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This is Sam Pollock in London the British people have voted aye in the Returning Officer for Battersea self constituency hereby give notice number of votes for each candidate the election was followed. They need only three thousand two hundred ninety four range consumer task six hundred fifteen. Any joy which Labor 12000. That is the size changes its member of parliament a Conservative seat falls to labor it was the first of many which changed hands to give the Labor Party a tiny majority in the next parliament and to confirm Harold Wilson as the British people's choice for prime minister. But why did the country vote as it did. But why did Britain decide to change a Conservative government for a Labor one. But first a brief comment from an outside observer. Norman Rezin was in London covering the British election for an American radio network.
Well I think the British people are tired of the way they've been living. After all I live among them and I can see how British people live I think. I think they wanted a change. The cost of living in London and I can only base my experiences on London. The cost of living is fantastically high. It's about twice that of the cost of living in New York and one man who's been in the middle of the campaign right from the start and who runs one of the public opinion polls which so accurately forecast the result is Henry Duran and they director of The Daily Telegraph Gallup poll. He talked to Bernard power. It seems that local issues have played a very considerable part. We've heard for instance of the increased labor swing in those areas suffered unemployment two years ago generally speaking what would you say have been the key issues for the electorate this time. The things where
education first. First time ever. First time ever in my experience that education has played a political role in this election. Housing for about one in six housing has been an exceedingly small point and if there is any single problem that's cause the conservatives to go down to defeat as it looks as though they're going to it's housing as I would say is the single greatest issue but will the fact that they Labor majority is so small make a firm government difficult or even impossible. Donnelly granted Williams asked two men who watched parliament over the last few Yes Richard Marsh a Young Labor Member of Parliament and Childers experience political journalist who had this to say about the difficulties of small majorities. Well I think the obvious difficulty is the general one of the atmosphere that's projected into the country by this kind of slender majority if you have month
after month after month of reports you know of intensive how dressing of a government by a large opposition narrow majorities on bills reported obviously this is Dilla tears but it's perfectly possible to proceed with orderly government on the basis of a small majority and probably easier now than it was shall we say 20 years ago for a number of reasons to matter can I talk to you here and don't ask you to take up that blanket Aeschines just made as a member of parliament. Well the last really small majority we had was between 1950 to 51 when the Labor Party then had a majority of six. Now that was a terribly difficult period. The power of the parliament was kept up all night long night after night snap votes were taken men were brought in from hospital and really it did enormous damage to I think the prestige of British Parliament of the British parliament. For that reason as soon as they took office in 1951
the Conservatives with the agreement of the opposition did in fact change the standing order of the House of Commons. The result being that it would not be possible to hold snap votes to keep the entire house up night after night. You can now only have for example an all night sitting on certain specified occasions. So while it would be foolish to underestimate the enormous difficulty of running an administration with a tiny majority it certainly would be easier now than it was in 1951 Aski looking now to the future. Do you feel that a small majority of this kind is going to be more difficult for a Labor government than it would have been for a Conservative government for the reason that I have a governor's lack if you want to make rather more radical moves and take rather more radical legislative action and this will be more difficult than just carrying on as before. Yes I think this is a there's a balance here for. But if the Labor government were with this small majority were to go ahead shall we say with
immediate and full scale fulfillment of its public governorship election pledges that say for example on steel and water this could become difficult on the other hand most of the other policies of the Labor government are policies where the conservatives might very well begin to lose public support if they barracked and harassed too much. People tend to say Well for goodness sake give them a chance give the government a chance. What's the point in this we don't want another election tomorrow. So it's a very evenly balanced thing I don't know whether Richard Marsh would agree. I think this is this is very true and of course for a lot of the you the big difference is that the conservatives will be in the position of having to vote against rather than avoid initiating. Now it's one thing to not bring forward a policy which is perhaps progressive or. Popular and you can get away with this. It's a very difficult thing as asking childer says to stand up for example and fight against and take just one domestic example an increase in
old age pensions so that yes it would be difficult for the for the Labor Party very very difficult but not so difficult. And of course on the other a wide range of issues the small liberal group with the exception of the nationalization of steel and nationalization of road haulage on a wide range certainly the range of a field of foreign policy would be a white measure of agreement between the liberal members and the socialist members talking about foreign policy asking I'd like to ask you Do you think that having a government with a very small majority in this country would damage the seriousness with which people abroad took Britain. British Government No I don't think so I think. I think this above all is a question of what one could call the foreign policy leadership. This is the this is the place where the stature of the prime minister and his foreign secretary the way they handle crises and the way they handle negotiations the way they appear before the rest of the world is what counts.
And what then are they new attitudes on foreign policy which the world can expect from a Labor government and a Labor prime minister. For one side view here again is Richard Marsh. Well I think the difference it will make foreign policy really as a quid is a difference of emphasis for example the British Conservative Party has voted for the admission of communist China the United Nations Organization a Labor Government would I hope actively promote the admission of communist China. United Nations organization in regard to South Africa and Portugal and some of their policies have been disapproved of by the British government in the past. This would clearly be continued on a much more forceful going by the Labor Party. So I think it's really a question of emphasis rather than any dramatic change of direction. But what about labor under a developing world. Here we brought Shirley Williams into the discussion. She is a Labor MP who has specialized on the
economics of the developing world. We asked her about Day Labor governments attitudes to aid for developing nations. Well first it will come to power in a period of serious economic crisis the person and this will necessarily limit anything it can do. I would have thought one of the named things that we would do would be to bring in this policy of trying to make any surplus capacity available as additional aid in addition to what we do already here because this would not affect the balance of payments. The actual speed at which we can increase able to pend upon how quickly we can take the economic situation into hand I think. But I would accept this is the great problem of there are two problems one is this question of giving aid which at the moment is going to be very difficult to read about in the much bigger one I think is trying to increase the degree of economic cooperation between the countries of the Commonwealth. The Labor Party is committed to and would have a much better effect a much bigger effect in the long run than merely allotments surveyed the aim of trying to
also bring in bring back the long term contracts for commodities would obviously be a big help to many countries in Africa because they would then have a stable price for their big export produce big export product. And how does Africa welcome the change. David what is a radio journalist from time going to David Riccati What does this mean for Africa. Well I think everybody in Africa wanted the Labor Party to win. Apart from anything else I think 13 years has been rather too long for one government struggle in this country and I see. We feel that or at least I feel that there are people in the Labor Party who have quite some sympathy and they understand the African problems I think. Over in London from a stranger is radio journalist colonic dollar in the field said the older Commonwealth member countries such as Australia Canada New Zealand obviously mixed reaction.
But I think on the issue of for instance of the Common Market negotiations the Tory image was somewhat tarnished. There were very strong suggestions that they were determined to get into the common market with only token gestures to protect Commonwealth trade interests. The Labor Party which seems to be much more cautious in its approach to Common Market negotiations and perhaps has no real intention of ever trying to get into the Common Market. Because of that it's probably more highly regarded by more primary producers in a number of Commonwealth countries who see their own markets in Britain being better protected by a Labor government than by a Tory government. The Canadian Patrick Keatley is Commonwealth correspondent of The Guardian The Mystic. How do you see Labor's attitude towards the outside world. Well I must say that the Canadian view is in the top of my mind because here in the
BBC headquarters we've been linked up with countries around the world on these election broadcasts and the link to Canada has been what we call a live line and from the other end political correspondents in Ottawa are friends of mine who I used to work with in the press gallery there in the House of Commons in Ottawa and I've been saying first and foremost the Common Market is the thing that matters to Canada with the change of government in Britain and what will be the attitude of Harold Wilson. Well it does appear Wilson has committed himself to Wilson going out on a limb. He has said that he does not propose to enter negotiations on the terms that we saw. Under the Macmillan government so for the moment that appears to be closed off we Canadians are certainly anxious because a great number of Canadian products selling here on the British market where in grave jeopardy and that of course is a situation repeated in many Commonwealth countries. Basically their primary products that would be affected and that for the moment that seems that situation seems to be assured for the Commonwealth producers. We do expect I think to see
and hear I'm looking as a correspondent in London looking at the Commonwealth countries as a whole. We do expect to see the poorer countries if you like the Southern tropical countries getting a bigger break under the Labor Party. Mr. Wilson has pledged himself to do this to give their products the maximum access to Europe and in particular to stabilize the prices to give them some sort of long term guarantee something they can make their plans on because plantations agricultural produce you need to be able to make long term plans. And here up till now under the Tories It's been a case of yearly annual fluctuations in markets or even shorter periods and that the men whom the British people have chosen as prime minister has got his plate full of problems. The election was a tough fight. The government will be a lot tougher. And that was the BBC report on the British general election. This is Sam Pollack in London. This is the National Education already on at work.
British general election
1964 Election Outcome
Producing Organization
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
British Broadcasting Corporation
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program analyzes the 1964 general election in Great Britain.
Series Description
The outcome of the 1964 general election in Great Britain is explored by various journalists and politicians.
Broadcast Date
Global Affairs
Politics and Government
Media type
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Host: Pollock, Sam
Interviewee: Childers, Erskine
Interviewee: Marsh, Richard, 1928-2011
Interviewee: Williams, Shirley, 1930-
Interviewee: Wakati, David
Interviewee: McDonald, Colin
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Producing Organization: British Broadcasting Corporation
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 64-Sp.17C-1 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:13:39
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Chicago: “British general election; 1964 Election Outcome,” 1964-10-22, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 4, 2023,
MLA: “British general election; 1964 Election Outcome.” 1964-10-22. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 4, 2023. <>.
APA: British general election; 1964 Election Outcome. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from