Lecture: Jim Callaghan: A Reputation Revised

at Marlborough Road Methodist Church

Speaker: Dr Martin Holmes

Jim Callaghan is widely regarded as a thoroughly decent man but a less than successful prime minister, 1976-79. In mitigation he did inherit high inflation, a falling pound and a weak economy from his predecessors Ted Heath and Harold Wilson which meant that an application to the IMF for a bailout happened on Callaghan’s watch.

Tough though the IMF terms were, Callaghan successfully shielded the NHS and Welfare State from the budgetary discipline that was imposed. More successful was his handling of EEC issues especially his decision to keep the pound out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1978 to prevent any possible rise in unemployment. But his handling of the ‘Winter of Discontent’ in 1979 is more difficult to excuse. Despite his extensive background as a trade unionist, his government blundered by imposing a 5 per cent pay restraint policy at exactly the wrong time as a general election loomed with the prospect of a Thatcher victory.

Dr Martin Holmes is a Senior Common Room member at St Hugh’s College, Oxford University, where he was previously Lecturer in Politics for over 20 years. He is the author of seven books including The Labour Government, 1974-79 which covers the period of the Callaghan government. His latest book From the Treaty of Versailles to the Treaty of Maastricht was published by Routledge in August 2022.

Attendance is free to members; £5 for non-members.

This talk is at our usual venue Marlborough Road Methodist Church only. To register, please visit our Eventbrite page.

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