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Those were the days

The three 1970s governments are remembered as uniquely incompetent. They weren't

By Andy Beckett   May 2009

Student demonstrations at Manchester in 1971

In 2005, when Tony Blair was still prime minister and people still believed he was presiding over a British economic miracle, his party conference speech made a pointed historical detour. Jim Callaghan, his predecessor as Labour premier, had died a few months earlier. Blair paid him, and other Labour politicians who ran Britain in the 1970s, a distinctly double-edged tribute: “they were great people. But [they] were not ready… to see change was coming.”

Conservatives are less restrained about Britain’s 1970s governments. The IMF crisis, the winter of discontent, overwhelmed ministers, Britain at a…

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