Author & ex-political journalist, Robert Harris, suggests TMay might be making Heath’s 1974 mistake

Author & ex-political journalist, Robert Harris, suggests TMay might be making Heath’s 1974 mistake

During the big C4/Sky News event last night the best-selling author and former political journalist, Robert Harris, posted the above tweet pointing to the similarities between TMay going to the country three years early and Heath’s calling of the February 1974 election with a possible year and a half still to go.

At the time in 1974 the country was going through the oil crisis which was about to be exacerbated by a miners’ strike. The campaign slogan was “Who Governs Britain. This, from Wikipedia, is what Heath told the country in his broadcast after calling the election:

“Do you want a strong Government which has clear authority for the future to take decisions which will be needed? Do you want Parliament and the elected Government to continue to fight strenuously against inflation? Or do you want them to abandon the struggle against rising prices under pressure from one particularly powerful group of workers …

This time of strife has got to stop. Only you can stop it. It’s time for you to speak — with your vote. It’s time for your voice to be heard — the voice of the moderate and reasonable people of Britain: the voice of the majority. It’s time for you to say to the extremists, the militants, and the plain and simply misguided: we’ve had enough. There’s a lot to be done. For heaven’s sake, let’s get on with it.”

The Conservative manifesto, with echoes of today, claimed the Labour opposition had been taken over by “a small group of power-hungry trade union leaders“, who were “committed to a left-wing programme more dangerous and more extreme than ever before in its history”.

All but one poll during the campaign had the Tories ahead and, indeed, the party finished with most votes. Wilson’s LAB, however, had most seats and was able to form a minority government.

By far the weakest part of TMay’s current position is why we are having an election at all. She told Paxman last night it was because the LDs (a party then of just 9 MPs) wanted a second referendum. Eh?

Still I think that TMay is going to win but then in February 1974, my first election while working for BBC News, I believed that Heath would be returned with a large majority.

Mike Smithson

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