Saturday, March 28, 2009

TONIGHT: BBC Parliament Replays the 1979 Vote of No Confidence

A Press Release from BBC Parliament which I thought you all might be interested in relating to programmes on BBC Parliament tonight...

In 1979, 28 March was one of the most dramatic nights in Westminster history. James Callaghan's Labour Government lost a confidence motion by one vote and was forced to call an early General Election that would sweep Margaret Thatcher to power. BBC Parliament is marking the 30th anniversary of that night with a special evening of programmes, The Night The Government Fell.

At 6pm, A Parliamentary Coup tells the story of what happened that night, with testimony from former Downing Street insiders, ministers and party managers about the increasingly frantic attempts to secure the vote for Labour. In five years as a minority Government, Labour had struck deals with various smaller parties in order to survive but, by March 1979, after a winter of industrial strife, their luck was running out. Even on the day of the vote, it looked too close to call. It was only as the night wore on that it became clear that two key abstentions – and the absence of a gravely ill MP – would cost them the vote.

Immediately following the Commons debate, Tonight (the predecessor of Newsnight) was broadcast live from Westminster on BBC One. This episode can be seen at 6.45pm. Presenters Robin Day and Donald MacCormick interviewed Michael Foot, Lord Carrington, John Pardoe, Francis Pym and Lord Diamond on the dramatic events in the Commons and the fall of the Government. Newspaper journalists Peregrine Worsthorne and John Cole were also interviewed.
At 7.50pm, Turning Points – The 1979 Election explains how failure to secure devolution for Scotland lost Labour the support of the Scottish National Party in the run-up to the vote of no confidence. George Cunningham, a Labour MP at the time, discusses the context of the historic vote in this televised lecture.

At 8.15pm, BBC Parliament presents highlights of the 1979 No Confidence Debate in the House of Commons. Among the notable speakers featured were Prime Minister James Callaghan, Leader Of The Opposition Margaret Thatcher, Liberal leader David Steel and Labour's Michael Foot.

At 11.25pm, viewers can see Prime Minister's Broadcast 1979. The evening after the Commons defeat, James Callaghan broadcast to the country. In a seven-minute address, he defended the Government's record and announced a General Election.

The Night The Government Fell also features highlights of news coverage and other archive programmes from the time.

47 comments:

Damon From Birmingham said...

I suppose a repeat performance in the House of Commons this week is a bit too much to hope for.

basementcat said...

I'm sure there would be something deliciously appropriate were this to be repeated 30 years on.

Chance, as a wise man once said, would be a fine thing.

Events dear boy, events said...

I remember it well. I was lucky enough to sit in the gallery to watch the debate. Foot's wind up speech is memorable even now and if I remember correctly he spoke without notes.

It will be great to watch again and remember how the BBC once reported politics.

Paul Burgin said...

Thanks for the warning, will look forward to watching it. Will be interesting to see how they will show the highlights given that it was ten years before TV cameras were allowed in the Commons chamber.
I recently attended a Labour History Group meeting about the Winter of Discontent, Lord Graham was there and he spoke about the vote of No Confidence given that he was a Government Whip at the time. The impression given is that this was a government that was tired to the point of exhaustion, that spent it's term in office struggling to survive more than anything else, which of course affected badly how government was run!

Oliver Drew said...

Oh. Didn't realise the Labour government at the time was a minority one.

That sort of rules out any vote of no confidence, because how are the opposition parties going to convince, what is it, 35 Labour MPs to vote against the government and basically force themselves out of jobs (potentially)?

Of course, admitting that the government is useless might actually earn those MPs some respect among their voters...

Simon Gardner said...

This ushered in by far the most dreadful time my country has had to endure since WW11. I think I’ll give it a miss, thanks.

If it hadn’t been for Leopoldo Fortunato Galtieri it would rapidly have come to an end. As it naturally should; it was most unBritish and alien.

Fortunately, such a terror is unlikely to happen again.

Dennis said...

Simon, whatever happened to World Wars 3-10?

I disagree, BTW. The Augean Stables must be cleaned out, yet again, by an unpopular Tory govt.

Zeddy said...

***If it hadn’t been for Leopoldo Fortunato Galtieri it would rapidly have come to an end. As it naturally should.***

When are people going to drop the lazy yet reassuring (for them) myth that the 1983 landslide for the Tories was some tidal wave of support stemming from the Falklands? The most that it did was to shore up a crumbling Tory vote.

In 1979, the Tories got 13,697,923 votes (44%) against a combined Lab + Lib vote of 15,846,022 (51%).

In 1983, the Tory vote dropped to 13,012,316 (42%) against an increased combined Lab + Alliance vote of 16,237,883 (53%).

So, while the Falklands did have some effect, the most that it did was reduce the swing from the Tories to the Lab + Alliance to 500,000 votes which could easily have been enough under our system to produce a hung parliament.

What really made the difference was that in 1979 the combined Lab/Lib vote was split 73/27 whereas in 1983 the combined Lab/Alliance vote was split right down the middle 52/48. Disaster under a first past the post system.

Of course the Tories have always been happy for the story of their 1983 landslide to be one of victorious war heroes rather than an incompetent opposition. And Labour/Alliance have always preferred the version of history which says that they were defeated by a jingoistic war-happy electorate to the more accurate version that they were defeated by the Labour party's internal squabbling.

P.S. Oh, and the "Fortunato" bit was incredibly pretentious of you.

Simon Gardner said...

Zeddy said... “When are people going to drop the lazy yet reassuring (for them) myth that the 1983 landslide for the Tories was some tidal wave of support stemming from the Falklands?”

Well minus your “tidal wave” that’s what it was.

And I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that our governments (including these) owe their hegemony solely to our bogus and undemocratic electoral system and not to any actual support or enthusiasm from real voters.

Zeddy said...

***And I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that our governments (including these) owe their hegemony solely to our bogus and undemocratic electoral system and not to any actual support or enthusiasm from real voters.***

That's quite a revelation. There goes my naive trust in the honesty of politicians.

Though I'm never one to use that awful sneering phrase "Ooooh, big words!", I can never work out what it is about words like "hegemony" which simply screams "student politics" at me.

"Perpetuate" is another one.

Not a sheep said...

Presumably in the BBC re-run Labour win a surprise victory thus preventing 18 years of Tory rule?

Simon Gardner said...

Dennis said... “Simon, whatever happened to World Wars 3-10?”

We had the EU (& predecessors). That’s one of the two primary reasons it was formed. And it worked!

Delphius1 said...

I've blogged that there could be a repeat of this come the summer.
Its pretty certain that Labour will be decimated in the European elections, not necessarily with a swing to the Tories, but a lot of smaller parties picking up the Labour vote.
Various vast sums of money continue to ooze out of the woodwork to be added to our national debt. That alone should make Gordo's position untenable.
MP's expenses continues to be a bone of contention, especially as the two million that will be added to unemployment figures by then compare MP's allowances with their unemployment benefits.
I'm sure there are various other points, past and future that will do for Gordon Brown by the summer, by which point I think the clamour for an election will be to loud to hear.

wild said...

That's right Simon Gardner the victory of the Conservative Government ushered in a period of terror.

By the way I also could not agree with you more that the BBC is a model of political balance.

Why however are you so tolerant of Daily Mail readers? Most thoughtful people agree that they should be put in cattle trucks and gassed, have you forgotten they all voted for the Nazi Party at the last election.

Mirtha Tidville said...

I was sat in a pub in the Yorkshire Dales, of all places, when I heard the wonderful news. You see some of us lived through that winter of discontent, when we couldnt even bury our dead, let alone get basic services going and had to put up with oafs like Ray Buckton and the rest of the cloth cap colonels, who were hell bent on usurping the role of the elected Government of the day.

Some of us rejoiced, not just at the arrival of Margaret Thatcher, but more at the downfall of those of sought to destroy us and our way of life.

wild said...

P.S. You are so right that it was the European Economic Community that prevented war in Europe all these years.

Simon Gardner said...

wild said... “You are so right that it was the European Economic Community that prevented war in Europe all these years.”

Quite.

It is often forgotten it’s why Ted Heath fought for so long to get the UK on board and why:-

Peter Sissons: The single currency, a United States of Europe, was all that in your mind when you took Britain in?
Edward Heath: Of course, yes.
(BBC's Question Time on 1 November, 1990.)

Heath had direct experience of European war so he knew what he was talking about.

How quickly the generations forget and start babbling on incoherently about an CM/EEC/EU that never was and never will be.

Mirtha Tidville said...

and that Simon is precisely why I always hated that liar and cheat called Heath ( who was also the worst PM we ever had).....So the EEC prevented any further wars???....in actual fact it remained very small and allowed very few others in for a very long time. The reason we have had peace for so long is that the previous reasons for war, many and varied simply were not present and nothing to do with EEC prevention.

Simon Gardner said...

Mirtha Tidville said... So the EEC prevented any further wars???

Between the main European powers. Yes. Precisely. It’s one of the two reasons it exists. It’s what it [and successors] are for.

And Ted Heath was scrupulously honest. It ill behoves anyone to label him a “liar” since he was no such thing.

trevorsden said...

So much misreading of history from Mr Gardner.

Not least his refusal to recognise NATO and the US Nuclear deterrent as being why we have had no World War 3, oh and of course he forgets Regan and Maggie winning the cold war - at a time when lefty nutjobs were predicting WW3 (remember the hilarious spoof poster?).

It is of course good of him to recognise the FrancoGerman hegemony in the EU.

For the Record
In 1983
Tories got 13,012,316
Labour got 8,456,934
I do not see how Tories can be blamed for the Labour Party splitting in two - and no one should be surprised that some potential Tory votes (a pathetic few) went for SDP.

The point is in 1992
Tories got 14,093,007 - a massive increase - when faced with a united Labour party. This followed 13,760,935 votes in 1987.

Mirtha Tidville said...

Ted Heath honest????Simon, get yours facts right. Heath told us at the time of the 1975 referendum ( I took part in it) that we were voting for a free trade area and NOTHING more. He knew full well what was intended but told us untruths to get his way. Ergo he lied....You might not like it but thats how it was...

Simon Gardner said...

trevorsden said...
“ For the Record
In 1983
Tories got 13,012,316
Labour got 8,456,934”


You seem to have left out a significant number of voters or the fact that the majority of even those voting voted against the Tories.

Ho hum. Off to the ERS with you.

Simon Gardner said...

Mirtha Tidville said... “Ted Heath honest????Simon, get yours facts right. Heath told us at the time of the 1975 referendum ”

Oh dear. The lie continues ad nauseam. (And I took part in Wilson’s (note not Heath’s) referendum). Why can’t you nut jobs get it through your thick skulls that we were already several years IN the CM by the time of Wilson’s little party trick?

At the time we entered Heath was clear; at the time of Harold Wilson’s trick it was clear - that we were signing/signed up to the The Treaty of Rome - March 25, 1 9 5 7. Which Treaty spells it out in its opening paragraphs - “An ever closer union among the peoples of Europe”.

God knows it had been around long enough for even you to have realised.

(The sentiment is repeated in the more recent Maastricht treaty, which also talks about a “new stage in the process of European integration”.)

Mirtha Tidville said...

Nut job Simon ???...well it takes one to know one old chap.....yes it was Wilson who held the referendum but it was Heath that took us in, in 1973 and banged the drum louder than Wilson in `75...at no time did Heath tell the truth and the documents you refer to were well and truely kept under wraps...no internet then, no FOA, no easy way to discover what was going on. I lived through that era but I doubt you did....

As for Heath...I have written what I have written

Simon Gardner said...

Mirtha Tidville said... “the documents you refer to were well and truely kept under wraps...”

Bollocks.

And I did indeed ‘live through the era’.

I find the persistent lies upon lies of the nutty Europhobes on basic facts of recent history risible.

wild said...

Thank goodness Simon Gardner is here to instruct us all about the European Union. I cannot even point out Paris on a map. Is it in Holland?

davidc said...

n.a.t.o. kept the peace in europe with the u.s.a. and canada as members but without the french
who left in a hissy fit.

the e.e.c. was sold to the british public as a trading bloc nothing more.

as the the traitor heath , he was just first in a long line of 'westminster failures and whitehall retreads' who have sold us out while enriched themselves in brussels and strasbourge at our expense.

Simon Gardner said...

davidc said... “NATO kept the peace in [Western] europe...”

I think a simple straight denial will suffice. Bollocks; it was the EEC/EU.

“the e.e.c. was sold to the british public as a trading bloc nothing more.”

Even bigger bollocks.

I was there. I listened. I read. This [your claim] is just a barefaced lie.

Manfarang said...

Mirtha
"no internet then"
That's right.Anyone who wanted could write and get information about the EEC,Treaty of Rome, etc free through the post.The local public library had the address.
At the time many Tories didn't like the idea of a referendum anyway.
The 1979 vote?Frank Maguire was the man of the moment!Bottles of gin and tonic indeed!

DougtheDug said...

At 7.50pm, Turning Points – The 1979 Election explains how failure to secure devolution for Scotland lost Labour the support of the Scottish National Party in the run-up to the vote of no confidence. George Cunningham, a Labour MP at the time, discusses the context of the historic vote in this televised lecture.

It will be interesting to see what the ex-Labour MP George Cunningham has to say about the fall of the Labour Government as he was the main cause of the devolution referendum in Scotland failing and in the repeal of the Scotland Act which lead to the withdrawal of support by the SNP from Callaghan's Government.

His "Cunningham amendment" in the Scotland Act of 1977 required that a referendum vote in Scotland not only had to be won but it had to be voted for by at least 40% of the electorate. In other words all those who didn't vote because they were sick, dead, abroad or couldn't be bothered counted as "No" votes.

Even though the yes vote in the referendum won the 40% rule scuppered it and the Bill was repealed and the SNP withdrew their support from Labour.

Which was all down to George Cunningham.

Dave H said...

O/T (a bit)

Yesterday, every single Today hourly news summary began with "Gordon Brown..." and led into the story of his negotiations with the Palace over the Act of Succession etc.

They even gave out the opinion polls indicating overwhelming support for reform.

By evening, this has transformed into 'the measure is not supported by the Government'.

WTF is going on?

Not a sheep said...

Dave H: What is going on is that the Labour government and the BBC are flailing about trying to place attention anywhere than on the imminent economic collapse of the UK.

JuliaM said...

"What is going on is that the Labour government and the BBC are flailing about trying to place attention anywhere than on the imminent economic collapse of the UK."

Agreed. But what a peculiar thing to try to distract everyone with.

I mean, who cares? It's not even something that attracts pressure groups and lobbiests. It's a total non-issue for probably 99% of the population...

davidc said...

simon gardner@ - and there was i thinking that n.a.t.o.'s (u.s. and british) nuclear capacity and the threat of massive retaliation should the warsaw pact countries take it into their heads to move west, was the reason such did not occure, when all the time it was fear of the e.e.c. / e.u. common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy and all the health and safety directives.

thank you for spending time correcting my woeful ignorance on this topic

Andrew Allison said...

This is a time for nostalgia. We often talk about political watersheds, but this was the true watershed in 20th Century politics.

We should also remember Airey Neave, who was murdered by the INLA two days later at 2.58pm on March 30th, in the precincts of the Houses of Parliament.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

It is probably no coincidence then, that Simon Heffer is advocating a VONC to be tabled by Dave, this week.

Of course, they won't win, Heffer concedes, but it would sort of grab every Labour MP by the cojones and be a wonderful public relations exercise for the Tories.

The trouble is, Dave is wet. No wonder Simon Heffer feels disenfranchised.

WV fecit

trevorsden said...

Will they cover the IRA bomb explosion that killed Airey Neive and the quite remarkable party Political broadcast by Mrs Thatcher that followed it?

Mulligan said...

davidc

indeed, all that money wasted on nuclear deterrent when trade tariffs were doing the trick anyway.

norman said...

I listened to the radio and watched the interviews in ITV . The 10 O'Clock news then was anchored by Alastair Burnett with the unpredictable Reggie Bosanquet assisting him. There was an interview by the BBC well before the event with David Owen (Lab) and Willie Whitelaw (Con) with Owen uttering platitudes and Whitelaw repeating that the Tories will vote against and probably bring down the govt. The Liberals by withdrawing from the Lib-Lab Pact showed what prickly partners they were with the deluded David Steele muttering revealed that he had no clue about where he is leading his party. If Brown deliriously dreams that he can have similar pact with Libdems after the election, he should recap what happened in 1979.

trevorsden said...

We cannot let Gardners comments go uncorrected

NATO is the institution which kept peace in Western Europe - with the small matter of the British Army and the US Army being crucial.

The notion the the EEC had anything to do with military or diplomatic matters is a joke. The idea that the existence of the EEC caused the Russians to cower is worthy of Sunday Night at the London Paladium.

The purpose of the EEC is to deliver Franco German hegemony over Europe.

Simon Gardner said...

trevorsden said... “NATO is the institution which kept peace in Western Europe”

[sigh]

Bollocks. One of the two major purposes of the EEC/EU was to ensure no more wars between west European powers. It succeeded. NATO has bugger-all to do with it.

Simon Gardner said...

Dave H said... “Yesterday, every single Today hourly news summary began with "Gordon Brown..." and led into the story of his negotiations with the Palace over the Act of Succession etc. By evening, this has transformed into 'the measure is not supported by the Government'. WTF is going on?”

I look forward to being corrected, but my understanding is that the Government supported the principle but didn’t think Evan Harris’s Bill was the way to go. It claimed the whole issue was a lot more complicated.

(My guess is the risk of finally losing Australia in the process was very much frowned upon by the Palace.)

cherami said...

Cameron should move a vote of no confidence immediately after the fiasco the G20 is going to be. He'll lose, but it might concentrate the minds of the decent Labour MPs.

Then he should go through the moves to impeach Blair, Brown and Darling.

He'll lose that too, but Brown needs to feel the fingers round his throat and Cameron needs to be seen to play hardball - even harder ball than the excellent Hannan.

Astro-Turf Lawnmower said...

There seems to be some confusion here, so allow me to clear a couple of things up:

1. The Tories won the 1983 General Election because people did not want Michael Foot and his barking mates ruining the country like they did in the 1970s, not because of the Falklands War.

2. Europe did not enjoy peace because of the EEC. It enjoyed peace because nuclear deterrence (on both sides) worked.

Unsworth said...

Apart from Gardner's boringly repetitious use of the term 'bollocks' does he provide any evidence as to how "It succeeded"? He seeks to attribute this 'success' to the EU (and actually what were its 'predecessors'?)- but has not described the methodology nor shown evidence as to its implementation. Indeed a casual look at the history of the EU shows very little reference to prevention of war at all, but there are multitudes of references to (attempted) trade integrations of various forms.

So, did/does the EEC have some means of eliminating wars between its members, if so, what might they be? Is there some sort of EU armed body which can take action in such arenas as The Balkans, or in former territories of the USSR and so on?

And let's never, ever, forget Clausewitz, eh?

Anonymous said...

HAS ANYONE RECORDED THE 15 HOURS OF THE GENERAL ELECION 1979 SO I CAN BUY IT OFF THEM????

Saw the 1979 General Election when shown on Bank Holiday of May 4 2009. - When it was on for 15 hrs.

It was only on for 2 hours on the BBC IPlayer on the most interesting part, @The Morning After". --- Not the 9 hours it should have been on there.

HAS ANYONE RECORDED THE 15 HOURS OF THE GENERAL ELECION 1979 SO I CAN BUY IT OFF THEM??? --- OR SEE IT ON THE YOUTUBE??

They'll probably show the 1983 again and the 1979 like for 6 hours in 2008 but not the @Morning After" parts. - - - - You cant record off the BBC IPlayer either.

The great 70s one is the most interesting. Anyone recorded the 1959,1964+1974 elections so I can buy that off them too!!!

Anonymous said...

Has anyone got the web address of Kelvin McKenzie's blog?