The Last Act: The Labour Governments 1974–6
‘In 1974 the Cabinet was richer in previous experience than perhaps any incoming Government this century’, Harold Wilson was later to write, adding: ‘Fourteen members had sat in the outgoing 1970 Cabinet.’1 In this way, to have experienced Ministers, especially those associated with failure, was deemed to be an advantage. That was not to say that Wilson did not have men well suited to high office to appoint. Healey went to the Treasury, and Jenkins became the first Home Secretary to go back for a second term since Sir John Simon, who ‘did not provide an inspiring precedent’.2 Jenkins was eventually to introduce ‘anti-discrimination legislation, both sexual and racial’, though he saw his ‘primary task as the maintenance of the proper authority of the State, first against the threat of [IRA] terrorism … but also against a view which I saw as dangerously prevalent within the Cabinet. What the TUC wanted was becoming more important than upholding the rule of law.’ Jenkins found it amazing that there was no provision for the independent review of complaints about the police, and he proposed the filling of that gap.3 Jenkins might well have wished to go to the FCO, but Callaghan was preferred for that role. After that, once Crosland was despatched to the DOE, Wilson was down to the also-rans, notably Mrs Castle, about whom he came to wonder if he had not over-promoted her in the first place.4
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.