chapter
7 Pages

Introduction

In June 1970, the Labour Party lost an election the opinion polls had indicated it would win and which party leaders believed they were winning. The way the party responded to and explained its defeat, and the extent to which it used opposition to prepare to storm back to power with a fresh set of answers to the problems which had destabilised the Labour government 1964-70, forms the basis of this book. Labour spent only three years and eight months in opposition, which did not allow the party sufficient time for an objective assessment of future policy requirements. Instead, Labour acquired a radically socialist party programme because of a breach between the parliamentary leadership and the trade unions over the Wilson government’s attempted industrial relations reform in 19691 – which emboldened the National Executive Committee (NEC) and Labour Party Conference in opposition – and because the Conservative government took fright when unemployment began to rise and switched to a highly interventionist industrial strategy. As a consequence, the future was handed to Margaret Thatcher.