and it's gone whew, what's it worth? About fourpence now ain't
Everything you could possibly think of he's handled he's spoiled.
If he gets back in again I'm thinking of emigrating.
I don't often agree with Mr Enoch Powell, but he's right on
one thing. The Conservative Government itself is largely responsible for
this terrifying increase in our cost of living. Mr Barber financed his
tax hand-outs to his wealthy supporters simply by printing money. So prices
went up, the pound went down and within three years he'd turned that thousand-million
Labour surplus on our balance of payments into a deficit which was running
at two-thousand-five-hundred-million pounds even before the oil crisis
and long before the present industrial dispute. That devaluation by itself
is responsible for nearly half the increase in our import prices since
Mr Barber sent the pound floating about eighteen months ago. The continuous
foreign pressure on the pound has led Mr Barber to insist on Britain having
the highest interest rates in the world.
So, the average couple can't afford a mortgage and the building societies
don't know where to turn and house building is now grinding to a halt.
And then on top of all this there is the Common Market. Mr Heath has accepted
their instructions to put taxes on the cheap food we could be getting from
the Commonwealth and to increase those taxes year by year. And those Common
Market bureaucrats have saddled us with the appalling nonsense of the Value
Added Tax which is already sending thousands of small shop-keepers and
businessmen frantic with extra work and worry.
And those same bureaucrats have already instructed Mr Heath in the next
two years to raise the Value Added Tax by half and to put VAT on food as
well. Now these are all things a British Government could change if it
wants to. We can run our finances honestly, though it will mean a tough
year or two to get things straight. We can re-negotiate Mr Heath's terms
for entry to the Common Market or we can get out altogether if we don't
get what we want. We can stop the rent increases due in two months time
and, as far as the Labour party is concerned, we will. We can't do it at
a stroke and there are some things which no British Government could do
very much about. But I promise that the next Labour Government will do
everything a government can do to keep the cost down. We've tried tonight
to show you some of the things which can and must be done. Whether we get
the chance to do them depends on you.
18th February 1974
Some groups deserve fairer wages for the jobs they do and when
they have to fight for them they're called extremists. Others with extremely
high salaries don't even have to ask for more. Last week the Chairman of
Rank's announced his own pay rise - an extra two hundred pounds a week.
His new annual salary - sixty-five thousand pounds. Sir John Stratton of
Fatstock Marketing: last year higher meat prices helped raise his income
by forty-three per cent to fifty-three thousand pounds. Harry Hyams is
in property: the price of land goes up so fast nobody knows how much he's
worth. The value of Centre Point is about forty million pounds. It's empty
- like other office blocks throughout the country. The slums aren't empty.
New housing is at its lowest in years. Just like the pound. Dustmen, teachers,
hospital workers, engineers, bus-drivers, postmen - and now the miners
- have all been blamed. Since control of wages it's becoming harder to
put all the blame on the workers. So now it's world prices and extremists.
But how do the Tories explain this in crisis Britain? For the rich, Tory
controls have meant rising profits and keeping tax concessions worth five
hundred million pounds. For the rest of us, rising prices. That's fairness
In 1970 I ended my election broadcast by saying we've managed
to remain a remarkable island of tolerance and civilised living in an increasingly
disrupted world. We have a position of strength from which we can maintain
and improve these benefits and speak for the new influence. Both these
statements were true then. They're no longer so. Observers from abroad
were then coming to see what was right with Britain. Now they're coming
to see what's wrong. Mr Heath can't deny that: it is he who has raised
the question of vote for me or the end of ordered government. The question
is false but the fact that it can be raised at all is a heavy indictment
of the way he has conducted our affairs. In 1970 there was no question
of the nation being ungovernable. If things have got so much worse since
then whose responsibility is that?
And for the moment our economic strength has gone, too. That mounting
surplus and secure pound has been turned into a huge unprecedented deficit
of three thousand million a year and a sinking pound. This isn't because
of the oil crisis: this deficit was there at the end of 1973, there before
the oil increases began to bite. It means that we're weak to face this
new problem. Meanwhile, here at home, we see what real financial mismanagement
means: banking profits soar, while the building societies are bereft of
finance and housing hopes die, and inflation mounts from ten to fifteen
per cent a year. With so much bad news on the way I'm not surprised that
Mr Barber, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was one of the moat determined
advocates of an early election. He knows the sombre prospect which his
frivolous stewardship has created. The mood of the country is worried:
it is thoughtful and anxious not merely to criticise but to find a way
out. I believe that Labour has a way out. We did it before, we can do it
again. The position is serious but it's not unmanageable. It is not remotely
as daunting an that of 1945. Then indeed we were up against it but as a
result of five years of war, not of three years of chasing after false
gods. The fundamental mistake has been the view that if individuals were
encouraged to think primarily of themselves the country would prosper and
benefit. Mr Heath proclaimed one nation but practised the policies of selfishness.
This was the era of lame ducks, judging the whole quality of a man's life
by his success or failure in making money and making tax handouts, particularly
for the better off, the central purpose of government.
It didn't work.
It produced the mess we are in today. A few people - especially the property
speculators - gained enormously. Meanwhile we've moved close to breakdown
in the public services: the schools, the hospitals, public transport -
and above all housing, particularly in the big cities. This each-for-himself
approach didn't merely not work, didn't deserve to work, for it was based
on a narrow, out-dated view of society. Anyone today who thinks he can
have a worthwhile and secure future on the basis of saying to hell with
everyone else is not only a knave but a fool. The nation tears itself apart:
the economy plunges into crisis and we all face a threat to jobs, businesses,
pay-packets, our hopes for ourselves and our children. Britain won't be
put right unless this is recognised. If it is recognised then we could
overcome our problems and surprise the world, as we have quite often done
before, by the rapidity of our revival. That revival can be made the stronger
by the big prospective bonus of North Sea oil, but only if in the next
four or five years we can sustain the big investment necessary to make
the oil flow, and only too, if we make sure that the nation gets its proper
share of the rewards and not allow them to be pocketed by non-tax paying
oil companies. That means a major switch to our policy. We also need a
high degree of public control to prevent this new industrial revolution
from leaving upon our land a legacy of physical scars like those of its
predecessor a hundred years ago. This is part of the major problem of civilised
living in the future, How we can maintain and advance the amenities of
life in the midst of the monstrosities of modern industrial society. Unless
we're careful we may find ourselves rich in goods but rich without purpose,
for the countryside will be engulfed, the coastline destroyed, the rivers
polluted, the atmosphere made hideous with noise, the cities blighted and
our lives both at work and at home racked with pressures and tensions.
We must stop the wasteful rapacity of too many motorways eating up homes
and unnecessary airports destroying village communities. We must resist
the property developers putting offices before housing and tearing the
heart out of the towns. We must create a Britain for people to live in,
not a concrete jungle. Just as nobody in Britain will find salvation by
thinking only of his own problems, so Britain must not forget the world
outside. We must not forget the two-thirds of the world's inhabitants who
are hungry every day of their lives. We must not forget how dependent we
are, both for our peace and our prosperity on what happens beyond this
island. If we try to contract out the world won't go away, it is much more
likely to hit us in the face, just when we are least expecting it. Let
us not therefore ignore these longer term issues. Let us not be ashamed
of a little idealism. Hard materialism hasn't served us very well. We are
voting not just for next month: not just on the fluctuating ploys of a
snap campaign, we are voting for four or five years ahead, on how we want
to see Britain developed during this period and beyond. We need a new start
with a message of honesty, justice and hope.
21st February 1974
Whoever wins next Thursday has an appalling job to do.
You know what the problems are, now how will Labour tackle them? With me
tonight are four young candidates who, when elected, will be helping to
solve these problems. Neil Kinnock, from Wales, how best can we get this
country out of the industrial unrest that we face today?
Well first Bob, in the day after we are elected we settle
with the miners, we settle with the whole industry, and when the miners
go bank to work Britain goes back to work. Then we can get down to the
problems of solving the conflict in industry, we can bring industrial peace
to industrial relations, we do that by getting rid of the Industrial Relations
Act by introducing the Employment Protection Act which will give real security
to British workers, by introducing the Industrial Democracy Act which will
give industrial control to the people who actually produce the goods in
industry. Then with our new conciliation and arbitration service we're
going to put out the fires of conflict on the shop floor where they start.
And the standing commission on incomes will see to it that we have a fair
distribution of incomes - all incomes throughout the whole country, regardless
where people get their incomes from. But central to Labour's economic strategy
is the voluntary incomes policy based on consent and assent between trade
unions and the Government. And that means that when workers see their food
prices subsidised, when they see those pensions going up, when they see
their rents frozen, they will want to join a compact with a just government.
Len Murray has been trying to do that for the last three or four months.
Every time he has tried it the last government have rejected it. We can't
afford to have industrial warfare in Britain, we will bring industrial
peace on the basis of a compact on the basis of a partnership, we will
take the poison out of industrial relations.
Ann let's talk about Labour's policies on waging inflation.
Every housewife wants to know what Labour's going to do and how they are
going to do it.
Well leading on from what Neil Kinnock has just said,
going round in my area I've found ordinary men and women everywhere determined
that the one thing they want is to get Britain prosperous again. And in
order to do that they frankly are prepared to hold back, not to push wage
demands, providing they are sure that they've got a government that will
do its utmost to try and check inflation. Now no government could say that
it's going to be able to stop prices rising completely, but what a Labour
Government can, and will do, is this. Firstly we can subsidise those items
which are essential in every family budget - things like, bread and eggs
and milk and so on. Those are the things which all of us have to buy and
when the prices rise it's the people at the bottom end of the wage structure
who suffer most. We already have the Price Commission, which is supposed
to be controlling the shop prices, supermarket prices. Well in the last
few weeks we've heard announcements of some of the profits made by the
food companies. The Price Commission simply isn't doing that strongly enough,
and a Labour Government is going to give that Commission teeth to do just
that. But there is something else which a Labour Government will do, which
I think is vitally important, and that concerns the Common Market because
at the present time, under the present conditions as they've been negotiated,
we are having to pay a great deal more for food in some areas, simply because
of the arrangements that we made. For instance, beef is being kept artificially
high at the present time in order to protect farmers overseas whose costs
of production are higher. Now I don't think that's fair, we were never
given a choice about whether we went into the Market, and that is something
that a Labour Government will do, we'll try and re-negotiate those terms
and then in any event we'll come back to you and ask whether you want to
remain members at all.
Jimmy Sillars from Scotland. I suppose one of the big issues
that have occurred during the election is North Sea oil. Jimmy, talk of
Labour's policies on this.
It's a question of common sense Bob. Our policy is based
on the common sense principle that every nation should own its own natural
fuel and energy resources. Other countries do it, we believe our country
should do it also. We own our own coal, our own natural gas, our own nuclear
power, and now the Labour Party says that we should own our own oil. Now
there are two sides - on the exploration and production side - Labour will
take public participation in exploration and production and employ the
expertise of companies. But when we land the oil in the United Kingdom
which is really the very important point, it will be in the nation's ownership
and will be able to be used for the benefit of the whole nation. When we
do this Bob, in nuclear energy as you well know, when we build a nuclear
power station we employ private industry to construct it, we get the profits
and the dividends as they are entitled to do, but when that power station's
built and pumps out energy, it's the nation's energy and it's used for
the benefit of the nation, and we will employ the same policy attitude
in oil as we do in nuclear powers. Now this leaves us the revenue question.
And I believe the revenues must be used for the benefit of Scotland and
that's part of our policy, that we're not greedy in the Labour Party in
Scotland or south of the border and we want to see the potential wealth
of oil used for the benefit of all of the people in the United Kingdom.
Thanks Jimmy. One of the greatest human problems of all is
housing and anyone associated with this problem knows of the thousands
that are crying out for a home. Now Helene, the Labour Party's policy,
what about that?
Well we've got policies on both sets of problems
in housing, on the cost of housing and the provision of housing. We've
seen in the last few years house prices go sky-high - they've doubled.
We've seen mortgages reach eleven percent so people who'd worked out that
they could just afford their repayments on seven or eight percent are now
being stretched and stretched to try and meet increased repayments. We've
seen rents deliberately raised under the Housing Finance Act. In the council
sector, they are going to be raised again by fifty pence on April the first
and again by fifty pence on October the first, unless the Labour Party
gets back into office and repeals the Housing Finance Act as we are pledged
to do. The other big problem we've got on the cost of housing is the cost
of mortgages. Now we've seen this week bank profits reach a record high
at a time when mortgages are also at a record high and those profits are
a direct result of high mortgage rates. I think those profits, and the
Labour Party thinks those profits, ought to be ploughed back into bringing
the interest rate down, and seeing that young couples can afford a home
of their own. But to afford a home of their own there's also go to be a
home there for them to live in, and we've got three million people in this
country living in slums or grossly overcrowded conditions, and we've got
a house building programme that reached a record low last year, the worst
since 1959. We can't afford to do that, we've got to tackle the key issue
in housing which is the issue of land, and the Labour Party stands for
the public ownership of development land, and that's nothing to do with
taking people's back gardens away from them. That's nothing to do with
taking farms and agricultural land, that's without saying there's a certain
amount of land in our cities we've got to decide as a community what we
use that land for. We can either use it for office blocks that stay empty
but that make profits for the people who own them. Or we can decide as
a society that every man, woman and child in this country ought to have
a roof over their heads and a decent standard of housing. We can decide
that we are going to put profits first or that we are going to put people
first, the Labour Party would put people first in housing.
Now you've heard the views from our young candidates on Labour's
positive policies for a way out of a crisis. We must get Britain back to
work, we need price controls and a new agreement with industry on wages.
And the massive revenues from North Sea oil must be used for the benefit
of the people and not the oil companies. We must channel funds into housing
so that more houses are built and more cash is available for mortgages.
Jobs and housing must come before speculative profits, and the rich must
carry a fairer share of the burden. So there is a way out of our present
crisis. And things are bad, and they are certainly worse than in 1964,
but they are nowhere near as bad as 1945. So Labour can get us out of the
mess. We did it in '45, we did it in 1964, and we shall do it again. We
can do it because a Labour Government is fair, and it's a government that
25th February 1974
The next Labour government will be a team. They were in charge
in the days when our trade figures were kept out of the red and when Britain
was working full-time. Labour men and women understand down-to-earth problems.
They share experience, skill and a genuine concern to bring back good sensible
government to all the people. Together they can put us back on the road
to recovery as a united country.
The mood of the country is worried; it is also thoughtful
and anxious not merely to criticise but to find a way out. I believe that
Labour has a way out. We did it before. We can do it again.
MICHAEL FOOT :
If the Common Market had nothing to do with increased
food prices, Pompidou would never have let us in. He let us in precisely
because he knew that under the arrangements that Heath was signing, British
housewives would have to pay to sustain the high prices fixed by the farmers
The idea is that we create social justice or a great more
social justice than we have got in Britain at the present time by controlling
prices - food subsidies and a great many other things, increasing pensions,
and so on.
I have yet to meet the trades unionist or the manager
in industry who has any confidence in Mr Heath's handling of industrial
affairs and if by any mischance he were re-elected and went on like he
has been, there'll be more extremists in this country in five years time
than there are now.
I think it is perfectly reasonable to say that a one
year freeze on rents after the very large increases of the last two or
three years will be an essential contribution to get an anti-inflationary
In fact, over the last year of the so-called counter-inflation
policy, real wages have actually fallen. Profits have gone up sixteen percent.
Dividends have gone up twenty eight percent and the net asset value of
the property companies has gone up twenty percent. The chancellor gave
three hundred million pounds in last year's budget to those over five thousand
pounds a year and the Child Poverty Action Group tell us there are ten
million people living on, near, or just above the poverty level.
We believe that we ought to re-negotiate the Common
Market agricultural policy so that the British housewife - so that you
- can gain the benefit of lower food prices abroad. These are the things
that Labour will do.
We can run our finances honestly, though it will mean
a tough year or two to get things straight. We can re-negotiate Mr Heath's
terms for entry to the Common Market. Or we can get out altogether if we
don't get what we want. We can stop the rent increases due in two month's
time and as far as the Labour Party is concerned, we will.
That is the Labour team. Between them they share over
forty years' experience as government Ministers. They were among the men
and women who got Britain out of the mess last time and whatever the difficulties,
we will do it again. On Thursday it is for you to decide whether we are
to return to the sanity and stability of Labour's years in office, working
as a united people, whether we are to get Britain back to work again, or
whether we are to carry on along the road of bitterness and division at
home and bankruptcy abroad. How should you decide? What are the factors
you should weigh in making your choice?
You might start by comparing the
records of the Labour and Conservative governments. Six years under Labour:
three and a half under the Conservatives. The average rise in prices when
we were in office was about four pence in the pound each year. Under this
present government prises rose by twelve pence in the pound last year.
Everyone says they will go up by at least fifteen pence this year. Last
year the number of houses built in Britain was the lowest since 1959 -
one hundred and twenty thousand fewer than in the corresponding year of
the Labour government. Mortgage rates have gone through the roof. Council
house rents forced up year by year. There has been a total collapse of
the housing programme.
Strikes: the number of working days lost through
industrial disputes under this government has been running at a rate four
times higher than when we had a Labour government. Not only did Labour
rebuild the strength of Britain when it governed from 1964 to 1970, it
is the only party today which has put forward a programme to stop our present
slide to disaster. A programme for recovery not for further decline. We
did it before. We can do it again, though it will be tough going. We are
determined to introduce strict price controls in the shops, profiteers
will risk prosecution. We intend to subsidise those essential foods which
bear heaviest on the family's weekly spending. We will cancel the council
rent increases due in April and October this year as well as those private
rents due to go up under the Housing Finance Act provisions. We will stop
the speculative scramble for money in the City of London, which has sent
mortgage interest payments soaring to their present crippling heights.
Together with our plans to take all building land into public ownership
and out of the hands of the speculators, these measures amount to a real,
a radical, a relevant attack on rising prices. Make no mistake about it:
that attack is absolutely vital to Britain's recovery. The rate of price
rises forecast for 1974, even by Conservative commentators, would demolish
the security, devastate the savings and threaten the stability of our national
The Conservatives ask you to give them another chance. But they have
no intention of changing their policies which have brought Britain to its
present peril. Another chance in those circumstances, would mean another
chance for them to make matters even worse. We do not promise to cut prices
at a stroke or by any other instant method. It cannot be done. But the
attack on inflation must start right away. At the same time immediate help
must be given to those in greatest need and that is why it will be a first
priority of the Labour government to raise the old age pension to ten pounds
for a single person and sixteen pounds for a married couple. We've got
to return to co-operation not conflict in industry, to the politics of
consent and conciliation, not fighting and confrontation; prices are the
key now not wages.
Higher prices force up wage demands, provoke strikes.
In a free democratic country you can't have legal control over wages for
very long and you can't do it twice. It creates manifest unfairness. It
creates intolerable problems and strikes. So this attack on inflation has
to be an attack on prices. Only the well-off - you know - can protect themselves
against inflation. The broad mass of the British people are hit by it and
they are hit hard. Trades unionists are people, employers are people. We
can't go on setting one against the other except at the cost of damage
to the nation itself. And yet conflict was the basis an which this election
was called and the government want you to join them in totally, unnecessary
civil strife, tearing ourselves apart while Britain's basic underlying
problems remain unsolved. Problems incidentally grimly emphasised again
this afternoon by the appalling trade figures: the figure for January alone
(one month) nearly as bad as that for the whole of 1964, and 1964 was the
worst ever until then.
What the Conservatives want is quite simple - your
vote so that they can continue to rule the nation and divide the nation.
But your vote for Labour can do so much more. It can end this wretched
period of darkness and the three day week - but it can do even more than
that. It can give us back our sense of fairness and direction. This country
after Thursday can once again begin to assert itself. We can once again
become the envy of the world for our unity and our moderation and our commonsense.
It is the time now for decision; the arguments are nearly over. Now it
is up to the British people. Don't let them talk you out of it. The decision