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Do you agree with the view that the Government of Edward Heath was primarily a failure?

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Introduction

Do you agree with the view that the Government of Edward Heath was primarily a failure? It is undoubtedly true that during Heath's time in office, he faced numerous defeats, many of them at the hands of the Trade Unions such as the coal miners strike that is mentioned in source 5, which resulted in the introduction of the 3 day week in Britain. However, Heath did manage to move Britain forward in other areas such as joining the EEC. Source 4 talk of how the Conservative party under Heath "brought the country to the edge of bankruptcy and breakdown". Indeed the fact that "more and more people" were losing their jobs resulted in an unemployment figure of 1,023,583 in 1972. This, coupled with the "still higher food prices" meant that it was hard for families to support themselves, under a government that had said it would "reduce the rise in prices, increase production and reduce unemployment". This rise in food prices came as a result of Britain joining the EEC, as the EEC forced Britain to place tariffs on it's imports of food from the Commonwealth.

Middle

However, it was heath that succeed in gaining Britain entry into the EEC where his two predecessors had failed, as source 6 states. This brought with it access to European development grants and the ability for British workers to go the other countries within the EEC to find work. As Britain was now part of the EEC, it became vastly more attractive to foreign investors, as it meant that it had better trade links. Source 6 also mentions that Heath modernized local government. This meant that there were new district boundaries drawn and that a new system of County, Metropolitan and non-metro politician councils were set up. While this did go a long way to the modernization of British government, it was not hugely popular with much of the country. This was because the "reorganization of government" as source 6 calls it, was seen as an attack on the local identity of the varying counties of the country, which resulted in old place names disappearing. Along with modernizing local government, Heath introduced decimalisation into the UK. The replaced the old system of currency with a new one, which is still used in the UK today.

Conclusion

Heath was vital in the modernizing of Britain, removing it from a state of enduring post colonialism that it had been for most of the previous century. He reformed Britain in the ways that it had to be for it to be able to move out of the rut in which had been stuck, and doing so cost him the election. He was tough on the unions, despite the costs that it had for him and the country. The dealing with the miners was a massive failing as the economic cost for the country as a whole was far more substantial than the cost of a wage increase would have been it the first place. The fact that the miners got what they wanted and the government lost face, as well as time when the miners were on strike. The call of "who governs britain?" was answered by this with a resounding call of not you. Heath's government was primarily a failing because of what it was that he chose to focus on and what he got attention for. Had things been different, then while there might have been elements of failure within his government, it would most likely not have been seen as the large failure that it unfortunately seen to be. Jonty Edgar

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