tvParty Election Broadcasts

Labour Party Election Broadcasts from 1979

Note: the text is based on Dr Michael Pearce's transcripts of tapes held at the Election Broadcast Archive, University of Leeds.

17 April 1979

ANONYMOUS MAN:

When the Tories last got into power they made a lot of these. They promised to cut taxes; they promised to cut prices at a stroke; they promised us the law would deal with the unions; they promised to increase productivity by giving people more incentives; they promised to make Britain more competitive. It all sounds familiar doesn't it? But where did all these promises get us? The Tories' solution to the unions brought Britain to its knees. Tory ideas had inflation at thirteen pence in the pound and rising so fast it was twenty six pence in the pound before Labour could reverse it. And when the Tories were voted out Britain was in the red by three thousand five hundred million pounds. The world talked of Britain being on the verge of economic collapse.

JAMES CALLAGHAN:

And now, five years later in this general election, we see the Tory party proposing many of the same ideas that they tried last time - and some even more extreme. They were the ideas that plunged Britain into the mess from which the Labour government saved the country. But this election isn't about past crises, but about the future: how a great country can find its way; the kind of country we want to live in. In 1979 both parties are now able to look forward.. That's because the dangers that Britain faced five years ago - greater than any since the war - are passing. The Labour government has reduced inflation. Britain's balance of payments is in credit. We have saved over a million workers from the dole queue. We protected jobs during the depression - a depression that is world-wide. We've safe-guarded the family, helped especially young mothers through what has been the most difficult period known in the last thirty years. Yes - and despite the rough ride we've had during the winter, Britain is back on the road to recovery.

As I go round the country people say to me 'Something ought to be done about this' or 'Why can't you do something about that?' I share a lot of the frustration. But governing this country, leading our people, listening to them, needs patience. You must never be extreme. You musn't push your views too far. People expect you to be fair and to care. The Tories seem to want to rush headlong in the opposite direction, tearing up all that we've been doing. Now that really won't do. Whether their attitude comes from a dogmatic approach, or from five years in opposition, or from a forgetfulness of what happened when they tried their remedies last time, that is for you to judge. What I can say is that the Labour government has a team of ministers who have helped to guide Britain successfully through these difficult years. They had the experience to build on, they can turn the salvage operation we've accomplished into great gains for our country in the eighties. How to keep prices down, how to create more jobs, how to maintain decent services for young and old and sick alike, how to support the family, how to make British industry prosperous and productive in the 1980s - these are the questions, and you need an experienced team for this, not a lot of out of date theories.

ANONYMOUS MAN:

Denis Healey, Chancellor of the Exchequer.

DENIS HEALEY:

In the last five years my most important job has been to slow down the rising prices we were landed with by the Tories, and you helped us to do it, with vital support from the unions.

ANONYMOUS MAN:

John Silkin, Agricultural Minister.

JOHN SILKIN:

The minister in charge of common market negotiations on food prices has to argue with eight other European ministers to get the best deal for British housewives. I fought the common market on milk, on fisheries, and on food prices - and I haven't lost on a major issue yet.

ANONYMOUS MAN:

Shirley Williams, Education Minister.

SHIRLEY WILLIAMS:

As education minister I've had to make sure that every child gets the chance of a good education. We've already reduced the size of classes and improved standards. The next Labour government will go even further. We will make sure that nearly all four year olds and half our three year olds will have free nursery education by the early 1980s.

ANONYMOUS MAN:

Stanley Orme, Minister for Social Security.

STANLEY ORME:

And now pensions. We have cut our [clutches?!] to see that pensions rise faster than prices. There will be another four pound a week in November, and pensioners will get free TV licences.

ANONYMOUS MAN:

Dr David Owen, Foreign Secretary.

DAVID OWEN:

Despite what the Tories say, unemployment isn't just a British problem. Travelling round the world as foreign secretary, I've found that every other industrial country is troubled with this. In other industrial countries, unemployment has doubled since 1974 and in many of them it is still rising. In Britain, under Labour, it's been falling since 1977.

DENIS HEALEY:

Yes, unemployment is the biggest single problem we still have to lick. We started well - we got it down by over a hundred thousand last year. As soon as we get back to power we're going to introduce our scheme to make sure that no-one need be out of work for longer than a year, because everyone will have been offered a job or a training place by then. And no other government in the world has come up with a solution like that. Now of course our tax cuts have helped jobs a lot. I've cut income tax four times in the last three years by nearly six thousand five hundred million pounds - that's five pounds a week for every family in the country - and I'll be cutting income tax again when we get back. But tax cuts aren't a miracle cure for unemployment or for anything else. There just aren't any miracle cures in the real world. Problems like prices and unemployment can only be tackled by determined action in many fields at the same time. We've shown that common sense and experience do pay off. Just look at the facts.

ANONYMOUS MAN:

Inflation has come down from twenty six per cent to under ten per cent in three years. The pound is riding high again - Britain's gold and currency reserves have trebled since Labour came into office. In 1974 a single pension was seven pounds seventy five and now it is nineteen pounds fifty. Married couples receive thirty one pounds twenty. We're better off - living standards rose by six and a half percent last year. Under the last Tory government Britain lost fifteen million working days a year in strikes; under Labour we have lost only eight million.

DENIS HEALEY:

Now those are facts nobody can dispute - hard facts to set against the misty policies of the Tories. They seem to have abolished the laws of arithmetic in their manifesto. And the question we all want them to answer is this: 'Who's going to pay for all these promises they keep making?'

SHIRLEY WILLIAMS:

The short answer is you. To help pay for income tax cuts they're going to put up the tax on goods. So your shoes, clothes, equipment for the kitchen and many other essential items will go up in price. Will they charge you to stay in hospital, and if so how much? Five pounds, eight pounds, ten pounds per sick person? Will they charge you to see your doctor: one pound, two pound? And are they going to put up prescriptions to fifty pence? Why don't you try asking them? Labour's way of doing things couldn't be more different. Perhaps because we've got more experience in government we only make promises we can keep. And what we intend to do is this: young people buying their first home will get six hundred pounds in interest free loans; child benefit will go up to four pounds fifty; a pensioner couple will get thirty five pounds a week, and a single pensioner will get twenty two pounds, and there'll be free television licenses for retirement pensioners. These aren't empty promises. These things will happen. But what about the Conservatives' promises? I think you should ask them three questions before the election.

ANONYMOUS MAN:

The Tories want to abolish the price commission - so what will your shopping cost under the Tories? Will you have to be rich to be ill under the Tories? The Tories say they'll scrap Labour's job schemes - will another million people be out of work under the Tories?

JAMES CALLAGHAN:

I hope you will get answers to those questions in the next two weeks - we'll see. If we do. the answers will reveal what I believe which is that the figures simply don't add up, and that the average citizen of this country will be worse off at the end of the day. A few weeks ago, following the events of the winter, the government offered to the trade unions a new way of proceeding under which they'd be able to carry out their commitments to their members effectively, but responsibly. They have made a response. It is positive. There's now a new agreement set down for all to see and all to observe. The trade unions have given me their pledge and I believe they will live up to it. The eighties present a great challenge. This country will have many things working in its favour. Britain must belong to the people. The eighties will give us a chance to build one nation, a great nation with a sense of purpose, a purpose to root out inequality and poverty, racial bigotry, stimulate initiative, help those in need - yes, and work together. So I ask you to show your confidence in the Labour government on the third of May. You know, the Labour way is the better way.

20th April 1979

ANONYMOUS MAN:

Do you remember the last time the Tories said they had all the answers? They said the law would prevent strikes. It didn't. They said the law would settle strikes. It didn't. They said the law would make unions and management get on together. It couldn't. Tory ideas, instead of solving Britain's industrial problems, brought the country to its knees. Now the Tories say the law should be brought in again. So what do you want for the next five years? Confrontation or co-operation?

SHIRLEY WILLIAMS:

We believe in working together. It's working together that helped us cut inflation from twenty-six percent four years ago to under ten percent now. And by the way it's funny how the Tories forget to mention that for three years of Labour pay policy, the unions kept their wage demands down and helped put the country back on its feet. Co-operation is the key factor in the success of hundreds of companies up and down the country working hand-in-hand. Last winter, we saw what lack of co-operation can mean. Free collective bargaining, in which Mrs Thatcher deeply believes, conflicted head on with the battle against inflation. The result was industrial trouble, and a lot of people suffered in consequence. But now we've found a better way. Working together is the basis of the new agreement that the Labour government has reached with the unions. The main point are these:

ANONYMOUS MAN:

No strike action before all procedures have been exhausted; no strikes on internal union issues before the TUC examine the problem; strike ballots before industrial action; maintenance of essential services and industries during industrial disputes; tighter control of picketing.

SHIRLEY WILLIAMS:

This new agreement with the unions is one part of Labour's three point programme to keep industrial peace and start off the eighties in the right spirit. As I've said, union reform comes first. Secondly, there's going to be a yearly economic summit. These have been very successful in other countries like Germany. Thirdly, the public pay commission will make sure that people will get fairly paid and it will take account of particular skills or dangers and difficulties of the job. It's a new approach, worked out with the unions and also very welcome to the employers. I'm not saying that there'll never be another industrial dispute; what I am saying is that this will give us a basis for industrial peace, instead of a recipe for industrial chaos. An industrial peace will mean that we can concentrate on keeping prices down and raising output: things that will make everybody better off. Of course the Conservatives say they'll make you better off too - but will they? They hinted in their manifesto that the tax cuts they go on about are going to be paid for by increasing value added tax - tax on the things that you go to buy. A lot of things could cost a lot more under the Tories. How've they paid for their proposed tax cuts? If they were financed entirely by raising value added tax, our calculations show that the current rates would more than double to seventeen and a half percent.

ANONYMOUS MAN:

The Tories say they will put up VAT. Are you prepared to pay for it? A cooker costing a hundred and fifty pounds today would cost just over thirteen pounds more. A shirt costing six pounds ninety nine would cost sixty three p more. A car costing three thousand pounds today would cost two hundred and sixty four pounds more. A saucepan costing four pounds fifty today would cost forty p more. A suite costing three hundred and fifty pounds today would cost thirty pounds seventy eight more. A woman's dress costing fifteen pounds ninety nine would cost another one pound thirty seven p. Women's shoes costing fifteen pounds today would cost another one pound thirty three.

SHIRLEY WILLIAMS:

It seems funny, doesn't it, that the Tories should complain about inflation because in the Tory manifesto they say they're going to devalue the Common Market's green pound. That sounds very complicated, but let's see just what it would do to the cost of our shopping.

ANONYMOUS MAN:

The Tories will devalue the Common Market pound. Are you prepared to pay for it? Butter would go up by twelve p a pound. Bread would go up by one and a half p a loaf. Beef would rise by seven p a pound. Sugar would go up by three p a pound. Bacon would go up by four p a pound. Cheese would go up by eleven p a pound.

SHIRLEY WILLIAMS:

Of course it's not just what you pay in the shops that affects how well off you are. It's what you pay in rent and other charges too. Tory policy is to reduce subsidies. Are you prepared to pay for it? The Tories want to reduce school meal subsidies. We reckon that you're going to have to pay ten pence more per meal. The Tories want to reduce housing subsidies. Council rents could go up by two pounds a week, or more. These are the things that affect the family. Prices, the cost of living, rents. They matter to us, and they matter to the country. Savings, jobs and new investment matter too, if there's to be a strong foundation for the future. Let's look at the facts, facts that show Britain is now on the right track.

ANONYMOUS MAN:

Labour has got inflation down from twenty six percent to under ten percent in three years. The pound is riding high again - Britain's gold and currency reserves have trebled since Labour came into office. In 1974 a single pension was seven pounds seventy five and now it is nineteen pounds fifty. Married couples receive thirty one pound twenty. We're better off. Living standards rose by six and a half percent last year. Under the last Tory government, Britain lost fifteen million working days a year in strikes, under Labour we have lost only eight million.

SHIRLEY WILLIAMS:

But what about the Conservatives' promises?

ANONYMOUS MAN:

Remember last time? They promised to cut tax, they promised to cut prices at a stroke, they promised the law would deal with the unions, they promised to make Britain more competitive - these Tory promises had the country on the verge of collapse, and this time they're making the same promises.

SHIRLEY WILLIAMS:

There are still three questions you should ask them before the election. How much would higher value added tax increase the cost of your shopping? What would the Tories cut - health, schools, housing? Would another million people be out of work under the Tories? Three questions: so far, no answers. But we need answers if we're to grasp the opportunities of the 1980s. Answers to how best we reform industrial relations. Answers to how best to keep prices down. Answers to how best to build a strong economy. From the Tories there are no answers. Labour is trying to offer answers to say how we can get change without chaos. The Labour way is the better way.

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Last Modified: 22 Oct 12
© Richard Kimber