Britain in the 1960s: Descent from Power

September 27, 1967

Report Outline
Economic and Social Strains in Britain
Rise and Decline of World Leadership
Means of Strengthening British Position

Economic and Social Strains in Britain

The british labor party, meeting in annual conference at Scarborough for five days starting October 2, will have the doleful task of examining its own condition and that of Great Britain. Because Britain is currently top contender for the title of “sick man of Europe,” there will be heated debate over what treatments are needed to bring the invalid around. The symptoms are obvious: unemployment exceeding 560,000, the highest level in 27 years and still rising; a shaky balance-of-payments situation, with the United States standing by for another pound-propping operation; mounting talk of devaluation of the pound; and, finally, problems in Hong Kong, Aden and Rhodesia.

The Labor Government suffered a setback on Sept. 21 when it lost two by-elections to the Conservative Party opposition, one of them in a London working-class constituency (West Walthamstow) that had been in Labor hands since 1929. The losses were described as a clear rebuke to the Government for economic policies that threaten Britain—a nation of 55 million—with up to 1,000,000 unemployed this winter. Despite the by-election reversals, Labor's majority in the House of Commons will be a safe 86 seats when Parliament resumes in October. Prime Minister Harold Wilson does not have to go to the country before the spring of 1971; no general election is likely before the fall of 1970.

In an attempt to forestall criticism and renew confidence, Wilson last month announced that he was assuming direct responsibility for British economic policy. At the same time, the government eased credit curbs on installment buying with a view to priming a deflated economy. But the effects will not be felt immediately and the move is considered no more than a gesture in the face of a large problem. “As was the case in France 10 years ago, all the pessimistic croakers from the outside are only taking up the roar of the pessimistic criticism from within.”

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Sep. 27, 1967  Britain in the 1960s: Descent from Power
Sep. 10, 1964  British Election, 1964
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Aug. 09, 1961  Socialized Medicine in Great Britain
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Sep. 16, 1959  British General Election
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Feb. 08, 1950  British Election, 1950
Jan. 12, 1949  British National Health Service
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Jul. 14, 1945  British Export Trade
Jun. 22, 1945  British Election
Jan. 01, 1943  Food Rationing in Great Britain
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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
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May 06, 1929  The British General Election of 1929
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Regional Political Affairs: Europe