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Harold Wilson 1964-1970, 1974-76



Harold Wilson was born in Huddersfield in 1916. He was educated at Oxford University where he was influenced by his history tutor, G. D. H. Cole. He worked as a research assistant under William Beveridge at the London School of Economics before becoming a lecturer in economics at Oxford. During the Second World War he was director of economics and statistics at the Ministry of Fuel and Power.

Wilson, a member of the Labour Party, was selected as the parliamentary candidate for Ormskirk and was elected to the House of Commons in the 1945 General Election. Wilson was only 29 but the new prime minister, Clement Attlee appointed him as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power. Two years later, Wilson entered the Cabinet as President of the Board of Trade. He therefore became the youngest minister since William Pitt.

The National Insurance Act created the structure of the Welfare State and after the passing of the National Health Service Act in 1948, people in Britain were provided with free diagnosis and treatment of illness, at home or in hospital, as well as dental and ophthalmic services. However, Wilson, Aneurin Bevan and John Freeman resigned from the government on 21st April when Hugh Gaitskell, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced that he intended to introduce measures that would force people to pay half the cost of dentures and spectacles and a one shilling prescription charge.

When Clement Attlee resigned in 1955, Hugh Gaitskell became the new leader of the Labour Party. After the death of Aneurin Bevan in 1960, Wilson became the main figure on the left of the party. The following year he challenged Gaitskill for the leadership but was defeated by 166 votes to 81.

When Hugh Gaitskell died in 1963, Wilson was one of the main contenders for the party leadership and he was able to defeat his right-wing rivals, George Brown and James Callaghan.

During the 1964 General Election campaign Wilson promised to modernize Britain. Making full use of his academic background and poking fun at the aristocratic Alec Douglas-Home, Wilson was able to obtain a five-seat majority in the House of Commons. After the 1966 General Election this majority was increased to 97.

Wilson was fairly successful in his promise to modernize Britain. His government brought an end to capital punishment, reformed the divorce laws and legalized abortion and homosexuality. He had more difficulty with the economy and in November, 1967, his Chancellor of the Exchequer, James Callaghan, was forced to devalue the pound. By the end of the 1960s, with unemployment and inflation increasing, Wilson's popularity declined and the Conservative Party, led by Edward Heath, won the 1970 General Election.

Heath successfully led Britain into the European Economic Community (ECC). However, many in his party was unhappy with this policy and it created deep divisions that lasted for over thirty years.

Edward Heath also came into conflict with the trade unions over his attempts to impose a prices and incomes policy. His attempts to legislate against unofficial strikes led to industrial disputes. In 1973 a miners' work-to-rule led to regular power cuts and the imposition of a three day week. Heath called a general election in 1974 on the issue of "who rules". He failed to get a majority and Wilson and the Labour Party were returned to power.

In 1975 Wilson decided to hold a referendum on membership of the European Economic Community. Wilson allowed his Cabinet to support both the Yes and No campaigns and this led to a bitter split in the party.

Wilson's government again had trouble with the economy. Faced with the prospect of having to get a loan from the International Monetary Fund, Wilson came under increasing attack from all sections of the Labour Party. Wilson was also suffering from the early signs of Alzheimer's Disease and in 1976 decided to resign from office and was replaced by James Callaghan.

Wilson was knighted in 1976 and was created Baron of Rievaulx in 1983. Harold Wilson died in 1995.
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Edward Heath 1970-1974



Edward Heath, the son of a builder, was born in Broadstairs on 9th July, 1916. He studied at Balliol College, Oxford where he was influenced by the political and religious ideas of A. D. Lindsay and William Temple. In 1937 Heath became president of the Oxford Conservative Association.

In 1938 he went with three other undergraduates to observe the Spanish Civil War. He met leaders of the Popular Front government and on his return he campaigned against General Francisco Franco and the Nationalist Army.

As well as being in favour of intervention in Spain Heath was a strong opponent of the appeasement policy of Neville Chamberlain. Although a member of the Conservative Party, Heath supported his university tutor, A. D. Lindsay, the anti-appeasement candidate in the Oxford by-election in October, 1938. The following year he was elected as president of the Oxford Union.

Heath was called up to the British Army in August, 1940. After receiving training at Storrington in Sussex, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Artillery in March 1941 and was posted to the 107 Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment based in Chester.

Following the D-Day landings, Heath's regiment arrived in France on 6th July, 1944. Over the next few months he was involved in heavy fighting in Belgium, Netherlands and Germany. He also took part in Operation Veritable, the action to capture the land between the rivers of the Rhine and the Maas. As a result of this action he was awarded the military MBE and was mentioned in dispatches. Heath remained in Germany after the war and attended the Nuremberg Trials in 1946.

A member of the Conservative Party, Heath worked as news editor of the Church Times. In 1948 he went to work for the finance house of Brown, Shipley and Company. In the 1950 General Election Heath won Bexley with a majority of 133. A committed European, Heath made his maiden speech in the House of Commons on 26th June in favour of the Schuman Plan. He ended his speech with the words: "It was said long ago in the House that magnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom. I appeal tonight to the government to follow that dictum, and to go into the Schuman Plan to develop Europe and to coordinate it in the way suggested.

Heath showed that he was on the left of the party with an article in the seminal Conservative pamphlet, One Nation (1950). However, after being appointed as deputy chief whip in 1953 he had to remain silent in the House of Commons.

In 1955 Anthony Eden appointed Heath as his Chief Whip and had the task of persuading Conservative MPs to support the government during the Suez Crisis. Later he served as Minister of Labour (1959-60) under Harold Macmillan. As Lord Privy Seal he led the British team negotiating entry into the Common Market. A passionate European he was devastated when Charles De Gaulle vetoed Britain's entry in 1963. In the Alec Douglas-Home administration Heath was President of the Board of Trade.

The Labour Party won the 1964 General Election and the following year Heath defeated Enoch Powell and Reginald Maudling to become leader of the Conservative Party. In 1965 Heath support attempts by Harold Wilson to bring down the white minority regime in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). This upset Conservatives on the right and Heath had to deal with a rebellion led by Lord Salisbury.

Heath lost the 1966 General Election to Harold Wilson. In 1968 Wilson's popularity slumped after Enoch Powell made his "rivers of blood" speech on immigration. Instead of supporting the use of the race issue to gain favour with the British electorate, Heath sacked Powell as a member of the shadow cabinet.

The Conservative Party won the 1970 General Election with a majority of 30 seats. Heath now became prime minister and immediately made the third British application to join the European Economic Community (ECC). On 28th October, 1971, the House of Commons voted with a 112 majority to go into Europe. However, many in his party was unhappy with this policy and it created deep divisions that lasted for over thirty years.

Heath also followed a policy of supporting British industry. In 1971 Rolls-Royce faced bankruptcy and received considerable funds from the government. The Upper Clyde Shipbuilders was also bailed out when it got into economic difficulties.

Heath came into conflict with the trade unions over his attempts to impose a prices and incomes policy. His attempts to legislate against unofficial strikes led to industrial disputes. In 1973 a miners' work-to-rule led to regular power cuts and the imposition of a three day week. Heath called a general election in 1974 on the issue of "who rules". He failed to get a majority and Harold Wilson and the Labour Party were returned to power.

In January 1975 Margaret Thatcher challenged Heath for the leadership of the Conservative Party. On 4th February Thatcher defeated Heath by 130 votes to 119 and became the first woman leader of a major political party. Heath took the defeat badly and refused to serve in Thatcher's shadow cabinet. He considered Thatcher to be a right-wing authoritarian and like another former Conservative prime minister, Harold Macmillan, Heath constantly criticized her policies.

Heath remained in the House of Commons as a backbencher. However, during this period he became an important international statesman and was one of the key members of the Brandt Commission into North/South problems (1977-80), and for several years thereafter was one of the Third Worldís most moving advocates. Heath joined the House of Lords in 2001.

Sir Edward Heath died of pneumonia on 17th July, 2005.
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James Callaghan 1976-1979



James Callaghan was born in Portsmouth in 1912. After being educated at Portsmouth Northern School, he joined the staff of the Inland Revenue. In 1931 he joined the Labour Party and began work as a trade union official.

Callaghan was selected as the parliamentary candidate for South Cardiff and was elected to the House of Commons in the 1945 General Election and held minor posts in the government of Clement Attlee.

When Hugh Gaitskell died in 1963, Callaghan was one of the main contenders for the party leadership. Callaghan, who represented the right-wing of the party, was defeated by Harold Wilson.

When the Labour Party was elected in the 1964 General Election, Callaghan became the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In this post he created a great deal of controversy by introducing corporation tax and selective employment tax. After a long struggle, Callaghan was forced to devalue the pound in November 1967.

Callaghan resigned from office but was recalled as Home Secretary in 1968. He held the post until the defeat of the Labour government in the 1970 General Election.

Edward Heath and his Conservative government came into conflict with the trade unions over his attempts to impose a prices and incomes policy. His attempts to legislate against unofficial strikes led to industrial disputes. In 1973 a miners' work-to-rule led to regular power cuts and the imposition of a three day week. Heath called a general election in 1974 on the issue of "who rules". He failed to get a majority and Harold Wilson and the Labour Party were returned to power.

Wilson appointed Callaghan as his foreign secretary. In this post he had responsibility for renegotiating Britain's terms of membership of the European Economic Community (ECC). in 1975 Callaghan was demoted to the position of minister of overseas development.

Now aged 63, political commentators thought Callaghan's political career was coming to an end. However, when Harold Wilson resigned in 1976, Callaghan surprisingly defeated Roy Jenkins and Michael Foot for the leadership of the Labour Party.

The following year Callaghan, and his Chancellor of the Exchequer, Denis Healey, controversially began imposing tight monetary controls. This included deep cuts in public spending on education and health. Critics claimed that this laid the foundations of what became known as monetarism. In 1978 these public spending cuts led to a wave of strikes (winter of discontent) and the Labour Party was easily defeated in the 1979 General Election.

Margaret Thatcher became the new prime minister and Callaghan was leader of the opposition until he resigned in 1980. Callaghan was made a life peer in 1987. His autobiography, Time and Chance, was published in 1987.
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Margaret Thatcher 1979-1990



Margaret Roberts, the daughter of a grocer, was born in Grantham, Lincolnshire, on 13th October, 1925. After graduating from Oxford University she worked as a research chemist. Later she studied law and eventually became a barrister.

On 13th December, 1951 she married Denis Thatcher, a successful businessman. A member of the Conservative Party, Margaret Thatcher was elected to represent Finchley in October 1959. Two years later she joined the government of Harold Macmillan as joint parliamentary secretary for Pensions and National Insurance.

The Conservative Party was defeated in the 1964 General Election and Harold Wilson became the new prime minister. Edward Heath, the new leader of the Conservatives, appointed her as Opposition Spokesman on Pensions and National Insurance. She later held opposition posts on Housing (October 1965), Treasury (April 1966), Fuel and Power (October 1967), Transport (November, 1968) and Education (October, 1969).

Following the Conservative victory in the 1970 General Election, Thatcher became Secretary of State for Education and Science. In October 1970 she created great controversy by bringing an end to free school milk for children over seven and increasing school meal charges.

Edward Heath, the prime minister, came into conflict with the trade unions over his attempts to impose a prices and incomes policy. His attempts to legislate against unofficial strikes led to industrial disputes. In 1973 a miners' work-to-rule led to regular power cuts and the imposition of a three day week. Heath called a general election in 1974 on the issue of "who rules". He failed to get a majority and Harold Wilson and the Labour Party were returned to power.

In January 1975 Thatcher challenged Edward Heath for the leadership of the Conservative Party. On 4th February Thatcher defeated Heath by 130 votes to 119 and became the first woman leader of a major political party. Heath took the defeat badly and refused to serve in Thatcher's shadow cabinet.

James Callaghan replaced Harold Wilson as prime minister on 16th March 1976. Thatcher gradually adopted a more right-wing political programme placing considerable emphasis on the market economy. In January 1978 she was condemned for making a speech where she claimed that people feared being "swamped" by immigrants.

In 1978 the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Denis Healey, controversially began imposing tight monetary controls. This included deep cuts in public spending on education and health. Critics claimed that this laid the foundations of what became known as monetarism. In 1978 these public spending cuts led to a wave of strikes (winter of discontent) and the Labour Party was easily defeated in the 1979 General Election.

Thatcher now became the first woman in Britain to become prime minister. In November 1979 Thatcher attended a summit meeting of the European Economic Community where she attempted to renegotiate Britain's contribution to the EEC budget.

Thatcher's government continued the monetarist policies introduced by Denis Healey. Inflation was reduced but unemployment doubled between 1979 and 1980. In 1981, Sir Geoffrey Howe, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced further public spending cuts. During this period public opinion polls suggested that Thatcher was the most unpopular prime minister in British history.

Thatcher's government also raised money by a programme of privatization. This included the denationalization of British Telecom, British Airways, Rolls Royce and British Steel.

On 2nd April 1982 Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands. The following day the United Nations passed resolution 502 demanding that Argentina withdrew from the Falklands. On 5th April the British Navy left Portsmouth for the Falklands. Britain declared a 200 mile exclusion zone around the Falklands and on 2nd May 1982 the Argentinean battleship General Belgrano was sunk. Two days later HMS Sheffield was hit by an exocet missile.

British troops landed on the Falkland Islands at San Carlos on 21st May. Fighting continued until Port Stanley was captured and Argentina surrendered on 14th June 1982. Thatcher's personal popularity was greatly boosted by the successful outcome of the war and the Conservative Party won the 1983 General Election with a majority of 144.

Thatcher developed a close relationship with President Ronald Reagan. They both agreed to take a firm stance with the Soviet Union. This resulted in her being dubbed the Iron Lady. However, Thatcher was furious in November 1983 when the United States invaded the British dependency of Grenada without prior consultation.

Thatcher's government continued its policy of reducing the power of the trade unions. Sympathy strikes and the closed shop was banned. Union leaders had to ballot members on strike action and unions were responsible for the actions of its members. The government took a firm stand against industrial disputes and the miners' strike that began in 1984 lasted for 12 months without success.

At the funeral of Konstantin Chernenko on 13th March 1985, Thatcher met the new leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Thatcher's views on the Soviet Union changed after Gorbachev announced his new policy of Perestroika (Restructuring). This heralded a series of liberalizing economic, political and cultural reforms which had the aim of making the Soviet economy more efficient. Gorbachev also introduced policies with the intention of establishing a market economy by encouraging the private ownership of Soviet industry and agriculture.

At a meeting on 13th November 1985, Thatcher rejected the idea of entering the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. However, the following month she attended the Luxembourg European Council and during the meeting Thatcher agreed to sign the Single European Act.

In April 1986 Thatcher was widely criticized for giving permission for US bombers to take off from Britain to bomb Libya following a series of Libyan inspired terrorist attacks.

Thatcher was returned to power for a third time when she won the 1987 General Election with a majority of 102 seats. The following year she became Britain's longest serving prime minister for over a hundred years. However, her popularity was severely damaged when the Community Charge (Poll Tax) was introduced in Scotland in April 1989 (the rest of Britain was to follow a year later). The new tax was extremely unpopular and led to public demonstrations.

In November 1990 Thatcher was challenged as leader of the Conservative Party. She won the first round of the contest but the majority is not enough to prevent a second round. On 28th November, 1990, Margaret Thatcher resigned as prime minister and was replaced by John Major.

Thatcher left the House of Commons in March 1992. Soon afterwards she entered the House of Lords as Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven.

Source for all Articles under this Thread: Schoolnet.co.uk
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John Major 1990 1997



Sir John Major KG CH ACIB (born 29 March 1943), is a British politician who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the British Conservative Party from 1990 to 1997. During his time as Prime Minister, the world went through a period of transition after the end of the Cold War. This included the growing importance of the European Union and the debate surrounding Britain's ratification of the Maastricht Treaty. As Prime Minister, Major and his government were also responsible for the United Kingdom's exit from the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) after Black Wednesday on 16 September 1992.

In 1997 the Conservative Party, under Major's leadership, lost the general election to Tony Blair's Labour Party. This was one of the worst electoral defeats in British politics since the Great Reform Act of 1832. After the defeat he was replaced as leader of the party by William Hague, continuing as an MP until he retired from the House of Commons in the 2001 general election.

Before serving as Prime Minister, Major was a Cabinet minister under Margaret Thatcher. He served as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Foreign Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer, making him one of the few people to have served in three of the four Great Offices of State.
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Tony Blair 1997 2007



Anthony Charles Lynton "Tony" Blair (born 6 May 1953) is a British politician who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2 May 1997 to 27 June 2007. He was Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007 and the Member of Parliament for Sedgefield from 1983 to 2007. On the day he stood down as Prime Minister and MP, he was appointed official Envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East on behalf of the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia.

Blair was elected Leader of the Labour Party in July 1994 following the sudden death of his predecessor, John Smith. Under Blair's leadership the party abandoned many policies it had held for decades. Labour won a landslide victory in the 1997 general election.

He was the Labour Party's longest-serving Prime Minister and the only leader to have taken the party to three consecutive general election victories.

Gordon Brown, Blair's Chancellor of the Exchequer during all his ten years in office, succeeded him as party leader on 24 June 2007 and as Prime Minister on 27 June 2007.

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Gordon Brown 2007 Incumbent



James Gordon Brown (born 20 February 1951) is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. He took office on 27 June 2007, three days after becoming leader of the Labour Party. Prior to this he served as the Chancellor of the Exchequer under Tony Blair from 1997 to 2007, becoming the United Kingdom's longest serving Chancellor since Nicholas Vansittart in the early 19th century.

Brown has a PhD in history from the University of Edinburgh and spent his early career working as a TV journalist.[2][3] He has been a Member of Parliament since 1983; firstly for Dunfermline East and since 2005 for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath.As Prime Minister, he also holds the positions of First Lord of the Treasury and the Minister for the Civil Service.

Brown's time as Chancellor was marked by major reform of Britain's monetary and fiscal policy architecture, transfering interest rate setting powers to the Bank of England, by a wide extension of the powers of the Treasury to cover much domestic policy, and by largely benign economic conditions. His most controversial moves were the abolition of Advanced Corporation Tax (ACT) relief in his first budget - a move that received criticism for the effect it had on pension funds - and removal of the 10p tax rate in his final 2007 budget.

His time as PM has been of mixed fortune, facing repercussions of the credit crunch and the associated nationalisation of Northern Rock, the 10p tax rate row, rising oil and petrol prices, and increased inflation. Brown has also suffered as a result of investigations into improper party donation accusations, a costly political battle over 42 day detention and heavy by-election defeats, notably Glasgow East. Despite an initial increase in personal and Labour popularity following his appointment as Leader and PM, Brown has presided over a dramatic decline in poll approval ratings personally and for the party. Speculation has arisen of a potential challenge to Brown's leadership.

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David Cameron





Prime Minister David Cameron was born on 9 October 1966 and was educated at Eton and Brasenose College, Oxford.

Cameron graduated from Oxford University in 1988 with a first class honours degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics.

David Cameron worked for the Conservative Party in their research department from 1988 to 1992 when he became a Special Advisor in the Treasury (1992-3), and then at the Home Office (1993-4).



Prior to becoming a Member of Parliament, David Cameron was Head of Corporate Affairs at Carlton Communications.

Cameron was elected Conservative MP for Witney, West Oxfordshire, in June 2001, and immediately became a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee.

From 2003-4 David Cameron was Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party.

David Cameron came to prominence in 2005 when as Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Skills, he delivered an impressive speech at the Conservative Party Conference that instantly converted him from an outsider to be favourite to take over from Michael Howard as Conservative Party leader.

David Cameron campaigned for the Tory leadership under the slogan, 'Change to Win'.



On 6 December 2005 after a long campaign, Cameron became leader of the Conservative Party beating David Davis by 134,446 votes to 64,398 in a postal ballot of party members.

Cameron, who has been described as a 'reformist', a 'moderniser', and a leading member of the Notting Hill set, has called himself a 'compassionate Conservative'.

Cameron's brother, Alexander, married Sarah Fearnley-Whittingstall, whilst David Cameron himself married Samantha Sheffield in 1996.

Samantha Cameron went on to be creative director of luxury stationers Smythson.

On 25 February 2009, David and Samantha Cameron's eldest son Ivan, who had cerebral palsy and epilepsy, died, aged 6. The Camerons have two younger children, Nancy and Arthur.

David Cameron told Sue Lawley on Radio 4's Desert Island Discs that he wanted to select Benny Hill's 1971 hit Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West), which was the only song he knows all the words to.

In March 2010 it was revealed that David and Samantha Cameron were expecting a child in September.

On 6 May 2010, the Conservatives under David Cameron won the largest share of the vote and the largest number of seats at the general election, however it was not enough to command an overall majority.

In the days after the election the Conservatives conducted negotiations with the Liberal Democrats under Nick Clegg to build an alliance from which to govern.

On 11 May 2010, David Cameron became prime minister after the resignation of Gordon Brown. David Cameron, at 43, became the UK's youngest prime minister in nearly 200 years.

The Conservatives reached a deal with the Liberal Democrats to form the UK's first coalition government for 70 years.

On 24 August 2010, David Cameron's wife Samantha gave birth to a girl, Florence Rose Endellion, their fourth child.
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