On This Day in History. 1970, Shock General Election Win for the Conservatives
Labour had had a difficult time in government following the 1966 general election. Problems with the balance of payments, and caving in to the unions over In Place of Strife were one thing. Devaluation of the pound in late 1967, after doing everything to avoid it for the previous three years for fear of blame, was something else.
However, by the spring of 1970, Labour was starting to do well again in the Polls, and with the World Cup in Mexico coming up, with England having won in 1966, the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson decided to take advantage of the feel good factor and the long summer days, and called for a general election on 18th June
There were some concerns, including what the trade figures would be like when released on 15th June, but these concerns were batted aside by Wilson, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Roy Jenkins. Wilson conducted Labour's campaign with confidence and was given to bragging about the Conservatives being 11 points behind. The Conservative leader, Edward Heath, however, was clearly privy to some accurate private polling, as he also conducted his campaign with clear and genuine confidence.
However, the Trade figures for June, when released on the 15th, were the first bad figures in months and were seized upon by Heath. Then, within an hour of Polls closing on 18th June, it was obvious that things had gone badly wrong for Labour. By the following day the Conservatives emerged with a majority of 30
Heath squandered that goodwill with uneven economic policy and Labour returned to office at the next general election, still led by Harold Wilson. Edward Heath was replaced as Conservative leader by Margaret Thatcher in 1975, and Harold Wilson unexpectedly resigned in 1976. It is now believed he knew he was in the early stages of Alzheimer's, which later plagued part of his retirement