Heath ministry

Edward Heath of the Conservative Party formed the Heath ministry and was appointed Prime Minister of the United Kingdom by Queen Elizabeth II on 19 June 1970, following the 18 June general election. Heath's ministry ended after the February 1974 general election, which produced a hung parliament, leading to the formation of a minority government by Harold Wilson of the Labour Party.

Heath ministry
Heath in 1969
Date formed19 June 1970 (1970-06-19)
Date dissolved4 March 1974 (1974-03-04)
People and organisations
MonarchElizabeth II
Prime MinisterEdward Heath
Deputy Prime Minister[note 1]
Total no. of members211 appointments
Member party  Conservative Party
Status in legislatureMajority
330 / 630(52%)
Opposition cabinetWilson Shadow Cabinet
Opposition party  Labour Party
Opposition leaderHarold Wilson
Election(s)1970 general election
Outgoing election1974 general election
Legislature term(s)45th UK Parliament
PredecessorSecond Wilson ministry
SuccessorThird Wilson ministry

Heath had been elected leader of the Conservative Party in 1965 to succeed Alec Douglas-Home, within a few months of the party's election defeat after 13 years in government. His first general election as leader the following year ended in defeat as Wilson's Labour government increased its majority. The Conservatives enjoyed a surge in support over the next two years as the British economy went through a period of fluctuation with growth and contraction. Unemployment rose significantly, but when Harold Wilson called a general election for June 1970, the opinion polls all pointed towards a third successive Labour victory.

It was a major surprise when the Conservatives won with a majority of 30 seats.[1]

Heath's government initially enjoyed a strong economy and relatively low unemployment, and on 1 January 1973 the United Kingdom became a member state of the European Communities, principally the European Economic Community. But then came the 1973 oil crisis, and just before Christmas, Heath declared a "three day week" in which the use of offices, factories and most public buildings was reduced to three days a week. He also faced a battle with the unions over pay freezes and restraints, which sparked a rise in strikes. The economy also entered a recession.

Heath's response in February 1974 was to call a general election, urging the voters to decide whether it was the government or the unions which ran Britain. The election on 28 February 1974 resulted in a hung parliament, in which the Conservatives had the most votes but Labour had the most seats. After talks with the Liberals about forming a coalition government failed, Labour formed a minority government on 4 March.[2] A second general election was widely anticipated later in 1974, and was called by Harold Wilson for 10 October, in which the Labour Party gained a three-seat majority. This meant that Wilson had now won four of the five general elections he had contested, while Heath had now lost three of his four general elections, and it seemed inevitable that his leadership would soon end.[3]