326. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1

SUBJECT

  • The New British Government

The election victory of Prime Minister Heath’s Conservative Party2 has generally favorable implications for the US. The full scope of the Government’s policy will not be known until the Queen’s speech on July 2. Until then, the Tories will be reviewing their positions, and arranging their priorities, timing and allocation of resources among domestic and foreign needs.

The new Government can be expected to play a more active and positive role in foreign affairs:

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—attention will be focussed on getting the UK into the Common Market, and on a more active effort to build a politically and economically integrated Europe; the British will also be looking to strengthen NATO’s military capabilities, and Heath may continue his interest in moving toward an Anglo-French joint nuclear deterrent (though few consider the concept as ripe yet); there will probably be somewhat of a cooling in Anglo-German relations which had previously been based in part on the Labor-Socialist party ties;

—on general East-West issues, the Tories will be more skeptical than Labor of the possibilities for fruitful negotiations with the Soviets, and will feel less internal pressure for hurried “movement” toward détente; for example, they will want clear evidence that current East-West negotiations are making real progress before they will welcome a European Security Conference;

—in the Far East, the Conservatives will seek to retain at least a modest military presence East of Suez within the framework of a proposed five power defense arrangement (Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia); the Heath Government will probably offer more support for our Vietnam policies than Wilson’s Government, and may be less timid in pressing the Soviet Union;

—the Tories seem now to be somewhat more cautious about continuing a UK presence in the Persian Gulf than earlier speculation, largely for budgetary reasons; consistent with the long history of Tory interest in the Middle East, the Heath Government will probably be more active but even-handed in the Arab-Israel conflict;

—on Rhodesia, the Tories are committed to another effort to negotiate with the Smith regime, though they recognize the prospects for success are slim; the new Government will also work more closely with South Africa;

—finally, in trade matters, given the free-enterprise approach and the generally sympathetic attitude of senior Tory spokesmen to US business, the climate for US investment will be at least as good as now.

Heath will have some tough and pressing problems to deal with internally. Inflation—the leading campaign issue—must be arrested along with the concomitant deterioration of the balance of payments. The Conservatives must also act on their industrial relations program, an important public factor in the Tory victory, and important step in preparing for entry into Europe.

Fortunately, Heath’s Government seems to have sufficient strength to face up to the internal problems, and to change the orientation and force of its foreign policy. The Tories have an absolute majority of 30 seats, but can count on more than 40 as a working majority (the Liberals would follow on most issues). Furthermore, the moderate center of the Conservative Party scored the biggest gains in the election, [Page 982]indicating that Heath will not have to be drawn to the right by Enoch Powell.3 This factor should help Heath in holding off ultra-nationalists’ opposition to UK entry into the Common Market and in allowing him more flexibility in domestic “law and order” issues.

As Secretary Rogers points out in his attached memorandum (Tab A),4 we may look forward to a highly constructive and congenial relationship with Heath’s Government at every level.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 727, Country Files—Europe, United Kingdom, Vol. III. Confidential. Sent for information. A stamped notation on the first page reads: “The President has seen. Jul 2, 1970.”
  2. In the June 18 vote, the Conservatives won 330 seats, Labour won 287 seats, and the Liberals 6.
  3. Enoch Powell, a Conservative MP, whose anti-immigrant statements during the campaign included a call for the immediate repatriation of all non-whites from the United Kingdom. Heath publicly disavowed the statements. Powell was overwhelmingly reelected.
  4. Not printed.