Tories confound pundits

June 19. The reputation of opinion pollsters took a sharp nosedive when Britain woke up to find itself once more under a Conservative government. Harold Wilson and Edward HeathThe polls all suggested an easy victory for Labour under Prime Minister Harold Wilson. And 1970 had opened with the voting age being lowered from 21 to 18.

But on the day of the election too many Labour voters simply stayed at home. The turnout was the lowest for years. The bookmakers had showed Labour eight points ahead and were left with egg on their faces when the Tories, under Edward Heath, secured a majority of 30.

"From the moment the first results began to flow in," observed the Illustrated London News, "the soothsayers faced a disaster. It will be years before the opinion polls fully regain their credibility in Britain."

Among Heath's new Cabinet appointments was a woman. The unknown Margaret Thatcher became Secretary of State for Education and Science.

January 23. Heathrow had never seen anything like it. The latest arrival from the United States weighed 350 tons and carried 363 passengers. The Boeing 747 Jumbo jet arrived three hours behind schedule and, with Britain and France already working on the supersonic Concorde, may have seemed a little behind the times. But events were to prove that Concorde's speed could never compete with the Jumbo's massive capacity and cheap running costs. The days of transatlantic travel for all had arrived.

May 4. In a defining moment of the Vietnam war, four young American students were shot dead by the National Guard at Kent State University, Ohio. The killings happened on the third day of anti-war riots and polarised US society. President Richard Nixon tried to bridge the gap by defending the right to demonstrate peacefully. But he added: "When dissent turns to violence it invites tragedy."

May 26. The England soccer captain, Bobby Moore was spectacularly accused of shoplifting at the World Cup in Mexico. Moore always maintained that the charge of stealing a gold bracelet was unfounded and he was released without charge after two days. "I hope that you score many goals," a judge told him. But a few days later, on June 14, England's hopes were dashed when Germany beat them 3-2.

September 12. At Dawson's Field in the Jordanian desert, Palestinian guerillas blew up three hijacked jets. The vast fireballs at the former RAF base signified that the terrorists meant business in their demand for the release of one of their leaders, Leila Khaled. By September 30, all 56 hostages held by the Palestinians had been released and Khaled was put on a plane from London to Beirut. En route, the aircraft picked up six more released terrorists in Germany and Switzerland.


In brief

January 15. Tarmac Construction insisted that its flats in Kidderminster were safe, and described as "alarmist" the evacuation of 120 families following council fears over the strength of the structure.

March 2. Norton Canes Secondary School opened with the arrival of 350 pupils.

March 18. Wolverhampton Council was landed with a £1million headache - the cost of expanding the town's overloaded sewage system.

March 23: Children born with defects after their mothers took the drug thalidomide in the 1950s were awarded thousands of pounds in damages.

March 23. Three people were injured when an explosion ripped off the roof of Dawley Brook Papers factory in Kingswinford.

March 31. West Bromwich air-pollution experts warned that they were seriously concerned about sulphur dioxide levels in the town.

April 17: The cliff-hanging flight round the moon of Apollo 13 had a happy ending when it and its crew splashed down in the Pacific.

July 20: Chancellor of the Exchequer Iain Macleod died just weeks after the formation of the new Heath government.

November 20: A typhoon in East Pakistan - soon to be re-named Bangladesh - killed 150,000 people.

November 27: The Gay Liberation Front held its first demonstration in London.

December 26: British athlete Lillian Board lost her long fight against cancer at the age of 22.