Planning for Power: 1964–1970

  • Mark Garnett


Two months after the general election of June 1970, a Conservative candidate wrote of ‘a mood of euphoria in Tory ranks’.1 His own constituency had rejected him, but his party had returned to power after six years in opposition. Labour’s margin of victory in the 1964 general election had been little more than 200,000 votes, and only 13 seats. But that contest had brought to an end 13 unbroken years of Conservative government, and was preceded by a rapid succession of serious blows to party morale, notably the failure to negotiate Britain’s entry into the EEC, the Profumo Affair, and Harold Macmillan’s resignation in October 1963. At best, the Conservatives seemed to have run out of steam in 1964; unkinder critics could portray them as complacent custodians of a decadent social and economic system. They were beaten more soundly in a second general election, in 1966. To bounce back by 1970 - taking less time to recover office than Churchill had required after 1945 - was an impressive feat. In the process the Party carried through a crucial reform of its procedures, and conducted a far-reaching policy review. By 1970 the experienced Conservative front-bench team seemed well equipped to resume their party’s ‘natural’ governing role, after Harold Wilson’s regrettable usurpation.


Industrial Relation European Economic Community Policy Group Resale Price Maintenance Conservative Party 
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© Mark Garnett 2005

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  • Mark Garnett

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