ON THIS DAY    7 September      Graphics version >>   BBC News >>
Search ON THIS DAY by date   
  Go back one day Go forward one day

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
1978: Callaghan accused of running scared

UK Prime Minister James Callaghan has announced there will not be an election this autumn.

Despite his party's minority in the House of Commons, the prime minister said the Labour government would remain in power for a fifth and final year.

Mr Callaghan said in his broadcast that the country would not be served by having an election now.

But the Conservative Party leader, Margaret Thatcher, and Liberal leader David Steel both accused the government of running scared.

The Labour Party leader explained in his statement there were no instant solutions to the domestic issues Britain faced at the moment, and said people should be confident in the ability of the present government.

'Chickens' in government

"The government must and will continue to carry out policies that are consistent, determined, that don't chop or change and that brought about the present recovery in our fortunes.

"We can see the way ahead," he said.

Mrs Thatcher, making a speech in Lichfield, called members of the government "chickens" and criticised the Labour leader's broadcast.

"The real reason he isn't having an election is because he thinks he'll lose," she said.

Mr Steel called the statement "quite astounding", and said the country was due for a change.

"Parliament is four years old and to breathe new life into it we must have an election," he told the BBC.

He also confirmed the Liberal-Labour pact, formed to assist the government in bringing down the rate of inflation, was at an end.

In Context
James Callaghan did not last as prime minister for much longer.

The winter of 1978 - 1979 was characterised by mass industrial action over the government's pay policy and became known as the "Winter of Discontent".

The government's authority was severely damaged, and it lost a vote of no confidence in the House of Commons on 28 March 1979 by one vote.

Mr Callaghan was then obliged to hold an election which was won by the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher.

He resigned as leader of the Labour Party 18 months later.

He became an active member of the House of Lords until his death on 26 March 2005.


Search ON THIS DAY by date   
  Go back one day Go forward one day

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
^^ Back to top |