Winter of discontentBritish winter of 1978-79, during which there were widespread strikess. The phrase is derived from the opening of William Shakespeare's Richard III.
These strikes led to a vote of no confidence in the then Labour Prime Minister, James Callaghan, and ultimately to a defeat of the Labour Party in the 1979 general election by the Conservative Party led by Margaret Thatcher.
The use of the term 'winter of discontent' in an industrial relations context was first used by Robin Chater (now Secretary-General of the Federation of European Employers) as a headline in an issue of Incomes Data Report (1977). It was later taken up by the speech writers for the Prime Minister who popularised it.
The industrial unrest was, overall, less threatening to the national economy than had been that under the Conservative Government of Edward Heath, but in the words of the political journalist Peter Jenkins:
- In the Winter of Discontent television did for the class war what it had done for the war in Vietnam.
- Only in parts of Lancashire did the dead go unburied.