Learn more about James Callaghan
- A different James Callaghan was MP for Heywood & Middleton.
|The Rt Hon. James Callaghan|
| Image:James Callaghan.jpg|
| In office|
5 April 1976 – 4 May 1979
|Preceded by||Harold Wilson|
|Succeeded by||Margaret Thatcher|
| In office|
16 October 1964 – 30 November 1967
|Preceded by||Reginald Maudling|
|Succeeded by||Roy Jenkins|
|Born|| 27 March, 1912|
Portsmouth, Hampshire, England
|Died|| 26 March, 2005|
Ringmer, East Sussex, England
Leonard James Callaghan, Baron Callaghan of Cardiff, KG, PC (27 March, 1912 – 26 March, 2005), was Labour Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1976 to 1979. He was commonly known as James, shortened to Jim, giving his nicknames 'Sunny Jim' or 'Big Jim'. Callaghan is the only person to have filled all four of the Great Offices of State (Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary).
Callaghan was Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1964 to 1967 during a turbulent period in the British economy in which he had to wrestle with a balance of payments deficit and speculative attacks on the pound sterling. In November 1967, the Government was forced to devalue the pound. Callaghan offered to resign, but was persuaded to swap his ministerial post with Roy Jenkins, becoming Home Secretary from 1967 to 1970. In that capacity, Callaghan took the decision to deploy the British Army to Northern Ireland after a request from the Northern Ireland Government.
Callaghan returned to office as Foreign Secretary in March 1974, taking responsibility for renegotiating the terms of Britain's membership of the European Economic Community (the EEC, or "Common Market"), and supporting a 'Yes' vote in the 1975 referendum for the UK to remain in the EEC. When Harold Wilson resigned in 1976, Callaghan was elected as the new leader by Labour MPs. His only term as Prime Minister was dogged by Labour's lack of a majority in the House of Commons, forcing Callaghan to deal with minor parties such as the Ulster Unionists, a process which led to the notorious Lib-Lab pact. Industrial disputes, large strikes and high unemployment in the 'Winter of Discontent' of 1978–79 made Callaghan's government unpopular and the defeat of the referendum on devolution to Scotland led to defeat on a Motion of No Confidence on 28 March 1979. This was followed by a defeat by Margaret Thatcher's Conservative Party in the ensuing general election.
 1912 to 1944: Early life and career
Callaghan was the son of a Royal Navy Chief Petty Officer of Irish ancestry, who died when Callaghan was nine years old. Callaghan was born at 38 Funtington Road, Copnor, Portsmouth, Hampshire, England on the 27th March 1912. He attended Portsmouth Northern Secondary School (now Mayfield School). In 1929, at the age of 17 he left to work as a clerk for the Inland Revenue. While working as a Tax Inspector, Callaghan was instrumental in establishing the Association of Officers of Taxes as a Trade Union for those in his profession and became a member of its National Executive. Following a merger in 1937, Callaghan was appointed as a full-time union official and to the post of Assistant Secretary of the Inland Revenue Staff Federation and resigned from his civil service duties. In 1931 he joined the Labour Party.
His union position at the Inland Revenue Federation brought Callaghan into contact with Harold Laski, the Chair of the Labour Party's National Executive Committee and a respected academic at the London School of Economics. Laski encouraged him to stand for Parliament. Callaghan joined the Royal Navy Patrol Service in World War II from 1943, rising to the rank of Lieutenant. While on leave, Callaghan was selected as a Parliamentary candidate for Cardiff South.
 1945 to 1976: Parliament and Cabinet
Callaghan won his Cardiff seat in the 1945 UK general election (and would hold a Cardiff-area seat continuously until 1987). Callaghan was soon appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport in 1947 where his term saw the introduction of zebra crossings, and an extension in the use of cat's eyes. He moved to be Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty from 1950 where he was a delegate to the Council of Europe and resisted plans for a European army.
Callaghan was popular with Labour MPs and was elected to the Shadow Cabinet every year while the Labour Party was in opposition from 1951 to 1964. He was Parliamentary Adviser to the Police Federation from 1955 to 1960 when he negotiated an increase in police pay. He ran for the Deputy Leadership of the party in 1960 as an opponent of unilateral nuclear disarmament, and despite the other candidate of the Labour right (George Brown) agreeing with him on this policy, he forced Brown to a second vote.
In 1961 Callaghan became Shadow Chancellor. When Hugh Gaitskell died in January 1963, Callaghan ran to succeed him but came third. 1963 was too early for Callaghan but he won the support of right-wingers, such as Anthony Crosland, who wanted to prevent Wilson from being leader but who also didn't trust George Brown. He was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer when Labour won the 1964 general election and had to cope with a balance of payments deficit and speculative attacks on Sterling. It was the policy of the whole government, and one in which Callaghan concurred, that devaluation should be avoided and he managed to arrange loans from other central banks and some tax rises in order to stabilise the economy.
However, the effect of the Six Day War and a dock strike increased the speculation in November 1967 and the Government was forced to devalue the pound from $2.80 to $2.40 on November 18. Callaghan offered his resignation immediately, but Harold Wilson persuaded him to stay on and he was appointed Home Secretary in a job swap with Roy Jenkins two weeks later. His background in the trade union movement led to his being a focus for opposition to the employment laws proposed by his cabinet colleague Barbara Castle in 1969. In this struggle (called The Battle of Downing Street) he ultimately prevailed, and the proposals (set out in the White paper In Place of Strife) were dropped. Some within the party who disliked Wilson began to plot to destabilise him and have Callaghan take over at about this time. Callaghan also took the decision to deploy United Kingdom troops in Northern Ireland after a request from the Ulster Unionist Government of Northern Ireland.
After Wilson's shock defeat by Edward Heath in the 1970 general election, Callaghan declined to challenge him for the leadership despite Wilson's vulnerability. This did much to rehabilitate him in Wilson's eyes. He was in charge of drawing up a new policy statement in 1972 which contained the idea of the 'Social Contract' between the Government and Trade Unions. He also did much to ensure that Labour opposed the Heath government's bid to enter the Common Market — forcing Wilson's hand by making his personal opposition clear without consulting the Party Leader.
When Wilson was again appointed Prime Minister in March 1974, he appointed Callaghan as Foreign Secretary which gave him responsibility for renegotiating the terms of Britain's membership of the Common Market. When the talks concluded, Callaghan led the Cabinet in declaring the new terms acceptable and he supported a Yes vote in the 1975 referendum.
During his second term Harold Wilson announced his surprise resignation on March 16, 1976, and unofficially endorsed Callaghan as his successor. Callaghan was not the favourite to win the leadership, being the oldest candidate at 64. However, he was the least divisive candidate, and popularity with all parts of the Labour movement saw him through the ballot of Labour MPs to win the leadership vote. On the 5th April 1976 at the age of 64 years and 9 days Callaghan became Prime Minster.
 1976 to 1979: Prime Minister
Callaghan was the first Prime Minister to have held all three leading Cabinet positions — Chancellor of the Exchequer, Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary — prior to becoming Prime Minister.
Callaghan's support for and from the union movement should not be mistaken for a left wing position: unlike Wilson, Callaghan had been a supporter of Hugh Gaitskell in the battles over Labour's direction in the 1950s and he settled old scores by sacking the Bevanite Barbara Castle when he became party leader. Though he didn't offer a cabinet post to Edward Short who, like Callaghan, was on the right of the party. Short continued as deputy leader until he was given a peerage in January 1977.
Callaghan did, though, continue Wilson's policy of a balanced Cabinet and relied heavily on the man he defeated for the job of party leader — the arch-Bevanite Michael Foot. Foot was made Leader of the House of Commons and given the task of steering through the government's legislative programme. As Labour soon lost its majority in a string of poor showings in by-elections, this required all of Callaghan and Foot's blend of emollience and steely determination. Though they clashed in the commons, Callaghan also enjoyed very good person relations with Iain Macleod when Macleod was Shadow Chancellor in the 1960's.
In May 1977, Callaghan was involved in controversy and accusations of nepotism. His son-in-law, a noted journalist Peter Jay, but with no particular background in diplomacy was appointed UK Ambassador to the United States. The Callaghan government also decided to sell Harrier fighter planes despite Soviet threats. U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Callaghan were on very good terms and pledged to the Soviets that the U.S. would not sell military equipment to the Chinese. He however would not stand in the way of other Western nations from arms deals.
His time as Prime Minister was dominated by the troubles in running a Government with a minority in the House of Commons. Callaghan was forced to make deals with minor parties in order to survive, including the Lib-Lab pact. He had been forced to accept referendums on devolution in Scotland and Wales (the first went in favour but did not reach the required majority, and the second went heavily against). However, by the autumn of 1978 most opinion polls were showing Labour ahead and he was expected to call an election. His decision not to has been described as the biggest mistake of his premiership.
Famously he strung along the opposition and was expected to make his declaration of election in a broadcast in early September 1978. His decision to go on was at the time seen by many as a sign of his domination of the political scene and he ridiculed his opponents by impersonating old-time music hall star Marie Lloyd singing Waiting at the Church at that month's Trades Union Congress meeting: now seen as one of the greatest moments of hubris in modern British politics but celebrated at the time. Callaghan intended to convey the message that he had not promised an election, but most observers misread his message as an assertion that he would call an election, and the Conservatives would not be ready for it.
Callaghan's way of dealing with the long-term economic difficulties involved pay restraint which had been operating for four years with reasonable success. He gambled that a fifth year would further improve the economy and allow him to be re-elected in 1979, and so attempted to hold pay rises to 5% or less. The Trade Unions rejected continued pay restraint and in a succession of strikes over the winter of 1978/79 (known as the Winter of Discontent) secured higher pay. The industrial unrest made his government extremely unpopular, and Callaghan's response to one interview question only made it worse. Returning to the United Kingdom from an economic summit held in Guadeloupe in early 1979, Callaghan was asked:
- "What is your general approach, in view of the mounting chaos in the country at the moment?"
- "Well, that's a judgment that you are making. I promise you that if you look at it from outside, and perhaps you're taking rather a parochial view at the moment, I don't think that other people in the world would share the view that there is mounting chaos."
This reply was reported in The Sun under the headline:
- Crisis? What Crisis?.
Callaghan was forced to call an election when the House of Commons passed a Motion of No Confidence by one vote on March 28, 1979. The Conservatives, with advertising consultants Saatchi and Saatchi, ran a campaign on the slogan "Labour isn't working." As expected, Margaret Thatcher won the election.
 1980 to 2005: Later life
Callaghan resigned as leader of the Labour Party in September 1980, shortly after the 1980 party conference had voted for a new system of election by electoral college involving the individual members and trade unions. His resignation ensured that his successor would be elected by MPs only. In the second round of a campaign that laid bare the deep internal divisions of the Parliamentary Labour Party, Michael Foot beat Denis Healey to succeed Callaghan as leader.
In 1983, Callaghan became Father of the House as the longest continuously serving member of the Commons and one of only two survivors of the 1945 general election (Michael Foot was the other but he had been out of the House from 1955 to 1960). In 1987 he was made a Knight of the Garter and stood down at the 1987 general election after forty-two years as a member of the Commons. Shortly afterwards, he was elevated to the House of Lords as Baron Callaghan of Cardiff, of the City of Cardiff in the Royal County of South Glamorganshire.
In 1988, Callaghan's wife Audrey, a former chairman (1969 - 1982) of Great Ormond Street Hospital, spotted a letter to a newspaper which pointed out that the copyright of Peter Pan, which had been assigned by J. M. Barrie to the hospital, was about to expire. Callaghan moved an amendment to the Copyright Bill then under consideration in the Lords to extend it permanently (which is permissible in the UK), and this was accepted by the government.
On February 14, 2005, he became the longest-lived British Prime Minister, surpassing Harold Macmillan, and had the longest life of any British prime minister when he died at his farm in Ringmer, East Sussex on March 26, 2005, on the eve of his 93rd birthday. At the time of his death Callaghan had lived 92 years 364 days, exceeding by 42 days the life span of Macmillan.
 Personal life
James Callaghan's interests included rugby, tennis and agriculture. According to the official history of 10 Downing Street, he is believed to have been the tallest prime minister in British history at 6ft 1in (185cm). He married Audrey Elizabeth Moulton, in July 1938 and had three children — one son and two daughters. Lady Callaghan died on 15 March 2005, only 11 days before James Callaghan's death on the 26 March.
 James Callaghan in popular culture
James Callaghan was one of the two subjects (with Prime Minister Harold Wilson) of Flanders and Swann's humorous song, "There's a Hole in My Budget," a parody of the popular folk song "There's a Hole in My Bucket."
The song "Time For Truth" from The Jam's debut In the City, a scathing critique of the state of the British nation, directly addresses Callaghan: "I think it's time for truth, and the truth is you lost, Uncle Jimmy."
 Titles from birth to death
- James Callaghan, Esq (March 27, 1912 - 1943)
- Lieutenant James Callaghan, RNVR (1943 - July 26, 1945)
- Lieutenant James Callaghan, MP (July 26, 1945-October 21, 1964)
- Lieutenant The Right Honourable James Callaghan, MP (October 21, 1964-?)
- The Right Honourable James Callaghan, MP (?- April 23, 1987)
- The Right Honourable Sir James Callaghan, KG, MP (April 23 - June 11, 1987)
- The Right Honourable Sir James Callaghan, KG (June 11 - November 5, 1987)
- The Right Honourable The Lord Callaghan of Cardiff, KG, PC (November 5, 1987 - March 26, 2005)
- Callaghan, James: Time and Change (1987) published by Collins (personal memoirs).
- Callaghan, James: Challenges and Opportunities for British Foreign Policy (1975) (Fabian society).
- Conroy, Harry: James Callaghan (2006) published by Haus.
- Donoughue, Bernard: Prime Minister: Conduct of Policy Under Harold Wilson and James Callaghan, 1974-79 (1987) published by Johnathon Cape.
- Derbyshire, Dennis: Politics in Britain: From Callaghan to Thatcher (Political Spotlights) (1990) published by Chambers.
 See also
 Political offices
| Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom
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