The Week that Was: July 5 to 11, 1978

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A week may be a long time in politics, but a quick glance through the history books shows that some things don’t change. Back in the summer of 1978, a revolt of Labour MPs was growing over the Cabinet decision to give pay rises of up to 100 per cent to nationalised industry chairmen and top civil servants.

The MPs, who were told of the plan in a private meeting, believed it would scupper the party’s chances of winning the next general election and accused Prime Minister James Callaghan of being “out of touch with grassroots feeling”.

More than 50 MPs signed a Commons motion, sponsored by Preston South MP Stan Thorne, which condemned the decision, which it was feared would see them lose out in traditional Labour heartlands.

He said: “It is impossible to appeal to workers for pay restraint whilst agreeing to pay 100 per cent pay rises in three stages to those earning huge salaries as judges and chairmen of nationalised boards.”

Meanwhile, Edward Heath delivered a speech in Penistone, West Yorkshire, in which he called on the millions of Conservatives who had supported him for 10 years as party leader and PM to unite behind Margaret Thatcher to gain the general election victory the party wanted.

He told voters at a by-election rally the recent change in leadership and the rivalry between him and Mrs Thatcher made no difference to his determination to install a Conservative government in office once again.

Supporters had waited for Mr Heath to extend an olive branch to his successor, but he also warned the new leader against extremism: “The Conservative Party will need to show it is broadly based and its sole concern is the welfare of all our fellow citizens.”

Disgruntled Conservatives called the announcement of a new £22m, 4.5 mile-long bypass for Penistone as an “bribe” timed to coincide with the by-election to replace the late Labour MP John Mendelson. Later in the week, Labour’s Allen McKay won the seat with a majority of 5,400.

The British Steel Corporation reported a record loss of £443m for the previous year – the biggest deficit suffered by a nationalised industry.The loss of more than £1.2m every day was described by BSC chairman Sir Charles Villiers as terrible and, to add to the gloom, he was unable to hold out any prospect of an early improvement in the corporation’s finances.

Reasons for the poor performance included a shrinking market for steel and cheap foreign imports.

Ten weeks after riding out a storm over his future at Elland Road, Jimmy Armfield’s run as manager of Leeds United came to an end this week with a 43-word statement from club chairman Manny Cussins.

The parting of the ways was seen as a symptom of United’s thirst to taste again the success of the Don Revie years. The post was to be advertised immediately, and a string of big names were expected to be linked with the job.

Top of the list was Don Howe, who had left the job of chief coach at Elland Road a year previously to join Arsenal, and Lawrie McMenemy, who had just steered Southampton back into Division One.

Fans were reportedly keen to see former Leeds player such as Jack Charlton, Johnny Giles and Billy Bremner considered, said The Yorkshire Post sports reporter Barry Foster.

The euphoria of Virginia Wade’s Wimbledon singles win the previous year was replaced by gloom this week, when the British reigning champion failed to find her serving rhythm and was knocked out in the semi-final by American Chris Evert, 8-6, 6-2.