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Crossing the floorReg Prentice and the crisis of British social democracy$
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Geoff Horn

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780719088698

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719088698.001.0001

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Cabinet Cassandra

Cabinet Cassandra

(p.71) 5 Cabinet Cassandra
Crossing the floor

Geoff Horn

Manchester University Press

This chapter considers the experience of the Labour Government during the crucial eighteen month period following the general election of February 1974, including the nature of the Social Contract and the Government‘s failure to effectively tackle Britain‘s economic problems. It does so by reference to Prentice‘s experience in the Labour Cabinet as Secretary of State for Education, focussing on his important Cabinet alliance with Roy Jenkins and his increasingly fractious relationship with the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. The alliance with Jenkins enabled Prentice to resume his controversial and outspoken campaign in favour of moderate social democracy. By speaking out against the policy preferences of the Left, he represented, in its most overt form, the growing gap between Labour‘s parliamentary leadership and the extra-parliamentary party of left-wing activists and militant trade unionists. The EEC referendum campaign highlighted still further these growing divisions and threatened to split the Party. Prentice‘s controversial role in the campaign, with his call for national unity, brought his relations with Wilson to a head and provided the trigger for a successful challenge from within his local party.

Keywords:   Labour Government, Social Contract, Cabinet alliance, national unity, EEC referendum (1975)

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