ON THIS DAY 1974: Parties fire first live salvoes in election
- Credit: Archant
As part of a new daily online series we look back on what was making the news on this day in Norfolk. Today, we look at the Evening News front page of February 11th, 1974.
The first live salvoes were fired from the party HQs today as the election battle proper flared into action.
From the Right came another broadside from Mr Heath, aimed at extremists. And, he alleged, 'the whole axis of the Labour Party has swung to the Left wing.'
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From the Left Mr Wilson thundered at 'the ultramarine extremists' in the Conservative Party, who, he claimed, were putting pressure on Mr Heath.
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From the centre galloped Mr Thorpe, waving the Liberal sabre as the party of moderation.
First of the big two battle conferences for newsmen was at the Conservative Central Office, where Mr Heath was asked if he believed that the Labour Party had been taken over by extremists. He said, 'I certainly believe that the whole axis of the Labour Party has swung to the Left wing. There is absolutely no doubt of it.
'Whenever there was an inflationary wage demand, it was backed by the Labour Party all the time. There has never been a condemnation of the industrial unrest.' Mr Heath was also questioned clearly about the post-election strategy set out in his party manifesto, published today. He declined to spell out in detail proposals for dealing with union payment of strikers' social security benefits.
The unions had great power. But with power went responsibility, he commented. 'If trade unions call a strike, they should recognise the implications of it for themselves and fellow workers.' Earlier Mr Heath said that, if elected, the Conservatives would be able to settle with the miners because the electorate would have shown its support for a government that was going to carry out an incomes policy.
Over at Transport House, Mr Wilson condemned the election as 'fraudulent'. A Conservative attempt to continue and intensify 'disastrous and divisive work,' he called it.
Conservatives were the last people who should talk about extremism. 'They are dividing the country - they are creating militants.' Conservative handling of the coal dispute would not have been different if they had deliberately embarked upon a policy of weakening the moderate leaders and playing up to the extremists.
Answering questions, he said Mr Heath's proposals on strike benefits were increasing the division and bitterness. 'We know the pressure he is under from the extremists - in his party.' Mr Wilson disclosed that he had approached Mr Joe Gormley, the miners' leader, privately last Wednesday and asked Mr Gormley if the pits strike could be called off before the election. It would not have helped the moderates if the intervention had become public knowledge, added Mr Wilson.
When he was challenged to say if he had many 'reds under the beds,' Mr Wilson came back with, 'We sleep very, very soundly. I am extremely anxious about this feeling in the country.
'We are a democratic social cparty. We have always maintained a democratic approach.' His party would stand for the majority who were 'moderate, restrained and who are not extremist.'
Meanwhile, at the National Liberal Club, Mr Thorpe commented on the Conservative manifesto; 'Mr Heath says that extremism divides and moderation unites. This election will obviously be about Tory and Socialist extremism against Liberal moderation.' It would not be the 'one-issue' election, however much Conservatives wanted that.
And the Liberal leader proudly announced that he would have more troops in the field than at any election since 1951 - 401 candidates to date, with more to come.
Odds of 8-13 for the Conservatives to win the election were being quoted today by bookmakers Ladbroke's after 'sustained support over the weekend.' The Labour price was 5-4, and the Liberals were 200-1 outsiders.