The 1970s was a decade of considerable economic and political upheaval. In the political field, the 1970 general election resulted in the return of a Conservative Government under Edward Heath. The Conservative Party had moved somewhat to the right while in opposition and its programme envisaged much greater emphasis on free market forces, the abolition of prices and incomes policy and a strong new industrial relations law. After a tumultuous four years, during which it had done a U-turn on prices and incomes policy, the Government went to the electorate in the midst of a national mineworkers’ strike in 1974 on the issue of ‘Who governs Britain?’ and was defeated. The new Labour Government had only a very small majority and a second election in 1974 still did not provide a significant Labour majority in the House of Commons. The Government was ultimately dependent on the support of the Liberal and the Scottish and Welsh Nationalist Parties. It had been elected at least partly on the basis that it knew how to get on with the trade unions and this indeed appeared to be the case in its early days with a Social Contract in force.
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