Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Hung parliament negotiations. From 1974.

I came across a fascinating document earlier today via Gary Gibbons' blog.

It is a contemporary account of the internal machinations of the Heath government in the immediate aftermath of the first 1974 election which led to a hung parliament written by Robert Armstrong (Heath's principal private secretary from 1970 - 1974 - his Bernard Woolley to Heath's Jim Hacker if you will). It was apparently released after an FOI request from the Thatcher Foundation. Perhaps she was interested in the details of Heath's fall from power that ultimately led to her inexorable rise!

It details how Heath tried desperately to hold onto power and the discussions he had both with the Ulster Unionists and also Jeremy Thorpe, the then leader of the Liberal Party. There are some fascinating insights for political geeks like me such as the lengths Thorpe went to to avoid journalists as he travelled back from Devon to London and the constitutional consequences of the various courses of action that were being considered.

Towards the end it almost becomes like an excerpt from a novel as Armstrong details the wordless trip to the Palace with Heath and how he almost broke down in tears as Sir Martin Charteris, The Queen's Private Secretary of the time sympathised with him.

It's 22 pages of scanned in type with manual corrections in PDF form and it is well worth reading here.

Who knows, Gordon Brown may find himself in a similar position to Heath in a few months time...

UPDATE: The Hung Parliament 2010 blog has a much more detailed analysis of this document and its contents in this blogpost.


RodCrosby said...

I've dissected the juicy bits here

The Great Simpleton said...

Interesting read.

I wouldn't say that it describes Heath as desperate just following precedent. If he had been desperate he would have claimed the UU votes that had already taken the Whip.

The real question, with the benefit of hindsight, is whether the Liberals would have better off with a Speakers conference and free vote.

Hugh said...

Brown is not going to be in this position automatically. It might be sensible for Lib Dem, Green and Ukip voters in Lab/Con marginals to switch their support to whichever party is best-placed to stop whoever is most in danger of securing a Commons majority. In Lab seats where the Tories are within 6 points this means the Tories; in safer Lab seats, Labour need to be backed.

VickyK86 said...

New website campaign calls for four-year
fixed term government to deal with a hung parliament

For the first time in over 30 years, there is a strong possibility that a General Election will
result in no party having overall charge of Parliament. At the same time the grave
continuing economic and fiscal crisis will be the major issue facing our government.

Around half of recent opinion polls put a hung parliament as a possible election result - if
current voting intentions, as given to the pollsters, are translated into the number of MPs
each party would have after the election.

Now a non-party group, Charter 2010, has launched a website to
promote discussion of how an indecisive election result should be handled by the party
leaders and politicians. Charter 2010 says a hung parliament is “the result no-one wants
to plan for” – and it accuses party politicians of a “conspiracy of silence” on the issue.

Anonymous said...

How would the Lib Dems react to a hung parliament and is this something you could benefit from? I read an interesting article on regarding polls showing that a hung parliament is very likely. What do you think about this?
I think that parties should commit themselves now to working to produce a multi-party supported government on a fixed four-year term.