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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 March, 2005, 22:20 GMT
Jim Callaghan: A life in quotes
Jim Callaghan held the posts of chancellor, home secretary, foreign secretary and prime minister during a long political career that first saw him enter Parliament in the Labour landslide of 1945.

Here are some of his most notable quotations:

"I sum up the prospects for 1967 in three short sentences. We are back on course. The ship is picking up speed. The economy is moving. Every seaman knows the command at such a moment: 'steady as she goes'.

Budget speech just before the pound was devalued.

"There is not a single injustice in Northern Ireland that is worth the loss of a single British soldier or a single Irish citizen either."

His 1970 comment on the troubles came the year after he had sent troops to the Province in reaction to the deteriorating situation there.

You can never reach the promised land. You can march towards it.

"The trouble was not, as we had always thought, with the bankers but with the big international companies who operated dispassionately in any country and had no national loyalties. It was almost impossible to curb their operations: if they were denied forward cover here, they merely instructed their agents in another country to get it for them."

Quoted in Barbara Castle's published diaries 1964-70.

"The rule of law should be upheld by all political parties. They should neither advise others to break the law, nor encourage others to do so even when they strongly disagree with the legislation put forward by the government of the day."


"I am rather in favour of dealing with teenage hooliganism."

A remark made at a 1974 cabinet meeting.

"On his way out [Reginald Maudling] put his head round the door carrying a pile of suits over his arm. His comment was typical: 'Sorry old cock to leave it in this shape.' And with that he ambled down the garden path."

The outgoing Tory chancellor was speaking just after his party had lost power in 1974.

"I've never been one to say that Britain was joining a happy band of brothers."

On the UK's entry into the Common Market in 1976.

"I do not think that this would be the right moment to cut people's standard of life in terms of private consumption any further."

House of Commons July 1976.

"Let me say that of course there has been a fall in people's standard of life. And it has fallen this year and will fall again next year."

Talking on BBC TV in 1976.

"We used to think that you could spend your way out of a recession and increase employment by cutting taxes and boosting government spending. I tell you in all candour that that option no longer exists, and in so far as it ever did exist, it only worked on each occasion since the war by injecting a bigger dose of inflation into the economy, followed by a higher level of unemployment as the next step."

Speech to Labour conference 1976.

"Society today is so organised that every individual group has the power to disrupt it. How is their power to be channelled into constructive channels?"

A remark made while prime minister in 1978.

"I am not proposing to seek your votes because there is a blue sky ahead today."

On announcing his intention not call a general election in September 1978.

"I have promised nobody that I shall be at the altar in October nobody at all."

Conference speech in Brighton 5 September 1978 on the prospect of an election that year.

"Your strike will not win. You cannot be allowed to succeed."

To the Fire Brigades Union at the beginning of the 'winter of discontent'.

"The serious and widespread industrial dislocation caused by the strikes of January 1979, short-lived though they were, sent the government's fortunes cascading downhill. Our loss of authority in one field leading to misfortune in others just as an avalanche, gathering speed sweeps all before it."

Lord Callaghan's take on the 'winter of discontent'.

"I don't think other people in the world would share the view there is mounting chaos."

Summarised in the Sun's famous headline: Crisis, What Crisis? from 10 January 1979.

A lie can be halfway around the world before truth has got its boots on.

"You know there are times, perhaps once every thirty years, when there is a sea-change in politics. It then does not matter what you say or what you do. There is a shift in what the public wants and what it approves of."

"I suspect there is now such a sea change and it is for Mrs Thatcher."

Just before the Tories swept to power in 1979.

"It demonstrated how much steady understanding and support existed for what we had been trying to do."

Recalling Labour's general election defeat in 1979.

"If the law is a bad law, there is always the contingent right to take action that you would not otherwise take."


"During the 1960s the pound sterling sign had been turned into a symbol of national pride."

Writing in his autobiography Time and Chance 1987

"This is like 1945 - but in space."

On Labour's general election victory in 1997.

Dictionary of Labour Quotations, edited by Stuart Thomson, published by Politico's Publishing


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