New Prospects for Britain

November 17, 1978

Report Outline
Coming Decision for Electorate
Legacy of Past Economic Disorders
Future Impact of the Next Election
Special Focus

Coming Decision for Electorate

Callaghan's Scramble to Stay in Power

Although most of the British electorate believe their country has passed through the eye of the economic storm of 1974–77, the fate of Prime Minister James Callaghan's Labor government seems to rest on an economic question now in the forefront of British politics. It is whether he can continue to keep wage increases — and inflation — under control in the face of opposing pressure from the trade unions and his own party's left wing.

By adroit political maneuvering, Callaghan can probably stave off attempts to force a national election before next spring. By law the prime minister must call an election by October 1979, or five years after the last one, and he will naturally try to select the most favorable moment for Labor. Callaghan surprised the nation on Sept. 8 by saying there would be no election “at this time” — it had been a foregone conclusion in the British press that an election would be held within a matter of weeks. Political analysts have subsequently said that the prime minister's decision was determined by private polls conducted for Labor that indicated the opposition Conservative Party would probably win enough seats in the House of Commons to control Parliament and thus form a new government.

The months ahead are politically critical for Callaghan. His Labor government in July lost the support of the Liberal Party's 13 M.P.'s — members of Parliament — and was left in a minority status in the House of Commons with 312 assured votes among the body's 631. Presumably the government could be brought down at any time by a vote of no confidence if the 280 Tories in Commons could win enough allies to form a majority.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
United Kingdom
Nov. 05, 2010  U.S.-British Relations
Jan. 30, 1998  U.S.-British Relations
Mar. 08, 1996  The British Monarchy
Sep. 15, 1995  Northern Ireland Cease-Fire
Nov. 17, 1978  New Prospects for Britain
Apr. 08, 1977  Britain: Debtor Nation
Sep. 26, 1975  Britain in Crisis
Jun. 10, 1970  British Election, 1970
Oct. 30, 1968  British Economy Since Devaluation
Sep. 27, 1967  Britain in the 1960s: Descent from Power
Sep. 10, 1964  British Election, 1964
Jun. 24, 1964  British Commonwealth in the Postwar World
Aug. 09, 1961  Socialized Medicine in Great Britain
Jul. 19, 1961  Britain, the United States and the Common Market
Sep. 16, 1959  British General Election
Mar. 13, 1957  American-British Relations
May 10, 1954  Political Trends in Britain
Sep. 13, 1951  British Social Services
May 24, 1950  Sterling Balances
Feb. 08, 1950  British Election, 1950
Jan. 12, 1949  British National Health Service
Mar. 28, 1946  Sterling Area and the British Loan
Jul. 14, 1945  British Export Trade
Jun. 22, 1945  British Election
Jan. 01, 1943  Food Rationing in Great Britain
Apr. 19, 1941  Convoys for Britain
Jan. 02, 1941  Financing Britain's War Requirements
Aug. 26, 1938  Anglo-American Relations
Apr. 28, 1938  Economic Recovery in Great Britain
May 12, 1937  Britain's Intra-Imperial Relations
Sep. 09, 1931  Unemployment Insurance in Great Britain
Aug. 09, 1930  The Protectionist Movement in Great Britain
Sep. 10, 1929  The British Task in Palestine
May 06, 1929  The British General Election of 1929
Jun. 12, 1926  The British Trade and Financial Situation
May 07, 1926  Background of the British Labor Crisis
Oct. 17, 1924  British Electoral System and Political Issues
Feb. 29, 1924  British and French Finances
Jan. 14, 1924  The British Labour Party
Economic Analyses, Forecasts, and Statistics
Regional Political Affairs: Europe