On Friday 23rd July 1965, Sir Alec Douglas-Home resigned as leader of Britain’s Conservative Party. The Shadow Chancellor Edward Heath and Shadow Foreign Secretary Reginald Maudling were the obvious contenders with a number of ‘possibles’ hovering in the background. In the end only the Shadow Transport Minister Enoch Powell stood.
Reginald Maudling was the most experienced and publicly known of the candidates and was generally considered to be the favourite although Edward Heath was thought to be a reasonable outsider.
It was on today – Tuesday 27th July 1965 – that the vote was announced: was as follows:
Enoch Powell – 15 votes; Reginald Maudling – 133 votes; Edward Heath – 150 votes
The actual rules in place required the victor to have both an absolute majority (which Heath had narrowly achieved) and, in the first ballot, at least a 15% lead of votes actually cast. As Heath had not achieved the latter hurdle, the election could have gone to further rounds but Reginald Maudling conceded defeat and Heath was duly declared leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition in Parliament – a position he held until Friday 19th June 1970 when he became the Prime Minister of Great Britain.
I know that in this year the 14th July is on today – Friday. However – amongst the bits and pieces I have gathered and horded over the years, I’ve discovered this fascinating sequence of comments that were published on Saturday 14th July 1990. The comments quoted were obviously made on previous days, but it was this day that a newspaper – probably The Independent – put them all together:
Nicholas Ridley – the then Trade & Industry Secretary – on German influence on the European Commission: ‘I am not against giving up sovereignty in principle, but not to this lot. You might just as well give it to Adolph Hitler, frankly.’
Nicholas Ridley – when this remark was reported: ‘This time I’ve really gone and done it.’
Jessica Ridley: ‘My father is not all that important. I mean, he’s not the Prime Minister or anything, is he?’
An unknown senior Conservative on Ridley’s comments: ‘It’s the whisky and the loaded revolver for him.’
It was on Friday 13th March – unlucky for some, but not for others – 1970 that the British Conservative Party celebrated a big majority in a by-election in Bridgwater, Somerset. ‘So what’ one might say.
The ‘so what’ was the historic fact that, for the very first time, 18 year olds were now allowed to vote in Parliamentary elections in Britain! The new legislation had come into force in January 1970 completing the updating of voting in Britain. Up until that point, you had to be 21 years old before you were eligible to vote. In fact it was only in 1928 that women had been given the same voting rights as men. Up until 1918, they could only vote when they had reached the age of 30.
Twenty-one had always been the point at which young people ‘attained their majority’ or ‘came of age’. At this age they were regarded as adults and were allowed to vote and could get married without permission from their parents. When moves were made to lower the voting age to 18 it was considered a bit controversial, as some people felt that it was too young!
This result was totally unexpected as opinion polls had predicted an easy victory for Labour on the back of a healthy economy and large pay rises. However – on 18th May Harold Wilson called a general election for 18th June. His Labour Party lost that election to Edward Heath’s Conservatives.
This Saturday, 30th January 1965, saw one of the largest assemblies of world statesmen in history when Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral was held – regarded by many as a day when Britain ‘stood still’.
The following is based mainly on BBC reports with personal memories included:
‘Thousands of people had paid their last respects to Britain’s greatest wartime leader Sir Winston Churchill who was buried today after a full state funeral. A total of 321,360 people filed past the catafalque during the three days of his lying-in-state.
Silent crowds lined the streets to watch the gun carriage bearing Sir Winston’s coffin leave Westminster Hall as Big Ben struck 09.45. The procession travelled slowly through central London to St Paul’s Cathedral for the funeral service.
Many millions around the world watched the funeral procession at home and abroad as television pictures were beamed from 40 BBC cameras placed along the route.
The mourners were led by Sir Winston’s wife, Lady Clementine Churchill, his son Randolph and daughters Mary Soames and Lady Sarah Audley. The Queen and other members of the Royal family; the Prime Minister Mr Harold Wilson and representatives of 112 countries packed into the Cathedral for the service.
The funeral cortege was accompanied by a 19-gun salute and an RAF fly-past as it began the journey to Sir Winston’s final resting place. At Tower Hill the coffin was piped aboard the launch ‘Havengore‘ for the voyage up the Thames and then toWaterloo Station where the coffin was placed onto a train drawn by a Battle of Britain locomotive named Winston Churchill. Thousands gathered to pay tribute at wayside stations as the coffin passed while, at many football matches, a two-minute silence was observed.
Sir Winston was finally laid to rest in the Oxfordshire parish churchyard of Bladon, close to Blenheim Palace where he was born 90 years before. Only family members were present at his internment.
The night of Friday, 29th January 1965, was one of bitter rain and snow but that didn’t stop many men and women from taking up their positions for the following day’s state funeral.
While they were taking their places in the cold and wet the the Earl Marshal, Duke of Norfolk, was rehearsing the pallbearers duties inside St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Throughout that day and night there was a steady drumbeat, beating out the minutes in that day-long final flurry of rehearsals for the nation’s last tribute to Sir Winston Churchill.
The sound of 65 beats to the minute on a black-draped drum started in the pre-dawn darkness and echoed eerily through empty streets as 5,000 Servicemen escorted the heavy gun carriage and a lead-weighted coffin in a ghostly parade along the funeral route. Come the morning daylight that will carry Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill in the first stage of his final resting place.
The troops left Westminster as Big Ben struck 04.45 a.m.
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was one of of the great men of British politics in the 20th century. Over the coming days I’ll tell more about his very varied life but today is the day his life ended.
He had been involved in two world wars – being Prime Minister in the second of these conflicts. After the British general election of October 1951 he had become Prime Minister of Britain for the second time. In 1953 he suffered a serious stroke but remained in the role of Prime Minister until 1955 when he retired from that role. However, he didn’t leave his place in Parliament – remaining a Member of Parliament until 1964.
On 15th January 1965 he suffered a severe stroke and died at his London home nine days later, aged 90, on the morning of Sunday 24th January 1965, 70 years to the day after his own father’s death.
Following his death Queen Elizabeth II granted him the honour of a state funeral.