Britain in Crisis

September 26, 1975

Report Outline
Threat of Economic Breakdown
Historic Parallels to the Present
The Arena of Political Struggle
Efforts to Stave off Disaster
Special Focus

Threat of Economic Breakdown

Political Ills Arising from Economic Problems

Britain has experienced such a succession of shocks since the end of World War II that it is difficult even for Anglophiles to grasp the full measure of the current crisis. Britain's long-established democratic and parliamentary institutions may ultimately be undermined if economic problems grow more critical and further erode public confidence in the ability of the political system to deal with them. The people are being subjected to the worst inflation in their history, to record postwar unemployment levels, and to falling production and declining business investment.

Britons see this combination of problems coming to a head early next year. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Denis Healy, has said 1976 will be the country's most critical year since 1940, when Britain stood virtually alone against the might of Nazi Germany. The growth of political extremism has added to, and perhaps fed upon, the pervasive discontent. The killing in Northern Ireland has spilled over into England in the form of terrorist bombings, even in central London. Parliament, returning from its summer recess on Oct. 13, will engage in the coming session in a prolonged debate over how far to go toward meeting nationalist demands in Scotland and Wales for self-rule. Lord Robens, chairman of the Vickers industrial complex and a former government minister, has gone so far as to say: “We are almost at the stage of the Weimar Republic before Hitler. The political consequences of that are a dictatorship of the right or left. I wouldn't care to say which.”

The British face the challenge ahead with a lack of confidence that results from a long and nagging national failure. For a generation both the Labor and Tory governments have prescribed a succession of remedies for the nation's chronic ills and none of them has worked. The consequence is that in 25 years Britain has slipped from being the second-richest nation in Europe, behind Sweden, to being one of the poorest. Britain's plight has become the subject of an almost endless stream of assessments both at home and abroad, especially in America. Among the recent commentaries columnist Vermont Royster wrote in The Wall Street Journal: “Britain's undoing is its own doing. It has been brought to this by the calculated policies of its government and by their resigned acceptance by the people.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
United Kingdom
Oct. 21, 2022  The United Kingdom's Future
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