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.
|Date formed||19 June 1970|
|Date dissolved||4 March 1974|
|People and organisations|
|Prime Minister||Edward Heath|
|Deputy Prime Minister|
|Total no. of members||211 appointments|
|Member party||Conservative Party|
|Status in legislature||Majority |
330 / 630 (52%)
|Opposition cabinet||Wilson Shadow Cabinet|
|Opposition party||Labour Party|
|Opposition leader||Harold Wilson|
|Election(s)||1970 general election|
|Outgoing election||1974 general election|
|Legislature term(s)||45th UK Parliament|
|Predecessor||Second Wilson ministry|
|Successor||Third 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.
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. 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.