Prime Minister Edward Heath, leader of the Conservative Party in Britain from 1970-1974 and noted for having one of the more difficult periods in office during a time when the political climate in Britain was rivaling our own in many ways. Although there was no Watergate scandal looming at 10 Downing Street, there was the matter of Unions and economic crises overtaking Britain at the time. Scandals involving Heath wouldn’t surface until much later – but for the time all the issues were political. Heath was confronted with several policies which were put in place by the previous Labour Government, including the decimalization of British coin currency, Family Income Supplement was introduced and the age which you could leave school was raised to 16. But with that and many other reforms in place, the unemployment rate skyrocketed in 1972 to a million, the highest rate it had been in decades. In his attempt to deal with labor unions, Heath introduced the Industrial Relations Act of 1971. One of the blows dealt to the Heath government was the death of Chancellor of The Exchequer Ian Macleod in 1970 and was replaced by Anthony Barber as the unemployment rate soared in 1973. But Macleod adapted a Keynesian approach to the economy and the result was a dramatic drop in the unemployment rate by 1974. It wasn’t to last however, as several other factors contributed to a return of high unemployment and continued economic turmoil which would last until Heath was replaced by Harold Wilson in 1975 and eventually Margaret Thatcher.
This National Press Club appearance comes during a time when Edward Heath was paying a State Visit to President Nixon, no doubt providing a much needed break from the daily revelations coming from Watergate.
Here is that Press Club appearance, as broadcast by NPR on February 2, 1973.