LEONARD JAMES CALLAGHAN, BARON CALLAGHAN OF CARDIFF, KG , PC (27
March 1912 – 26 March 2005), often known as JIM CALLAGHAN, was a
British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
from 1976 to 1979 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1976 to 1980 .
Callaghan is to date, the only British politician in history to have
served in all four of the "
Great Offices of State ", having been
Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1964–67,
Home Secretary from
1967-70, and Foreign Secretary from 1974, until his appointment as
Prime Minister in 1976. As Prime Minister, he had some successes, but
is mainly remembered for the "
Winter of Discontent " of 1978–79.
During a very cold winter, his battle with trade unions led to massive
strikes that seriously inconvenienced the public, leading to his
defeat in the polls by Conservative leader
Upon entering the House of Commons in 1945, he was on the left-wing
of the party. Callaghan steadily moved towards the right, but
maintained his reputation as "The Keeper of the Cloth Cap" – that is
he was seen as dedicated to maintaining close ties between the Labour
Party and the trade unions. Callaghan's period as Chancellor of the
Exchequer coincided with a turbulent period for the British economy,
during which he had to wrestle with a balance of payments deficit and
speculative attacks on the pound sterling (its exchange rate to other
currencies was almost fixed by the
Bretton Woods system ). On 18
November 1967, the government devalued the pound sterling. Callaghan
became Home Secretary. He sent the British Army to support the police
After Labour were defeated at the 1970 general election, Callaghan
played a key role in the Shadow Cabinet . He became Foreign Secretary
in 1974, taking responsibility for renegotiating the terms of the UK's
membership of the
European Economic Community , and supporting a "Yes"
vote in the 1975 referendum to remain in the EEC. When Prime Minister
Callaghan remained as Leader of the Labour Party until November 1980, to reform the process by which the party elected its leader, before returning to the backbenches where he remained until he was made a life peer as Baron Callaghan of Cardiff.
* 1 Early life and career
* 2 Parliament and Cabinet, 1945–76
* 3 Prime Minister (1976–79)
* 3.1 "Winter of Discontent"
* 4 Resignation, backbenches and retirement * 5 Personal life * 6 Historiography * 7 Cultural depictions * 8 Titles from birth to death * 9 Arms * 10 See also * 11 Notes
* 12 References
* 12.1 Books by Callaghan * 12.2 Biographies and studies * 12.3 Memoirs
* 13 External links
EARLY LIFE AND CAREER
Callaghan was born at 38 Funtington Road, Copnor,
He had an older sister, Dorothy Gertrude Callaghan (1904–82). He
At the age of 17, Callaghan left to work as a clerk for the Inland Revenue . While working as a tax inspector, Callaghan was instrumental in establishing the Association of Officers of Taxes as a trade union for those in his profession and became a member of its national executive. While at the Inland Revenue offices in Kent, in 1931, he joined the Maidstone branch of the Labour Party. In 1934, he was transferred to Inland Revenue offices in London. Following a merger of unions in 1936, Callaghan was appointed a full-time union official and to the post of Assistant Secretary of the Inland Revenue Staff Federation and resigned from his Civil Service duties.
His union position at the
Inland Revenue Federation brought Callaghan
into contact with
Whilst on leave, Callaghan was selected as a Parliamentary candidate
PARLIAMENT AND CABINET, 1945–76
Labour won a landslide victory on 26 July 1945 bringing Clement
Attlee to power. Callaghan won his
Callaghan was soon appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry
of Transport in 1947 where, advised by the young chief constable of
Callaghan was popular with Labour MPs and was elected to the Shadow
Cabinet every year while the Labour Party was in opposition from 1951
to 1964. He was now a staunch Gaitskellite on the right wing. He was
Parliamentary Adviser to the Police Federation from 1955 to 1960 when
he negotiated an increase in police pay with the then general
Arthur Charles Evans . He ran for the Deputy Leadership of
the party in 1960 as an opponent of unilateral nuclear disarmament,
and despite the other candidate of the Labour right (George Brown )
agreeing with him on this policy, he forced Brown to a second vote. In
November 1961, Callaghan became shadow chancellor. When Hugh Gaitskell
died in January 1963, Callaghan ran to succeed him, but came third in
the leadership contest, which was won by
CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (1964–67)
In October 1964, Conservative Prime Minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home
(who had only been in power for 12 months since the resignation of
Harold Macmillan ) called a general election . It was a tough
election, but Labour won a narrow majority, gaining 56 seats (a total
of 317 to the Conservatives' 304). The new Labour government under
On 11 November, Callaghan gave his first budget and announced increases in income tax, petrol tax and the introduction of a new capital gains tax , actions which most economists deemed necessary to take the heat out of the balance and sterling deficit, though international bankers disagreed.
On 23 November, it was decided to increase the bank rate from 2% to
7% which generated a large amount of criticism. Handling the crisis
was made more difficult by the attitude of Lord Cromer , the Governor
Bank of England
In July, the pound came under extreme pressure and Callaghan was
forced to create harsh temporary measures to demonstrate control of
the economy. These include suspending all current government building
projects and postponing new pension plans. The alternative was to
allow the pound to float or to devalue it. Callaghan and Wilson,
however, were again adamant that a devaluation of the pound would
create new social and economic problems and continued to take a firm
stance against it. The government continued to struggle both with the
economy and with the slender majority which, by 1966, had been reduced
to one. On 28 February,
Callaghan introduced his next Budget on 4 May. He had informed the house that he would bring a full Budget to the House when he made his 'little budget' speech prior to the election. The main point of his budget was the introduction of a Selective Employment Tax , penalising the service industry and favouring the manufacturing industry. Twelve days after the budget, the National Union of Seamen called a national strike and the problems facing Sterling were multiplied. Additional strikes caused the balance of payments deficit to increase and the 3.3 billion loan was now due. Unemployment was also rising; it had been just over 300,000 when Labour came to power, but two years later it was climbed to more than 500,000.
On 14 July, the bank rate was increased again to seven percent. On 20 July, Callaghan announced an emergency ten-point programme with a six-month freeze on wage and salary increases. By 1967, the economy had begun to stabilise once again and the bank rate was reduced to 6% in March and 5.5% in May.
The economy was soon in turmoil again, with the Middle East crisis
Before the devaluation, Jim Callaghan had announced publicly to the Press and the House of Commons that he would not devalue, something he later said was necessary to maintain confidence in the pound and avoid creating jitters in the financial markets. Callaghan immediately offered his resignation as Chancellor and increasing political opposition forced Wilson to accept it. Wilson then moved Roy Jenkins , the Home Secretary, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Callaghan became the new Home Secretary on 30 November 1967.
HOME SECRETARY (1967–70)
Callaghan's tenure as
Home Secretary was marked by the emerging
Callaghan was also responsible for the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1968 ; a controversial piece of legislation prompted by Conservative assertions that an influx of Kenyan Asians would soon inundate the country. It passed through the Commons in a week and placed entry controls on holders of British passports who had "no substantial connection" with Britain by setting up a new system. In his memoirs _Time and Chance_, Callaghan wrote that introducing the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill had been an unwelcome task but that he did not regret it. He claimed the Asians had "discovered a loophole" and he told a BBC interviewer: "Public opinion in this country was extremely agitated, and the consideration that was in my mind was how we could preserve a proper sense of order in this country and, at the same time, do justice to these people—I had to balance both considerations". An opponent of the Act, Conservative MP Ian Gilmour , asserted that it was "brought in to keep the blacks out. If it had been the case that it was 5,000 white settlers who were coming in, the newspapers and politicians, Callaghan included, who were making all the fuss would have been quite pleased".
Also significant was the passing of the Race Relations Act in the same year, making it illegal to refuse employment, housing or education on the basis of ethnic background. The Act extended the powers of the Race Relations Board at the time, to deal with complaints of discrimination and unfair attitudes. It also set up a new supervisory body, the Community Relations Commission, to promote "harmonious community relations". Presenting the Bill to Parliament, the Home Secretary, Jim Callaghan, said: "The House has rarely faced an issue of greater social significance for our country and our children." Callaghan in 1970, with the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland James Chichester-Clark
In 1969, Callaghan, a strong supporter of the Labour–Trade Union link, led the successful opposition in a divided cabinet to Barbara Castle 's White Paper " In Place of Strife " which sought to modify Trade Union law. Amongst its numerous proposals were plans to force unions to call a ballot before a strike was held and the establishment of an Industrial Board to enforce settlements in industrial disputes. Ironically, if the proposals had become law, many of the activities of the trades unions during the Winter of Discontent a decade later would have been illegal.
Following Wilson's unexpected defeat by Edward Heath in the 1970 General Election , Callaghan declined to challenge him for the leadership despite Wilson's vulnerability. This did much to rehabilitate him in Wilson's eyes. He was in charge of drawing up a new policy statement in 1972 which contained the idea of the Social Contract between the government and trade unions. He also did much to ensure that Labour opposed the Heath government's bid to enter the Common Market —forcing Wilson's hand by making his personal opposition clear without consulting the Party Leader.
FOREIGN SECRETARY (1974–76)
When Wilson won the next general election and returned as Prime Minister in March 1974, he appointed Callaghan as Foreign Secretary which gave him responsibility for renegotiating the terms of the United Kingdom's membership of the Common Market. When the talks concluded, Callaghan led the Cabinet in declaring the new terms acceptable and he supported a "Yes" vote in the 1975 referendum .
1976 LEADERSHIP ELECTION
Barely two years after beginning his second spell as prime minister,
Wilson announced his surprise resignation on 16 March 1976, and
unofficially endorsed Callaghan as his successor. Callaghan was the
favourite to win the leadership election ; although he was the oldest
candidate, he was also the most experienced and least divisive.
Popularity with all parts of the Labour movement saw him through the
ballot of Labour MPs to win the leadership vote. On 5 April 1976, at
the age of 64 years and 9 days, Callaghan became Prime Minister –
the oldest person to become Prime Minister at time of appointment
PRIME MINISTER (1976–79)
Callaghan was the only Prime Minister to have held all three leading
Cabinet positions –
Chancellor of the Exchequer ,
Home Secretary and
Foreign Secretary – prior to becoming Prime Minister. Callaghan
meets with US President
During his first year in office, Callaghan started what has since
become known as 'The Great Debate', when he spoke at
Ruskin College ,
Callaghan's time as Prime Minister was dominated by the troubles in
running a Government with a minority in the House of Commons : he was
forced to make deals with minor parties to survive – including the
Lib–Lab pact , and he had been forced to accept a referendum on
devolution in Scotland as well as one in Wales (the former went in
favour but did not reach the required majority, and the latter went
heavily against). He also became prime minister at a time when Britain
was suffering from double-digit percentage inflation and rising
unemployment. He responded to the economic crises by adopting
deflationary policies to reduce inflation, and cutting public
expenditure – a precursor to the monetarist economic policies that
the next government, a Conservative one led by
Despite the economic difficulties faced by the government, over the summer of 1978 (shortly after the end of the Lib-Lab pact ) most opinion polls showed Labour ahead, and the expectation grew that Callaghan would call an autumn election that would have given him a second term in office until autumn 1983. The economy had also started to show signs of recovery by this time. 1978 was a year of economic recovery for Britain, with inflation falling to single digits, unemployment declining during the year, and general living standards going up by more than 8%. Famously, he strung along the opposition and was expected to make his declaration of election in a broadcast on 7 September 1978. His decision to put off the election, at the time, seen by many as a sign of his domination of the political scene and he ridiculed his opponents by singing old-time music hall star Vesta Victoria 's song " Waiting at the Church " at that month's Trades Union Congress meeting: now seen as one of the greatest moments of hubris in modern British politics, but celebrated at the time. Callaghan intended to convey the message that he had not promised an election, but most observers misread his message as an assertion that he would call an election, and the Conservatives would not be ready for it.
"WINTER OF DISCONTENT"
Main article: Winter of Discontent
Callaghan's method of dealing with the long-term economic
difficulties involved pay restraint which had been operating for four
years with reasonable success. He gambled that a fifth year would
further improve the economy and allow him to be re-elected in 1979,
and so attempted to hold pay rises to 5% or less. The trade unions
rejected continued pay restraint and in a succession of strikes over
the winter of 1978–79 (known as the
Winter of Discontent ) secured
higher pay. The industrial unrest made his government extremely
unpopular, and Callaghan's response to one interview question only
made it worse. Returning to the
The Winter of Discontent saw Labour's performance in the opinion polls slump dramatically. They had topped most of the pre-winter opinion polls by several points, but in February 1979 at least one opinion poll was showing the Tories 20 points ahead of Labour and it appeared certain that Labour would lose the forthcoming election.
In the buildup to the election, the _
Daily Mirror _ and _The Guardian
_ supported Labour, while _The Sun_, the _
On 28 March 1979, the House of Commons passed a Motion of No
Confidence by one vote , 311–310, which forced Callaghan to call a
general election that was held on 3 May. The Conservatives under
Callaghan's failure to call an election during 1978 was widely seen as a political miscalculation; indeed, he himself later admitted that not calling an election was an error of judgement. However, private polling by the Labour Party in the autumn of 1978 had shown the two main parties with about the same level of support. After losing power in 1979, Labour would spend the next 18 years in opposition.
Historians Alan Sked and Chris Cook have summarized the general consensus of historians regarding Labour in power in the 1970s: If Wilson's record as prime minister was soon felt to have been one of failure, that sense of failure was powerfully reinforced by Callaghan's term as premier. Labour, it seemed, was incapable of positive achievements. It was unable to control inflation, unable to control the unions, unable to solve the Irish problem, unable to solve the Rhodesian question, unable to secure its proposals for Welsh and Scottish devolution, unable to reach a popular _modus vivendi_ with the Common Market, unable even to maintain itself in power until it could go to the country and the date of its own choosing. It was little wonder, therefore, that Mrs Thatcher resoundingly defeated it in 1979.
RESIGNATION, BACKBENCHES AND RETIREMENT
Notwithstanding electoral defeat, Callaghan stayed on as Labour
leader until 15 October 1980, shortly after the party conference had
voted for a new system of election by electoral college involving the
individual members and trade unions. His resignation ensured that his
successor would be elected by MPs only. After a campaign that laid
bare the deep internal divisions of the parliamentary Labour Party,
In 1983, he attacked Labour's plans to reduce defence, and the same year became Father of the House as the longest continually-serving member of the Commons.
In 1987, he was made a Knight of the Garter and stood down at the
1987 general election after 42 years as an MP. Shortly afterwards, he
was elevated to the
House of Lords
His wife, Audrey , a former chairman (1969–82) of Great Ormond
Street Hospital , spotted a letter to a newspaper which pointed out
that the copyright of _
Tony Benn recorded in his diary entry of 3 April 1997 that during the 1997 general election campaign, Callaghan was telephoned by a volunteer at Labour headquarters asking him if he would be willing to become more active in the party. According to Benn:
One young woman in her mid-twenties rang up Jim Callaghan and said to him on the phone, "Have you ever thought of being a bit more active in politics?" So Callaghan said, "Well I was a Labour Prime Minister- what more could I do?"
During an interview broadcast on the BBC 4 radio programme _The Human Button _, Callaghan became the only Prime Minister to go on record with his opinion on ordering a retaliation in the event of a nuclear attack on the United Kingdom:
If it were to become necessary or vital, it would have meant the deterrent had failed, because the value of the nuclear weapon is frankly only as a deterrent," he said. "But if we had got to that point, where it was, I felt, necessary to do it, then I would have done it. I've had terrible doubts, of course, about this. I say to you, if I had lived after having pressed that button, I could never, ever have forgiven myself.
In October 1999, Callaghan told _The Oldie Magazine_ that he would not be surprised to be considered as Britain's worst Prime Minister in 200 years. He also admitted in this interview that he "must carry the can" for the Winter of Discontent.
Callaghan's ashes were scattered in the flowerbed around the
Callaghan's interests included rugby (he played lock for Streatham RFC before the Second World War), tennis and agriculture. He married Audrey Elizabeth Moulton , whom he had met when they both worked as Sunday School teachers at the local Baptist church, in July 1938 and had three children – one son and two daughters.
* Margaret, Baroness Jay of Paddington * Julia, who married Ian Hamilton Hubbard and settled in Lancashire * Michael, who married Julia Morris and settled in Essex.
Although there is much doubt about how much belief Callaghan retained into adult life, the Baptist nonconformist ethic was a profound influence throughout all of his public and private life. According to InfoBritain, Callaghan slowly became an atheist while working with the Inland Revenue union.
One of his final public appearances came on 29 April 2002, when
shortly after his 90th birthday, he sat alongside the then-Prime
Callaghan died on 26 March 2005 at
Ringmer , East Sussex, of lobar
pneumonia , cardiac failure and kidney failure. He would have been 93
the following day. He died just 11 days after his wife of 67 years,
who had spent the last four years of her life in a nursing home due to
Alzheimer\'s disease . He died as the longest-lived former UK Prime
Minister, having beaten
Harold Macmillan 's record 39 days earlier.
Lord Callaghan was cremated, and his ashes were scattered in a
flowerbed around the base of the
After four decades, the historiography on him is still contested territory. The left wing of the Labour Party considers him a traitor whose betrayals of true socialism laid the foundations for Thatcherism. They point to his decision in 1976 to allow the International Monetary Fund to control the government budget. They accuse him of abandoning the traditional Labour commitment to full employment. They blame his rigorous pursuit of a policy of controlling income growth for the "Winter of Discontent". Writers on the right of the Labour Party complained that he was a weak leader who was unable to stand up to the left. The "New Labour" writers who admire Tony Blair identify him with the old-style partisanship that was a dead end, which a new generation of modernisers had to repudiate. Practically all commentators agree that Callaghan made a serious mistake by not calling an election in the autumn of 1978. Bernard Donoughue , a senior official in his government, depicts Callaghan as a strong and efficient administrator who stood heads above his predecessor Harold Wilson. The standard scholarly biography by Kenneth Morgan is generally favourable – at least for the middle of his premiership – while admitting failures at the beginning, at the end, and in his leadership role after Thatcher's victory. The treatment found in most textbooks and surveys of the period remains largely negative.
Further information: Cultural depictions of British prime ministers
TITLES FROM BIRTH TO DEATH
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* ^ Page 1, Callaghan: British Prime-Ministers of the 20th century,
Harry Conroy , Haus Publishing 2006
* ^ Kenneth O. Morgan, Callaghan: A Life, 1997, p.5 "His father's
mother was Elizabeth Bernstein, from Sheffield; he was, therefore, a
quarter Jewish as well."
* ^ J.N. Houterman. "Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) Officers
1939–1945". Unithistories.com. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
* ^ Page 11, Callaghan: British Prime-Ministers of the 20th
century, Harry Conroy, Haus Publishing 2006
* ^ Harry Conroy, _Callaghan: British Prime-Ministers of the 20th
* ^ Andrew Davies, _To Build A New Jerusalem: Labour Movement from
the 1890s to the 1990s_ (1992) pp 232–33
* ^ Page 35, Callaghan: British Prime-Ministers of the 20th
century, Harry Conroy, Haus Publishing 2006
* ^ Page 36, Callaghan: British Prime-Ministers of the 20th
century, Harry Conroy, Haus Publishing 2006
* ^ Page 38, Callaghan: British Prime Ministers of the 20th
century, Harry Conroy, Haus Publishing 2006
* ^ The Cabinet Papers: Reform and VAT, from the National Archives
* ^ Britain:Selective Torment, _Time_, Friday, 16 September 1966
* ^ Page 40, Callaghan: British Prime-Ministers of the 20th
century, Harry Conroy, Haus Publishing 2006
* ^ Monatsbericht 12/1967, p. 104 der
* ^ Julia Langdon (17 March 2005). "Audrey Callaghan". _The Guardian_. London. Retrieved 30 April 2010. * ^ "James Callaghan". infobritain.co.uk. Retrieved 16 August 2015.
* ^ "Queen dines with her prime ministers". BBC News. 29 April
* ^ "James Callaghan". Westminster Abbey. Retrieved 11 September
* ^ Ken Coates, _What Went Wrong?: Explaining the Fall of the
Labour Government_ (2008).
* ^ David Loades, ed., _Reader's Guide to British History_ (2003)
* ^ Stephen Haseler, _Tragedy of Labour_ (1981).
* ^ Philip Gould, _The Unfinished Revolution: How the Modernisers
Saved the Labour Party_ (1998).
* ^ Bernard Donoughue, _Prime Minister: The Conduct of Policy Under
BOOKS BY CALLAGHAN
* Callaghan, James. _Time and Chance_. Collins, 1987. * Callaghan, James. _Challenges and Opportunities for British Foreign Policy_. Fabian Society, 1975.
BIOGRAPHIES AND STUDIES
* Bell, Patrick. _The Labour Party in Opposition 1970–1974_
* Childs, David. _Britain since 1945: A Political History_ (7th
2012) pp 190–212.
* Conroy, Harry. _James Callaghan_. (Haus, 2006).
* Dell, Edmund. _The Chancellors: A History of the Chancellors of
the Exchequer, 1945–90_ (HarperCollins, 1997) pp 304–46, covers
his term as Chancellor.
* Denver, David and Mark Garnett. _British General Elections Since
1964: Diversity, Dealignment, and Disillusion_ (2014)
* Derbyshire, Dennis. _Politics in Britain: From Callaghan to
Thatcher (Political Spotlights)_. (Chambers, 1990).
* Deveney, Paul J. _Callaghan's Journey to Downing Street_ (2010),
scholarly study to 1976. excerpt
* Donoughue, Bernard. _Prime Minister: Conduct of Policy Under
* Healey, Denis. _The Time of My Life_. Michael Joseph, 1989.
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