Harold Wilson
   HOME

TheInfoList



OR:

James Harold Wilson, Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, (11 March 1916 – 24 May 1995) was a British politician who served as
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom The prime minister of the United Kingdom is the head of government of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the ...
twice, from October 1964 to June 1970, and again from March 1974 to April 1976. He was the Leader of the Labour Party from 1963 to 1976, and was a
Member of Parliament A member of parliament (MP) is the representative in parliament of the people who live in their electoral district. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, this term refers only to members of the lower house since upper house members o ...
(MP) from
1945 1945 marked the end of World War II and the fall of Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan. It is also the only year in which Nuclear weapon, nuclear weapons Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, have been used in combat. Events Below, ...
to
1983 The year 1983 saw both the official beginning of the Internet and the first mobile cellular telephone call. Events January * January 1 – The migration of the ARPANET to Internet protocol suite, TCP/IP is officially completed (this is consid ...
. Wilson is the only Labour leader to have formed administrations following four general elections. Born in
Huddersfield Huddersfield is a market town in the Kirklees district in West Yorkshire, England. It is the administrative centre and largest settlement in the Kirklees district. The town is in the foothills of the Pennines. The River Holme's confluence into t ...
,
Yorkshire Yorkshire ( ; abbreviated Yorks), formally known as the County of York, is a Historic counties of England, historic county in northern England and by far the largest in the United Kingdom. Because of its large area in comparison with other Eng ...
, to a politically active middle-class family, Wilson won a scholarship to attend Royds Hall Grammar School and went on to study
modern history The term modern period or modern era (sometimes also called modern history or modern times) is the period of history that succeeds the Middle Ages (which ended approximately 1500 AD). This terminology is a historical periodization that is applie ...
at
Jesus College, Oxford Jesus College (in full: Jesus College in the University of Oxford of Queen Elizabeth's Foundation) is one of the Colleges of the University of Oxford, constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. It is in the centre of the Oxford, ...
. He was later an
economic history Economic history is the academic learning of Economy, economies or economic events of the past. Research is conducted using a combination of historical methods, statistical methods and the Applied economics, application of economic theory to his ...
lecturer at
New College, Oxford New College is one of the Colleges of the University of Oxford, constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Founded in 1379 by William of Wykeham in conjunction with Winchester College as its feeder school, New Colle ...
, and a research fellow at University College, Oxford. Elected to Parliament in 1945 for the seat of
Ormskirk Ormskirk is a market town in the West Lancashire district of Lancashire, England, north of Liverpool, northwest of St Helens, Merseyside, St Helens, southeast of Southport and southwest of Preston, Lancashire, Preston. Ormskirk is known fo ...
, Wilson was immediately appointed to the Attlee government as a Parliamentary Secretary; he became Secretary for Overseas Trade in 1947, and was elevated to the Cabinet shortly thereafter as
President of the Board of Trade The president of the Board of Trade is head of the Board of Trade. This is a committee of the His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, Privy Council of the United Kingdom, first established as a temporary committee of inquiry in the 17th centu ...
. In 1950, he moved to represent the nearby seat of
Huyton Huyton ( ) is a town in the Metropolitan Borough of Knowsley, Merseyside, England. Part of the Liverpool Urban Area, it borders the Liverpool suburbs of Dovecot, Merseyside, Dovecot, Knotty Ash and Belle Vale, and the neighbouring village of Ro ...
. Following Labour's defeat at the 1955 election, Wilson joined the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Chancellor, and was moved to the role of
Shadow Foreign Secretary In UK politics, the Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs is a position within the Official Opposition, opposition's Official Opposition Shadow Cabinet (United Kingdom), shadow cabinet that deals mainly with ...
in 1961. When Labour Leader
Hugh Gaitskell Hugh Todd Naylor Gaitskell (9 April 1906 – 18 January 1963) was a British politician who served as Leader of the Labour Party (UK), Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition (United Kingdom), Leader of the Opposition from 1955 ...
died suddenly in January 1963, Wilson won the subsequent leadership election to replace him, becoming
Leader of the Opposition The Leader of the Opposition is a title traditionally held by the leader of the Opposition (parliamentary), largest political party not in government, typical in countries utilizing the parliamentary system form of government. The leader of the ...
. Wilson led Labour to a narrow victory at the 1964 election. His first period as prime minister saw a period of low unemployment and relative economic prosperity, although this would later become hindered by significant problems with Britain's external
balance of payments In international economics, the balance of payments (also known as balance of international payments and abbreviated BOP or BoP) of a country is the difference between all money flowing into the country in a particular period of time (e.g., ...
. The Wilson government oversaw significant societal changes in the United Kingdom, abolishing both
capital punishment Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is the State (polity), state-sanctioned practice of deliberately killing a person as a punishment for an actual or supposed crime, usually following an authorized, rule-governed process to ...
and theatre censorship, decriminalising male homosexuality in England and Wales, relaxing the
divorce law This article is a general overview of divorce laws around the world. Every nation in the world allows its residents to divorce under some conditions except the Philippines (though Muslims in the Philippines have the right to divorce) and the Vatic ...
s, limiting immigration, and liberalising
birth control Birth control, also known as contraception, anticonception, and fertility control, is the use of methods or devices to prevent unwanted pregnancy Pregnancy is the time during which one or more offspring develops (gestation, gestates) i ...
and
abortion law Abortion laws vary widely among countries and territories, and have changed over time. Such laws range from abortion Abortion is the termination of a pregnancy by removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus. An abortion that occurs wi ...
. In the midst of this programme Wilson called a snap election in 1966, which Labour won with a much increased majority. Wilson's government armed Nigeria during the
Biafran War The Nigerian Civil War (6 July 1967 – 15 January 1970), also known as the Nigerian–Biafran War or the Biafran War, was a civil war fought between Nigeria and the Republic of Biafra, a secessionist state which had declared its independence f ...
. In 1969, he sent British troops to Northern Ireland. After losing the 1970 election to
Edward Heath Sir Edward Richard George Heath (9 July 191617 July 2005), often known as Ted Heath, was a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1970 to 1974 and Leader of the Conservative Party (UK), Leader of the Conserv ...
's
Conservatives Conservatism is a Philosophy of culture, cultural, Social philosophy, social, and political philosophy that seeks to promote and to preserve traditional institutions, practices, and values. The central tenets of conservatism may vary in r ...
, Wilson chose to remain in the Labour leadership, and spent four years back in the role of Leader of the Opposition before leading Labour through the February 1974 election, which resulted in a
hung parliament A hung parliament is a term used in legislatures primarily under the Westminster system to describe a situation in which no single political party or pre-existing coalition (also known as an alliance or bloc) has an Majority, absolute majority o ...
. Although the Conservatives had won more votes than Labour, Heath's talks with the
Liberal Party The Liberal Party is any of many political parties A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a particular country's elections. It is common for the members of a party to hold similar ideas about politics ...
failed, and Wilson was appointed prime minister for a second time, now as leader of a minority government; Wilson called a
snap election A snap election is an election that is called earlier than the one that has been scheduled. Generally, a snap election in a parliamentary system (the dissolution of parliament) is called to capitalize on an unusual electoral opportunity or to ...
in October 1974, which gave Labour a small majority. During his second term as prime minister, Wilson oversaw the
referendum A referendum (plural: referendums or less commonly referenda) is a Direct democracy, direct vote by the Constituency, electorate on a proposal, law, or political issue. This is in contrast to an issue being voted on by a Representative democr ...
that confirmed the UK's membership of the
European Communities The European Communities (EC) were three international organizations that were governed by the same set of institutions Institutions are humanly devised structures of rules and norms that shape and constrain individual behavior. All defin ...
. In March 1976 he suddenly announced his resignation as prime minister, and was succeeded by
James Callaghan Leonard James Callaghan, Baron Callaghan of Cardiff, ( ; 27 March 191226 March 2005), commonly known as Jim Callaghan, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1976 to 1979 and Leader of the Labour Party (UK), Leader of the Labour Party ...
. Wilson remained in the House of Commons until retiring in 1983, when he was elevated to the
House of Lords The House of Lords, also known as the House of Peers, is the Bicameralism, upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Membership is by Life peer, appointment, Hereditary peer, heredity or Lords Spiritual, official function. Like the ...
as Lord Wilson of Rievaulx. Historians evaluate Wilson in terms of leading the Labour Party through difficult political issues with considerable skill. Wilson's reputation was low when he left office and was still poor in 2016. Key issues he faced included the role of public ownership, membership of the European Communities, and how to avoid committing British troops to the
Vietnam War The Vietnam War (also known by #Names, other names) was a conflict in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. It was the second of the Indochina Wars and was officially fought between North Vi ...
. Wilson's approach to
socialism Socialism is a left-wing Economic ideology, economic philosophy and Political movement, movement encompassing a range of economic systems characterized by the dominance of social ownership of the means of production as opposed to Private prop ...
was regarded by some in the Labour Party as too moderate, by others too left-wing. A member of Labour's
soft left The soft left is a faction within the British Labour Party (UK), Labour Party. The term "soft left" was coined to distinguish the mainstream left of Michael Foot from the hard left of Tony Benn. History The distinction between hard and soft le ...
, he joked about leading a Cabinet made up mostly of
social democrats Social democracy is a political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations among individuals, such as the distribution of resources or status. ...
, comparing himself to a
Bolshevik The Bolsheviks (russian: Большевики́, from большинство́ ''bol'shinstvó'', 'majority'),; derived from ''bol'shinstvó'' (большинство́), "majority", literally meaning "one of the majority". also known in English ...
revolutionary presiding over a
Tsarist Tsarist autocracy (russian: царское самодержавие, Transcription (linguistics), transcr. ''tsarskoye samoderzhaviye''), also called Tsarism, was a form of autocracy (later absolute monarchy) specific to the Grand Duchy of Moscow ...
cabinet, but there was little to divide him ideologically from the majority of his cabinet.Ben Pimlott, ''Harold Wilson'' (1992) p 264 His stated ambitions of substantially improving Britain's long-term economic performance, applying technology more democratically, and reducing inequality went to some extent unfulfilled.


Early life

Wilson was born at Warneford Road, Cowlersley, in the western suburbs of the mill town of
Huddersfield Huddersfield is a market town in the Kirklees district in West Yorkshire, England. It is the administrative centre and largest settlement in the Kirklees district. The town is in the foothills of the Pennines. The River Holme's confluence into t ...
, in the
West Riding of Yorkshire The West Riding of Yorkshire is one of three historic subdivisions of Yorkshire, England. From 1889 to 1974 the administrative county County of York, West Riding (the area under the control of West Riding County Council), abbreviated County ...
, England, on 11 March 1916. He came from a political family: his father James Herbert Wilson (1882–1971) was a works chemist who had been active in the
Liberal Party The Liberal Party is any of many political parties A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a particular country's elections. It is common for the members of a party to hold similar ideas about politics ...
, going as far as to be
Winston Churchill Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (30 November 187424 January 1965) was a British statesman, soldier, and writer who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom twice, from 1940 to 1945 Winston Churchill in the Second World War, dur ...
's deputy election agent in a 1908 by-election, but later joined the Labour Party. His mother Ethel (''née'' Seddon; 1882–1957) was a schoolteacher before her marriage; in 1901 her brother Harold Seddon settled in
Western Australia Western Australia (commonly abbreviated as WA) is a state of Australia occupying the western percent of the land area of Australia excluding external territories. It is bounded by the Indian Ocean to the north and west, the Southern Ocean to th ...
and became a local political leader. When Wilson was eight, he visited London and a much-reproduced photograph was taken of him standing on the doorstep of
10 Downing Street 10 Downing Street in London, also known colloquially in the United Kingdom as Number 10, is the official residence and executive office of the First Lord of the Treasury, first lord of the treasury, usually, by convention, the Prime Minister of ...
. At the age of ten, he went with his family to Australia, where he became fascinated with the pomp and glamour of politics. On the way home, he told his mother, "I am going to be prime minister."


Education

Wilson won a scholarship to attend Royds Hall Grammar School, his local grammar school (now a comprehensive school) in
Huddersfield Huddersfield is a market town in the Kirklees district in West Yorkshire, England. It is the administrative centre and largest settlement in the Kirklees district. The town is in the foothills of the Pennines. The River Holme's confluence into t ...
in Yorkshire. His father, working as an industrial chemist, was made redundant in December 1930, and it took him nearly two years to find work; he moved to Spital in Cheshire, on the Wirral, to do so. Wilson continued his education in the Sixth Form at the Wirral Grammar School for Boys, where he became
Head Boy Head boy and head girl are student leadership roles in schools, representing the school's entire student body. They are normally the most senior Prefect#Academic, prefects in the school. The terms are commonly used in the Education in the United K ...
. Wilson did well at school and, although he missed getting a scholarship, he obtained an
exhibition An exhibition, in the most general sense, is an organized presentation and display of a selection of items. In practice, exhibitions usually occur within a cultural or educational setting such as a museum, art gallery, park, library, exhibition ...
; this, when topped up by a county grant, enabled him to study Modern History at
Jesus College, Oxford Jesus College (in full: Jesus College in the University of Oxford of Queen Elizabeth's Foundation) is one of the Colleges of the University of Oxford, constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. It is in the centre of the Oxford, ...
, from 1934. At Oxford, Wilson was moderately active in politics as a member of the Liberal Party but was strongly influenced by G. D. H. Cole. His politics tutor, R. B. McCallum, considered Wilson as the best student he ever had. He graduated in PPE ( Philosophy, Politics and Economics) with "an outstanding first class Bachelor of Arts degree, with alphas on every paper" in the final examinations, and a series of major academic awards. Biographer
Roy Jenkins Roy Harris Jenkins, Baron Jenkins of Hillhead, (11 November 1920 – 5 January 2003) was a British politician who served as President of the European Commission The president of the European Commission is the head of the European Com ...
wrote:
Academically his results put him among prime ministers in the category of Peel, Gladstone, Asquith, and no one else. But...he lacked originality. What he was superb at was the quick assimilation of knowledge, combined with an ability to keep it ordered in his mind and to present it lucidly in a form welcome to his examiners.
He continued in academia, becoming one of the youngest Oxford dons of the century at the age of 21. He was a lecturer in
Economic History Economic history is the academic learning of Economy, economies or economic events of the past. Research is conducted using a combination of historical methods, statistical methods and the Applied economics, application of economic theory to his ...
at New College from 1937, and a research
fellow A fellow is a concept whose exact meaning depends on context. In learned or professional A professional is a member of a profession or any person who works in a specified professional activity. The term also describes the standards of educ ...
at
University College In a number of countries, a university college is a college institution that provides tertiary education but does not have full or independent university status. A university college is often part of a larger university. The precise usage varies ...
.


Marriage

On New Year's Day 1940, in the chapel of
Mansfield College, Oxford Mansfield College, Oxford is one of the Colleges of the University of Oxford, constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in Oxford, England. The college was founded in Birmingham in 1838 as a college for Nonconformist (Protestantism), Non ...
, he married Mary Baldwin, who remained his wife until his death. Mary Wilson became a published poet. They had two sons, Robin and Giles (named after Giles Alington); Robin became a professor of Mathematics, and Giles became a teacher and later a train driver. In their twenties, his sons were under a kidnap threat from the IRA because of their father's prominence.


War service

On the outbreak of the
Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a world war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the World War II by country, vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great power ...
, Wilson volunteered for military service but was classed as a specialist and moved into the civil service instead. For much of this time, he was a research assistant to
William Beveridge William Henry Beveridge, 1st Baron Beveridge, (5 March 1879 – 16 March 1963) was a British economist and Liberal Party (UK), Liberal politician who was a Progressivism, progressive and social reformer who played a central role in designing ...
, the Master of University College, working on the issues of unemployment and the trade cycle. Wilson later became a statistician and economist for the coal industry. He was Director of Economics and Statistics at the
Ministry of Fuel and Power The Ministry of Power was a United Kingdom government Ministry (government department), ministry dealing with issues concerning energy. The Ministry of Power (then named Ministry of Fuel and Power) was created on 11 June 1942 from functions se ...
in 1943–44 and was made an
OBE The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the civil service. It was established o ...
for his services. He was to remain passionately interested in statistics, becoming a Fellow of the
Royal Statistical Society The Royal Statistical Society (RSS) is an established statistical society. It has three main roles: a British learned society for statistics, a professional association, professional body for statisticians and a charity which promotes statist ...
in 1943. As
President of the Board of Trade The president of the Board of Trade is head of the Board of Trade. This is a committee of the His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, Privy Council of the United Kingdom, first established as a temporary committee of inquiry in the 17th centu ...
, he was the driving force behind the Statistics of Trade Act 1947, which is still the authority governing most economic statistics in
Great Britain Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of , it is the largest of the British Isles, the List of European islands by area, largest European island and the List of is ...
. He was instrumental as prime minister in appointing
Claus Moser Claus Adolf Moser, Baron Moser, (24 November 1922 – 4 September 2015) was a British statistician A statistician is a person who works with Theory, theoretical or applied statistics. The profession exists in both the private sector, private ...
as head of the Central Statistical Office, and was president of the
Royal Statistical Society The Royal Statistical Society (RSS) is an established statistical society. It has three main roles: a British learned society for statistics, a professional association, professional body for statisticians and a charity which promotes statist ...
between 1972 and 1973.


Member of Parliament (1945–1964)

As the war drew to an end, he searched for a seat to contest at the impending general election. He was selected for the constituency of
Ormskirk Ormskirk is a market town in the West Lancashire district of Lancashire, England, north of Liverpool, northwest of St Helens, Merseyside, St Helens, southeast of Southport and southwest of Preston, Lancashire, Preston. Ormskirk is known fo ...
, then held by Stephen King-Hall. Wilson agreed to be adopted as the candidate immediately rather than delay until the election was called, and was therefore compelled to resign from his position in the Civil Service. He served as
Praelector A praelector is a traditional role at the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford. The role differs somewhat between the two ancient universities. University of Cambridge At Cambridge, a praelector is the Fellow#Oxford, Cambridge and ...
in Economics at University College between his resignation and his election to the House of Commons. He also used this time to write ''A New Deal for Coal'', which used his wartime experience to argue for the nationalisation of the coal mines on the grounds of the improved efficiency he predicted would ensue. In the 1945 general election, Wilson won his seat in the Labour landslide. To his surprise, he was immediately appointed to the government by Prime Minister
Clement Attlee Clement Richard Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee, (3 January 18838 October 1967) was a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1945 to 1951 and Leader of the Labour Party (UK), Leader of the Labour Party from 1935 t ...
as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works. Two years later, he became Secretary for Overseas Trade, in which capacity he made several official trips to the
Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a List of former transcontinental countries#Since 1700, transcontinental country that spanned much of Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. A flagship communist state, ...
to negotiate supply contracts. The boundaries of his Ormskirk constituency were significantly altered before the general election of 1950. He stood instead for the new seat of
Huyton Huyton ( ) is a town in the Metropolitan Borough of Knowsley, Merseyside, England. Part of the Liverpool Urban Area, it borders the Liverpool suburbs of Dovecot, Merseyside, Dovecot, Knotty Ash and Belle Vale, and the neighbouring village of Ro ...
near Liverpool, and was narrowly elected; he served there for 33 years until 1983.


Cabinet Minister, 1947–1951


Bonfire of controls

Wilson was appointed
President of the Board of Trade The president of the Board of Trade is head of the Board of Trade. This is a committee of the His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, Privy Council of the United Kingdom, first established as a temporary committee of inquiry in the 17th centu ...
on 29 September 1947, becoming, at the age of 31, the youngest member of a British Cabinet in the 20th century. Initially Wilson favoured a more interventionist policy, seeking requirements for government officials to be seated on private
boards of directors A board of directors (commonly referred simply as the board) is an Committee#Executive committee, executive committee that jointly supervises the activities of an organization, which can be either a for-profit or a nonprofit organization such a ...
, further
price controls Price controls are restrictions set in place and enforced by governments, on the prices that can be charged for goods and services in a market. The intent behind implementing such controls can stem from the desire to maintain affordability of good ...
, and nationalizations of private industries which opposed government policy. However, he abandoned these plans after his colleagues disagreed. He made it a priority to reduce wartime rationing, which he referred to as a "bonfire of controls". Wilson decided that the massive number of wartime controls was slowing the conversion to peacetime prosperity and he was committed to removing them as fast as possible. He ended rationing of potatoes, bread and jam, as well as shoes and some other clothing controls. In November 1948 Wilson announced his Board of Trade had removed the need for over 200,000 licenses and permits. By March 1949 he promised to remove the need for another 900,000, although meat remained in short supply and was still rationed, as was petrol. Henry Irvine argues that Wilson's success with the bonfire controls established his reputation as a modernizing specialist, with both the general public and the political elite. Irving also argues that the selection timing and especially the publicity Wilson devoted to the bonfire represented the emerging skills of a brilliant young politician. While each major bonfire was justified in terms of technical economic advantages, it was selected and publicized widely to reach the largest possible audience so that everybody could understand that their bread and jam became free again.


Three ambitious young men

In mid-1949, with Chancellor of the Exchequer
Stafford Cripps Sir Richard Stafford Cripps (24 April 1889 – 21 April 1952) was a British Labour Party (UK), Labour Party politician, barrister, and diplomat. A wealthy lawyer by background, he first entered Parliament at a 1931 Bristol East by-election, by- ...
having gone to Switzerland in an attempt to recover his health, Wilson was one of a group of three young ministers, all of them former economics dons and wartime civil servants, convened to advise Prime Minister Attlee on financial matters. The others were
Douglas Jay Douglas Patrick Thomas Jay, Baron Jay, Privy Council of the United Kingdom, PC (23 March 1907 – 6 March 1996) was a Labour Party (UK), British Labour Party politician. Early life Educated at Winchester College and New College, Oxford, Jay w ...
(
Economic Secretary to the Treasury The Economic Secretary to the Treasury is the sixth-most senior ministerial post in HM Treasury, His Majesty's Treasury, after the First Lord of the Treasury, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the Paymaster-Gen ...
) and
Hugh Gaitskell Hugh Todd Naylor Gaitskell (9 April 1906 – 18 January 1963) was a British politician who served as Leader of the Labour Party (UK), Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition (United Kingdom), Leader of the Opposition from 1955 ...
(
Minister of Fuel and Power The Ministry of Power was a United Kingdom government ministry dealing with issues concerning energy. The Ministry of Power (then named Ministry of Fuel and Power) was created on 11 June 1942 from functions separated from the Board of Trade ...
), both of whom soon grew to distrust him. Jay wrote of Wilson's role in the debates over whether or not to devalue sterling that "he changed sides three times within eight days and finished up facing both ways". Wilson was given the task during his Swiss holiday of taking a letter to Cripps informing him of the decision to devalue, to which Cripps had been opposed. Wilson had tarnished his reputation in both political and official circles. Although a successful minister, he was regarded as self-important. He was not seriously considered for the job of Chancellor when Cripps stepped down in October 1950—it was given to Gaitskell—possibly in part because of his cautious role during devaluation. Wilson was becoming known in the Labour Party as a left-winger, and joined
Aneurin Bevan Aneurin "Nye" Bevan Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, PC (; 15 November 1897 – 6 July 1960) was a Welsh people, Welsh Labour Party (UK), Labour Party politician, noted for tenure as Minister of Health in Clement Attlee's go ...
and John Freeman in resigning from the government in April 1951 in protest at the introduction of
National Health Service The National Health Service (NHS) is the umbrella term for the publicly funded health care, publicly funded healthcare systems of the United Kingdom (UK). Since 1948, they have been funded out of general taxation. There are three systems which ...
(NHS) medical charges to meet the financial demands imposed by the
Korean War , date = {{Ubl, 25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953 (''de facto'')({{Age in years, months, weeks and days, month1=6, day1=25, year1=1950, month2=7, day2=27, year2=1953), 25 June 1950 – present (''de jure'')({{Age in years, months, weeks a ...
. At this time, Wilson was not yet regarded as a heavyweight politician:
Hugh Dalton Edward Hugh John Neale Dalton, Baron Dalton, (16 August 1887 – 13 February 1962) was a British Labour Party (UK), Labour Party economist and politician who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1945 to 1947. He shaped Labour Party foreig ...
referred to him scornfully as "Nye
evan Evan is both an English and Welsh male given name derived from "Iefan", a Welsh form for the name John (name), John. In other languages it could be compared to "Ivan (name), Ivan", "Ian", and "Juan"; the name John itself is derived from the ancie ...
s dog". After Labour lost the 1951 election, he became the Chairman of Keep Left, Bevan's political group. At the bitter Morecambe Conference in late 1952, Wilson was one of the Bevanites elected as constituency representatives to Labour's National Executive Committee (NEC), whilst senior right-wingers such as Dalton and
Herbert Morrison Herbert Stanley Morrison, Baron Morrison of Lambeth, (3 January 1888 – 6 March 1965) was a British politician who held a variety of senior positions in the UK Cabinet as member of the Labour Party. During the inter-war period, he was Mini ...
were voted off.


Shadow Cabinet, 1954–1963

Wilson had never made much secret that his support of the left-wing Aneurin Bevan was opportunistic. In early 1954, Bevan resigned from the Shadow Cabinet (elected by Labour MPs when the party was in opposition) over Labour's support for the setting-up of the
Southeast Asia Treaty Organization The Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) was an international organization for collective security, collective defense in Southeast Asia created by the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, or Manila Pact, signed in September 1954 i ...
(SEATO). Wilson, who had been runner-up in the elections, stepped up to fill the vacant place. He was supported in this by
Richard Crossman Richard Howard Stafford Crossman (15 December 1907 – 5 April 1974) was a British Labour Party politician. A university classics lecturer by profession, he was elected a Member of Parliament in 1945 and became a significant figure among the ...
, but his actions angered Bevan and the other Bevanites. Wilson's course in intra-party matters in the 1950s and early 1960s left him neither fully accepted nor trusted by the left or the right in the Labour Party. Despite his earlier association with Bevan, in
1955 Events January * January 3 – José Ramón Guizado becomes president of Panama. * January 17 – , the first Nuclear marine propulsion, nuclear-powered submarine, puts to sea for the first time, from Groton, Connecticut. * January 18 ...
he backed
Hugh Gaitskell Hugh Todd Naylor Gaitskell (9 April 1906 – 18 January 1963) was a British politician who served as Leader of the Labour Party (UK), Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition (United Kingdom), Leader of the Opposition from 1955 ...
, the right-wing candidate in internal Labour Party terms, against Bevan for the party leadership election. Gaitskell appointed him
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer The Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer in the British Parliamentary system is the member of the Official Opposition Shadow Cabinet (United Kingdom), Shadow Cabinet who is responsible for shadowing the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The title is g ...
in 1955, and he proved to be very effective. One of his procedural moves caused a substantial delay to the progress of the Government's
Finance Bill A government budget is a document prepared by the government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In the case of its broad associative definition, government normally co ...
in 1955, and his speeches as Shadow Chancellor from 1956 were widely praised for their clarity and wit. He coined the term " Gnomes of Zürich" to ridicule Swiss bankers for selling Britain short and pushing the
pound sterling Sterling (abbreviation: stg; Other spelling styles, such as STG and Stg, are also seen. ISO code: GBP) is the currency of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United King ...
down by
speculation In finance, speculation is the purchase of an asset (a commodity, good (economics), goods, or real estate) with the hope that it will become more valuable shortly. (It can also refer to short sales in which the speculator hopes for a decline i ...
. He conducted an inquiry into the Labour Party's organisation following its defeat in the 1955 general election; its report compared Labour's organisation to an antiquated "
penny farthing The penny-farthing, also known as a high wheel, high wheeler or ordinary, is an early type of bicycle. It was popular in the 1870s and 1880s, with its large front wheel providing high speeds (owing to its travelling a large distance for every r ...
" bicycle, and made various recommendations for improvements. Unusually, Wilson combined the job of Chairman of the House of Commons' Public Accounts Committee with that of Shadow Chancellor from 1959, holding that position until 1963. Gaitskell's leadership was weakened after the Labour Party's 1959 defeat, his controversial attempt to ditch Labour's commitment to nationalisation by scrapping Clause Four, and his defeat at the 1960 Party Conference over a motion supporting
unilateral nuclear disarmament __NOTOC__ Unilateralism is any doctrine or agenda that supports one-sided action. Such action may be in disregard for other parties, or as an expression of a commitment toward a direction which other parties may find disagreeable. As a word, ''un ...
. Bevan had died in July 1960, so Wilson established himself as a leader of the Labour left by launching an opportunistic but unsuccessful challenge to Gaitskell's leadership in November 1960. Wilson would later be moved to the position of
Shadow Foreign Secretary In UK politics, the Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs is a position within the Official Opposition, opposition's Official Opposition Shadow Cabinet (United Kingdom), shadow cabinet that deals mainly with ...
in 1961, before he challenged for the deputy leadership in 1962 but was defeated by George Brown.


Opposition Leader, 1963–64

Gaitskell died in January 1963, just as the Labour Party had begun to unite and appeared to have a very good chance of winning the next election, with the Macmillan Government running into trouble. Timothy Heppell has explored how Wilson won the Labour Party leadership election. Wilson had alienated the right wing of the party by his angry attempts to defeat Gaitskell in
1960 It is also known as the "Year of Africa" because of major events—particularly the independence of seventeen African nations—that focused global attention on the continent and intensified feelings of Pan-Africanism. Events January * Jan ...
for the leadership, and George Brown in
1962 Events January * January 1 – Samoa, Western Samoa becomes independent from New Zealand. * January 3 – Pope John XXIII Excommunication, excommunicates Fidel Castro for preaching communism. * January 8 – Harmelen train disas ...
for the deputy leadership. These misadventures gave Wilson a reputation for disloyalty and divisiveness. Heppell identifies three factors whereby Wilson overcame these disadvantages. Firstly, he had united the party's left wing behind him and they showed no willingness to compromise. Secondly, the right wing, although more numerous, was deeply split between Brown and
James Callaghan Leonard James Callaghan, Baron Callaghan of Cardiff, ( ; 27 March 191226 March 2005), commonly known as Jim Callaghan, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1976 to 1979 and Leader of the Labour Party (UK), Leader of the Labour Party ...
. Wilson took the lead on the first ballot and gained momentum on the second. Finally, Brown proved a poor campaigner, emphasizing divisive factors rather than his own credentials, allowing Wilson to emerge, surprisingly, as the unity candidate, thus becoming the Leader of the Labour Party and the
Leader of the Opposition The Leader of the Opposition is a title traditionally held by the leader of the Opposition (parliamentary), largest political party not in government, typical in countries utilizing the parliamentary system form of government. The leader of the ...
. At the party's 1963 annual conference, Wilson made his best-remembered speech, on the implications of scientific and technological change. He argued that "the Britain that is going to be forged in the white heat of this revolution will be no place for restrictive practices or for outdated measures on either side of industry". This speech did much to set Wilson's reputation as a technocrat not tied to the prevailing class system. Labour's 1964 election campaign was aided by the
Profumo affair The Profumo affair was a major scandal in twentieth-century Politics of the United Kingdom, British politics. John Profumo, the Secretary of State for War in Harold Macmillan's Conservative Party (UK), Conservative government, had an extramar ...
, a ministerial sex scandal that had mortally wounded
Harold Macmillan Maurice Harold Macmillan, 1st Earl of Stockton, (10 February 1894 – 29 December 1986) was a British Conservative statesman and politician who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1957 to 1963. Caricatured as " Supermac", ...
and hurt the Conservatives. Wilson made capital without getting involved in the less salubrious aspects. (Asked for a statement on the scandal, he reportedly said "No comment ... in glorious
Technicolor Technicolor is a series of Color motion picture film, color motion picture processes, the first version dating back to 1916, and followed by improved versions over several decades. Definitive Technicolor movies using three black and white films ...
!"). Sir
Alec Douglas-Home Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home, Baron Home of the Hirsel (; 2 July 1903 – 9 October 1995), styled as Lord Dunglass between 1918 and 1951 and being The 14th Earl of Home from 1951 till 1963, was a British Conservative Party (UK), Conse ...
was an
aristocrat The aristocracy is historically associated with "hereditary" or "ruling" social class. In many states, the aristocracy included the upper class of people (aristocrats) with hereditary rank and titles. In some, such as ancient Greece, ancient Ro ...
who had given up his
peerage A peerage is a legal system historically comprising various hereditary titles (and sometimes Life peer, non-hereditary titles) in a number of countries, and composed of assorted Imperial, royal and noble ranks, noble ranks. Peerages include: Aus ...
to sit in the
House of Commons The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house of the bicameral parliaments of the United Kingdom and Canada. In both of these countries, the Commons holds much more legislative power than the nominally upper house of parliament. T ...
and become prime minister upon Macmillan's resignation. To Wilson's comment that he was out of touch with ordinary people since he was the 14th
Earl of Home Earl of Home ( ) is a title in the Peerage of Scotland The Peerage of Scotland ( gd, Moraireachd na h-Alba, sco, Peerage o Scotland) is one of the five divisions of peerages in the United Kingdom and for those peers created by the King ...
, Home retorted, "I suppose Mr. Wilson is the fourteenth Mr. Wilson".


First period as prime minister (1964–1970)

Labour won the 1964 general election with a narrow majority of four seats, and Wilson became
prime minister A prime minister, premier or chief of cabinet is the head of the Cabinet (government), cabinet and the leader of the Minister (government), ministers in the Executive (government), executive branch of government, often in a parliamentary syst ...
, the youngest person to hold that office since
Lord Rosebery Archibald Philip Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery, 1st Earl of Midlothian, (7 May 1847 – 21 May 1929) was a British Liberal Party (UK), Liberal Party politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from March 1894 to June 1895. ...
70 years earlier. During 1965, by-election losses reduced the government's majority to a single seat; but in March 1966 Wilson took the gamble of calling another general election. The gamble paid off, because this time Labour achieved a 96-seat majority over the Conservatives, who the previous year had made
Edward Heath Sir Edward Richard George Heath (9 July 191617 July 2005), often known as Ted Heath, was a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1970 to 1974 and Leader of the Conservative Party (UK), Leader of the Conserv ...
their leader.


Domestic affairs

The 1964–1970 Labour government carried out a broad range of reforms during its time in office, in such areas as social security, civil liberties, housing, health, education, and worker's rights. It is perhaps best remembered for the liberal social reforms introduced or supported by
Home Secretary The secretary of state for the Home Department, otherwise known as the home secretary, is a senior minister of the Crown in the Government of the United Kingdom. The home secretary leads the Home Office, and is responsible for all national s ...
Roy Jenkins Roy Harris Jenkins, Baron Jenkins of Hillhead, (11 November 1920 – 5 January 2003) was a British politician who served as President of the European Commission The president of the European Commission is the head of the European Com ...
. Notable amongst these was the partial decriminalisation of
male homosexuality Human male sexuality encompasses a wide variety of feelings and behaviors. Men's feelings of attraction may be caused by various physical and social traits of their potential partner. Men's sexual behavior can be affected by many factors, incl ...
and
abortion Abortion is the termination of a pregnancy by removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus. An abortion that occurs without intervention is known as a miscarriage or "spontaneous abortion"; these occur in approximately 30% to 40% of pregnan ...
, reform of divorce laws, the abolition of theatre censorship and
capital punishment Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is the State (polity), state-sanctioned practice of deliberately killing a person as a punishment for an actual or supposed crime, usually following an authorized, rule-governed process to ...
(except for a small number of offences — notably
high treason Treason is the crime of attacking a state authority to which one owes allegiance. This typically includes acts such as participating in a war against one's native country, attempting to overthrow its government, spying on its military, its diplo ...
) and various pieces of legislation addressing
race relations Race relations is a sociological concept that emerged in Chicago in connection with the work of sociologist Robert E. Park and the Chicago race riot of 1919. Race relations designates a paradigm or field in sociology and a legal concept in the U ...
and
racial discrimination Racial discrimination is any discrimination Discrimination is the act of making unjustified distinctions between people based on the groups, classes, or other categories to which they belong or are perceived to belong. People may be discrim ...
. His government also undertook the easing of means testing for non-contributory welfare benefits, the linking of pensions to earnings, and the provision of industrial-injury benefits. Wilson's government also made significant reforms to
education Education is a purposeful activity directed at achieving certain aims, such as transmitting knowledge or fostering skills and character traits. These aims may include the development of understanding, rationality, kindness, and honesty ...
, most notably the expansion of
comprehensive education Comprehensive may refer to: *Comprehensive layout, the page layout of a proposed design as initially presented by the designer to a client. *Comprehensive school, a state school that does not select its intake on the basis of academic achievement o ...
and the creation of the
Open University The Open University (OU) is a British Public university, public research university and the largest university in the United Kingdom by List of universities in the United Kingdom by enrolment, number of students. The majority of the OU's underg ...
.


Economic policies

Wilson's government put faith in
economic planning Economic planning is a resource allocation mechanism based on a computational procedure for solving a constrained maximization problem with an iterative process for obtaining its solution. Planning is a mechanism for the allocation of resources b ...
as a way to solve Britain's economic problems. The government's strategy involved setting up a Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) which would draw up a National Plan which was intended to promote growth and investment. Wilson believed that scientific progress was the key to economic and social advancement, as such he famously referred to the "white heat of technology", in reference to the modernisation of British industry. This was to be achieved through a new
Ministry of Technology The Ministry of Technology was a department of the government of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-west ...
(shortened to "Mintech") which would coordinate research and development and support the swift adoption of new technology by industry, aided by government-funded infrastructure improvements. In practice, however, events derailed much of the initial optimism. Upon coming to power, the government was informed that they had inherited an exceptionally large deficit of £800 million on Britain's external
balance of trade The balance of trade, commercial balance, or net exports (sometimes symbolized as NX), is the difference between the monetary value of a nation's exports and imports over a certain time period. Sometimes a distinction is made between a balance ...
. This partly reflected the preceding government's expansive fiscal policy in the run-up to the 1964 election. Immediately the pound came under enormous pressure, and many economists advocated
devaluation In macroeconomics and modern monetary policy, a devaluation is an official lowering of the value of a country's currency within a fixed exchange-rate system, in which a monetary authority formally sets a lower exchange rate of the national curren ...
of the pound in response, but Wilson resisted, reportedly in part out of concern that Labour, which had previously devalued sterling in 1949, would become tagged as "the party of devaluation". Wilson also believed that a devaluation would disproportionately harm low-income Britons with savings and poorer
Commonwealth of Nations The Commonwealth of Nations, simply referred to as the Commonwealth, is a political association of 56 member states, the vast majority of which are former territories of the British Empire. The chief institutions of the organisation are the C ...
countries in the
sterling area The sterling area (or sterling bloc, legally scheduled territories) was a group of countries that either Pegged currency, pegged their currencies to pound sterling, sterling, or actually used sterling as their own currency. The area began to a ...
. The government instead opted to deal with the problem by imposing a temporary surcharge on imports, and a series of deflationary measures designed to reduce demand and therefore the inflow of imports. In the latter half of 1967, an attempt was made to prevent the recession in activity from going too far in the form of a stimulus to consumer durable spending through an easing of credit, which in turn prevented a rise in unemployment. After a costly battle, market pressures forced the government to devalue the pound by 14% from $2.80 to $2.40 in November 1967. Wilson was much criticised for a broadcast soon after in which he assured listeners that the "pound in your pocket" had not lost its value. Economic performance did show some improvement after the devaluation, as economists had predicted. The devaluation, with accompanying austerity measures which ensured resources went into exports rather than domestic consumption, successfully restored the trade balance to surplus by 1969. In retrospect Wilson has been widely criticised for not devaluing earlier, however, he believed there were strong arguments against it, including the fear that it would set off a round of competitive devaluations, and concern about the impact price rises following a devaluation would have on people on low incomes. The government's decision over its first three years to defend sterling's parity with traditional deflationary measures ran counter to hopes for an expansionist push for growth. The National Plan produced by the DEA in 1965 targeted an annual growth rate of 3.8%, however, under the restrained circumstances the actual average rate of growth between 1964 and 1970 was a far more modest 2.2%. The DEA itself was wound up in 1969. The government's other main initiative Mintech did have some success at switching research and development spending from military to civilian purposes, and of achieving increases in industrial productivity, although persuading industry to adopt new technology proved more difficult than had been hoped. Faith in indicative planning as a pathway to growth, embodied in the DEA and Mintech, was at the time by no means confined to the Labour Party. Wilson built on foundations that had been laid by his Conservative predecessors, in the shape, for example, of the
National Economic Development Council National may refer to: Common uses * Nation A nation is a community of people formed on the basis of a combination of shared features such as language, history, ethnicity, culture and/or society. A nation is thus the collective Identity (so ...
(known as "Neddy") and its regional counterparts (the "little Neddies"). Government intervention in industry was greatly enhanced, with the National Economic Development Office greatly strengthened and the number of "little Neddies" was increased, from eight in 1964 to twenty-one in 1970. The government's policy of selective economic intervention was later characterised by the establishment of a new super-ministry of technology, a connexion not always publicly grasped, under
Tony Benn Anthony Neil Wedgwood Benn (3 April 1925 – 14 March 2014), known between 1960 and 1963 as Viscount Stansgate, was a British politician, writer and diarist who served as a Cabinet minister in the 1960s and 1970s. A member of the Labour Party, ...
.''The Labour Government 1964–70'' by Brian Lapping. The continued relevance of industrial
nationalisation Nationalization (nationalisation in British English British English (BrE, en-GB, or BE) is, according to Oxford Dictionaries, " English as used in Great Britain, as distinct from that used elsewhere". More narrowly, it can refer speci ...
(a centrepiece of the post-War Labour government's programme) had been a key point of contention in Labour's internal struggles of the 1950s and early 1960s. Wilson's predecessor as leader,
Hugh Gaitskell Hugh Todd Naylor Gaitskell (9 April 1906 – 18 January 1963) was a British politician who served as Leader of the Labour Party (UK), Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition (United Kingdom), Leader of the Opposition from 1955 ...
, had tried in 1960 to tackle the controversy head-on, with a proposal to expunge Clause Four (the public ownership clause) from the party's constitution, but had been forced to climb down. Wilson took a characteristically more subtle approach: No significant expansion of public ownership took place under Wilson's government, however, he placated the party's left-wing by renationalising the steel industry under the Iron and Steel Act 1967 (which had been denationalised by the Conservatives in the 1950s) creating the
British Steel Corporation British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people, nationals or natives of the United Kingdom, British Overseas Territories, and Crown Dependencies. ** Britishness, the British identity and common culture * British English, ...
. One innovation of the Wilson government was the creation in 1968 of the Girobank, a publicly owned bank which operated via the
General Post Office The General Post Office (GPO) was the state mail, postal system and telecommunications carrier of the United Kingdom until 1969. Before the Acts of Union 1707, it was the postal system of the Kingdom of England, established by Charles II of En ...
network: As most working-class people in the 1960s did not have bank accounts, this was designed to serve their needs, as such it was billed as the "people's bank". Girobank was a long-term success, surviving until 2003. Wilson's government presided over a rate of
unemployment Unemployment, according to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), is people above a specified age (usually 15) not being in paid employment or self-employment but currently available for Work (human activity), w ...
which was low by historic (and later) standards but did rise during his period in office. Between 1964 and 1966 the average rate of unemployment was 1.6%, while between 1966 and 1970 the average stood at 2.5%. He had entered power at a time when unemployment stood at around 400,000. It still stood at 371,000 by early 1966 after a steady fall during 1965, but by March 1967 it stood at 631,000. It fell again towards the end of the decade, standing at 582,000 by the time of the general election in June 1970. Despite the economic difficulties faced by Wilson's government, it was able to achieve important advances in several domestic policy areas. As reflected by Wilson in 1971:


Social issues

Several liberalising social reforms were passed through parliament during Wilson's first period in government. These dealt with the death penalty, homosexual acts, abortion,
censorship Censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information. This may be done on the basis that such material is considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or "inconvenient". Censorship can be conducted by governments ...
and the
voting age A voting age is a age of majority, minimum age established by law that a person must attain before they become eligible to suffrage, vote in a public election. The most common voting age is 18 years; however, voting ages as low as 16 and as high ...
. There were new restrictions on
immigration Immigration is the international movement of people to a destination country of which they are not natives or where they do not possess citizenship in order to settle as Permanent residency, permanent residents or Naturalization, naturalize ...
. Wilson personally, coming culturally from a provincial non-conformist background, showed no particular enthusiasm for much of this agenda.


Education

Education Education is a purposeful activity directed at achieving certain aims, such as transmitting knowledge or fostering skills and character traits. These aims may include the development of understanding, rationality, kindness, and honesty ...
held special significance for a socialist of Wilson's generation, given its role in both opening up opportunities for children from working-class backgrounds and enabling Britain to seize the potential benefits of scientific advances. Under the first Wilson government, for the first time in British history, more money was allocated to education than to defence.''The Decade of Disillusion: British Politics in the Sixties'', edited by David Mckie and Chris Cook. Wilson continued the rapid creation of new universities, in line with the recommendations of the
Robbins Report The Robbins Report (the report of the Committee on Higher Education, chaired by Lord Robbins) was commissioned by the British government ga, Rialtas a Shoilse gd, Riaghaltas a Mhòrachd , image = HM Government logo.svg , image_size = 22 ...
, a
bipartisan Bipartisanship, sometimes referred to as nonpartisanship, is a political situation, usually in the context of a two-party system (especially those of the United States and some other western countries), in which opposing Political party, politica ...
policy already in train when Labour took power. Wilson promoted the concept of an
Open University The Open University (OU) is a British Public university, public research university and the largest university in the United Kingdom by List of universities in the United Kingdom by enrolment, number of students. The majority of the OU's underg ...
, to give adults who had missed out on
tertiary education Tertiary education, also referred to as third-level, third-stage or post-secondary education, is the educational level following the completion of secondary education. The World Bank, for example, defines tertiary education as including univers ...
a second chance through part-time study and
distance learning Distance education, also known as distance learning, is the education of students who may not always be physically present at a school, or where the learner and the teacher are separated in both time and distance. Traditionally, this usually in ...
. His political commitment included assigning implementation responsibility to Baroness Lee, the widow of
Aneurin Bevan Aneurin "Nye" Bevan Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, PC (; 15 November 1897 – 6 July 1960) was a Welsh people, Welsh Labour Party (UK), Labour Party politician, noted for tenure as Minister of Health in Clement Attlee's go ...
.''Breach of Promise – Labour in Power, 1964–70'' by Clive Ponting. By 1981, 45,000 students had received degrees through the Open University. Money was also channelled into local-authority run colleges of education. Wilson's record on
secondary education Secondary education or post-primary education covers two phases on the International Standard Classification of Education scale. Level 2 or lower secondary education (less commonly junior secondary education) is considered the second and final pha ...
is, by contrast, highly controversial. Pressure grew for the abolition of the selective principle underlying the "
eleven-plus The eleven-plus (11+) is a Test (assessment), standardized examination administered to some students in England and Northern Ireland in their last year of primary education, which governs admission to grammar schools and other secondary schools ...
", and replacement with
Comprehensive school A comprehensive school typically describes a secondary school A secondary school describes an institution that provides secondary education and also usually includes the building where this takes place. Some secondary schools provide both '' ...
s which would serve the full range of children (see the article ' grammar schools debate'). Comprehensive education became Labour Party policy. From 1966 to 1970, the proportion of children in comprehensive schools increased from about 10% to over 30%.''Changing party policy in Britain: an introduction'' by Richard Kelly. Labour pressed local authorities to convert grammar schools into comprehensives. Conversion continued on a large scale during the subsequent Conservative
Heath A heath () is a shrubland habitat (ecology), habitat found mainly on free-draining infertile, acidic soils and characterised by open, low-growing woody vegetation. Moorland is generally related to high-ground heaths with—especially in Great B ...
administration, although the Secretary of State,
Margaret Thatcher Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher (; 13 October 19258 April 2013) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 and Leader of the Conservative Party (UK), Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990. S ...
, ended the compulsion of local governments to convert. A major controversy that arose during Wilson's first government was the decision that the government could not fulfil its long-held promise to raise the school leaving age to 16, because of the investment required in infrastructure, such as extra classrooms and teachers. Overall, public expenditure on education rose as a proportion of GNP from 4.8% in 1964 to 5.9% in 1968, and the number of teachers in training increased by more than a third between 1964 and 1967. The percentage of students staying on at school after the age of sixteen increased similarly, and the student population increased by over 10% each year. Pupil-teacher ratios were also steadily reduced. As a result of the first Wilson government's educational policies, opportunities for working-class children were improved, while overall access to education in 1970 was broader than in 1964.''Socialists in the Recession: The Search for Solidarity'' by Giles Radice and Lisanne Radice. As summarised by Brian Lapping, In 1966, Wilson was created the first
Chancellor Chancellor ( la, cancellarius) is a title of various official positions in the governments of many nations. The original chancellors were the of Roman courts of justice—ushers, who sat at the or lattice work screens of a basilica or law cou ...
of the newly created
University of Bradford The University of Bradford is a public research university located in the city of Bradford, West Yorkshire, England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders w ...
, a position he held until 1985.


Housing

Housing was a major policy area under the first Wilson government. During Wilson's time in office from 1964 to 1970, more new houses were built than in the last six years of the previous Conservative government. The proportion of
council housing Public housing in the United Kingdom, also known as council estates, council housing, or social housing, provided the majority of rented accommodation until 2011 when the number of households in private rental housing surpassed the number in so ...
rose from 42% to 50% of the total,''A Short History of the Labour Party'' by Alastair J. Reid and Henry Pelling. while the number of council homes built increased steadily, from 119,000 in 1964 to 133,000 in 1965 and 142,000 in 1966. Allowing for demolitions, 1.3 million new homes were built between 1965 and 1970, To encourage homeownership, the government introduced the Option Mortgage Scheme (1968), which made low-income housebuyers eligible for subsidies (equivalent to tax relief on mortgage interest payments). This scheme had the effect of reducing housing costs for buyers on low incomes''Capitalism and public policy in the UK'' by Tom Burden and Mike Campbell. and enabling more people to become owner-occupiers. In addition, house owners were exempted from capital gains tax. Together with the Option Mortgage Scheme, this measure stimulated the private housing market. Significant emphasis was also placed on town planning, with new conservation areas introduced and a new generation of new towns built, notably
Milton Keynes Milton Keynes ( ) is a city status in the United Kingdom, city and the largest settlement in Buckinghamshire, England, about north-west of London. At the 2021 Census, the population of Milton Keynes urban area, its urban area was over . The ...
. The New Towns Acts of 1965 and 1968 together gave the government the authority (through its ministries) to designate any area of land as a site for a
new town New is an adjective referring to something recently made, discovered, or created. New or NEW may refer to: Music * New, singer of K-pop group The Boyz (South Korean band), The Boyz Albums and EPs * New (album), ''New'' (album), by Paul McCartn ...
.''Social Services: Made Simple'' by Tony Byrne, BA, BSc(Econ.), and Colin F. Padfield, LLB, DPA(Lond).


Urban renewal

Many subsidies were allocated to local authorities faced with acute areas of severe poverty (or other social problems). The Housing Act 1969 provided local authorities with the duty of working out what to do about 'unsatisfactory areas'. Local authorities could declare 'general improvement areas' in which they would be able to buy up land and houses and spend environmental improvement grants. On the same basis, taking geographical areas of need, a package was developed by the government which resembled a miniature poverty programme.''The decade of disillusion: British politics in the '60s'' by David McKie and Chris Cook. In July 1967, the government decided to pour money into what the Plowden Committee defined as Educational Priority Areas, poverty-stricken areas where children were environmentally deprived. Some poor inner-city areas were subsequently granted EPA status (despite concerns that Local Education Authorities would be unable to finance Educational Priority Areas). From 1968 to 1970, 150 new schools were built under the educational priority programme.


Social Services and welfare

According to Tony Atkinson, social security received much more attention from the first Wilson government than it did during the previous thirteen years of Conservative government. Following its victory in the 1964 general election, Wilson's government began to increase social benefits.
Prescription charges Charges for prescriptions for medicines and some medical appliances are payable by adults in England under the age of 60. However, people may be exempt from charges in various exemption categories. Charges were abolished by NHS Wales NHS Wal ...
for medicines were abolished immediately, while pensions were raised to a record 21% of average male industrial wages. In 1966, the system of
National Assistance National Assistance was the main means-tested benefit A means test is a determination of whether an individual or family is eligible for government assistance or welfare Welfare, or commonly social welfare, is a type of government support ...
(a social assistance scheme for the poor) was overhauled and renamed
Supplementary Benefit Supplementary Benefit was a means-tested benefit in the United Kingdom, paid to people on low incomes, whether or not they were classed as unemployed Unemployment, according to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Developm ...
. The means test was replaced with a statement of income, and benefit rates for pensioners (the great majority of claimants) were increased, granting them a real gain in income. Before the 1966 election, the widow's pension was tripled. Due to austerity measures following an economic crisis, prescription charges were re-introduced in 1968 as an alternative to cutting the hospital building programme, although those sections of the population who were most in need (including supplementary benefit claimants, the long-term sick, children, and pensioners) were exempted from charges.''Labour's First Century'' by Duncan Tanner, Pat Thane and Nick Tiratsoo. The widow's earning rule was also abolished, while a range of new social benefits was introduced. An Act was passed which replaced National Assistance with Supplementary Benefits. The new Act laid down that people who satisfied its conditions were entitled to these noncontributory benefits. Unlike the National Assistance scheme, which operated like state charity for the worst-off, the new Supplementary Benefits scheme was a right of every citizen who found himself or herself in severe difficulties. Those persons over the retirement age with no means who were considered to be unable to live on the basic pension (which provided less than what the government deemed as necessary for subsistence) became entitled to a "long-term" allowance of an extra few shillings a week. Some simplification of the procedure for claiming benefits was also introduced. From 1966, an exceptionally severe disablement allowance was added, "for those claimants receiving constant attendance allowance which was paid to those with the higher or intermediate rates of constant attendance allowance and who were exceptionally severely disabled." Redundancy payments were introduced in 1965 to lessen the impact of unemployment, and earnings-related benefits for maternity, unemployment, sickness, industrial injuries and widowhood were introduced in 1966, followed by the replacement of flat-rate family allowances with an earnings-related scheme in 1968. From July 1966 onwards, the temporary allowance for widow of severely disabled pensioners was extended from 13 to 26 weeks. Increases were made in pensions and other benefits during Wilson's first year in office that were the largest ever real term increases carried out up until that point.''The Five Giants: A Biography of the Welfare State'' by Nicholas Timmins. Social security benefits were markedly increased during Wilson's first two years in office, as characterised by a budget passed in the final quarter of 1964 which raised the standard benefit rates for old age, sickness and invalidity by 18.5%.''Taxation, Wage Bargaining, and Unemployment'' by Isabela Mares. In 1965, the government increased the national assistance rate to a higher level relative to earnings, and via annual adjustments, broadly maintained the rate at between 19% and 20% of gross industrial earnings until the start of 1970. In the five years from 1964 up until the last increases made by the First Wilson Government, pensions went up by 23% in real terms, supplementary benefits by 26% in real terms, and sickness and unemployment benefits by 153% in real terms (largely as a result of the introduction of earnings-related benefits in 1967).''The Labour Party in Crisis'' by Paul Whiteley.


Agriculture

Under the First Wilson Government, subsidies for farmers were increased.Richard Crossman, ''The diaries of a cabinet minister, Volume 3: Secretary of State for Social Services, 1968–1970''. Farmers who wished to leave the land or retire became eligible for grants or annuities if their holdings were sold for approved amalgamations, and could receive those benefits whether they wished to remain in their farmhouses or not. A Small Farmers Scheme was also extended, and from 1 December 1965, forty thousand more farmers became eligible for the maximum £1,000 grant. New grants to agriculture also encouraged the voluntary pooling of smallholdings, and in cases where their land was purchased for non-commercial purposes, tenant-farmers could now receive double the previous "disturbance compensation."''Labour: A Dictionary Of Achievement'', published by the Labour Party, Transport House, Smith Square, London, S.W.1. Printed by C.W.S. Printing Factory, Elgar Road, Reading (October 1968). A Hill Land Improvement Scheme, introduced by the Agriculture Act 1967, provided 50% grants for a wide range of land improvements, along with a supplementary 10% grant on drainage works benefitting hill land. The Agriculture Act 1967 also provided grants to promote farm amalgamation and to compensate outgoers.


Health

The proportion of GNP spent on the
National Health Service The National Health Service (NHS) is the umbrella term for the publicly funded health care, publicly funded healthcare systems of the United Kingdom (UK). Since 1948, they have been funded out of general taxation. There are three systems which ...
rose from 4.2% in 1964 to about 5% in 1969. This additional expenditure provided for an energetic revival of a policy of building health centres for general practitioners, extra pay for doctors who served in areas particularly short of them, significant growth in hospital staffing, and a significant increase in a hospital building programme. Far more money was spent each year on the NHS than under the 1951–64 Conservative governments, while much more effort was put into modernising and reorganising the health service. Stronger central and regional organisations were established for bulk purchase of hospital supplies, while some efforts were made to reduce inequalities in standards of care. In addition, the government increased the intake to medical schools. The 1966 Doctor's Charter introduced allowances for rent and ancillary staff, significantly increased the pay scales, and changed the structure of payments to reflect "both qualifications of doctors and the form of their practices, i.e. group practice." These changes not only led to higher morale, but also resulted in the increased use of ancillary staff and nursing attachments, growth in the number of health centres and group practices, and a boost in the modernisation of practices in terms of equipment, appointment systems, and buildings. The charter introduced a new system of payment for GPs, with refunds for surgery, rents, and rates, to ensure that the costs of improving his surgery did not diminish the doctor's income, together with allowances for the greater part of ancillary staff costs. In addition, a Royal Commission on medical education was set up, partly to draw up ideas for training GPs (since these doctors, the largest group of all doctors in the country, had previously not received any special training, "merely being those who, at the end of their pre-doctoral courses, did not go on for further training in any speciality"). In 1967, local authorities were empowered to provide free
family planning Family planning is the consideration of the number of children a person wishes to have, including the choice to have no children, and the age at which they wish to have them. Things that may play a role on family planning decisions include marita ...
advice and
means-tested A means test is a determination of whether an individual or family is eligible for government assistance or welfare, based upon whether the individual or family possesses the means to do without that help. Canada In Canada, means tests are use ...
contraceptive devices. In addition, medical training was expanded following the Todd Report on medical education in 1968. In addition, National Health expenditure rose from 4.2% of GNP in 1964 to 5% in 1969 and spending on hospital construction doubled. The Health Services and Public Health Act 1968 empowered local authorities to maintain workshops for the elderly either directly or via the agency of a voluntary body. A Health Advisory Service was later established to investigate and confront the problems of long-term psychiatric and mentally subnormal hospitals in the wave of numerous scandals. The Clean Air Act 1968 extended powers to combat
air pollution Air pollution is the contamination of air due to the presence of substances in the atmosphere that are harmful to the health of humans and other living beings, or cause damage to the climate or to materials. There are many different types ...
.''The Longman Companion to The Labour Party 1900–1998'' by Harry Harmer. More money was also allocated to hospitals treating the mentally ill. In addition, a Sports Council was set up to improve facilities. Direct government expenditure on sports more than doubled from £0.9 million in 1964/65 to £2 million in 1967/68, while 11 regional Sports Councils had been set up by 1968. In Wales, five new health centres had been opened by 1968, whereas none had been opened from 1951 to 1964, while spending on health and welfare services in the region went up from £55.8 million in 1963/64 to £83.9 million in 1967/68.


Workers

The Industrial Training Act 1964 set up an Industrial Training Board to encourage training for people in work, and within 7 years there were "27 ITBs covering employers with some 15 million workers." From 1964 to 1968, the number of training places had doubled. The Docks and Harbours Act (1966) and the Dock Labour Scheme (1967) reorganised the system of employment in the docks in order to put an end to
casual employment Contingent work, casual work, or contract work, is an employment Employment is a relationship between two party (law), parties Regulation, regulating the provision of paid Labour (human activity), labour services. Usually based on a employme ...
. The changes made to the Dock Labour Scheme in 1967 ensured a complete end to casual labour on the docks, effectively giving workers the security of jobs for life. Trade unions also benefited from the passage of the Trade Dispute Act 1965. This restored the legal immunity of trade union officials, thus ensuring that they could no longer be sued for threatening to strike.''Mastering Economic and Social History'' by David Taylor. The First Wilson Government also encouraged married women to return to teaching and improved Assistance Board Concessionary conditions for those teaching part-time, "by enabling them to qualify for pension rights and by formulating a uniform scale of payment throughout the country." Soon after coming into office, midwives and nurses were given an 11% pay increase, and according to one MP, nurses also benefited from the largest pay rise they had received in a generation. In May 1966, Wilson announced 30% pay rises for doctors and dentists—a move which did not prove popular with unions, as the national pay policy at the time was for rises of between 3% and 3.5%. Much needed improvements were made in junior hospital doctors' salaries. From 1959 to 1970, while the earnings of manual workers increased by 75%, the salaries of registrars more than doubled while those of house officers more than trebled. Most of these improvements, such as for nurses, came in the pay settlements of 1970. On a limited scale, reports by the National Board for Prices and Incomes encouraged incentive payments schemes to be developed in local government and elsewhere. In February 1969, the government accepted an "above the ceiling" increase for farmworkers, a low-paid group. Some groups of professional workers, such as nurses, teachers, and doctors, gained substantial awards.


Transport

The Travel Concessions Act 1964, one of the first Acts passed by the First Wilson Government, provided concessions to all pensioners travelling on buses operated by municipal transport authorities. The
Transport Act 1968 The Transport Act 1968 (1968 c.73) was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the Parliamentary sovereignty in the United Kingdom, supreme Legislature, legislative body of the United Kingdom ...
established the principle of government grants for transport authorities if uneconomic passenger services were justified on social grounds. A
National Freight Corporation The National Freight Corporation was a major British transport business between 1948 and 2000. It was listed on the London Stock Exchange and at one time, as NFC plc, was a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. History The company was established ...
was also established to provide integrated rail freight and road services. Public expenditure on roads steadily increased and stricter safety precautions were introduced, such as the
breathalyser A breathalyzer or breathalyser (a portmanteau A portmanteau word, or portmanteau (, ) is a Blend word, blend of words
test for drunken driving, under the 1967 Road Traffic Act. The Transport Act gave a much needed financial boost to
British Rail British Railways (BR), which from 1965 traded as British Rail, was a state-owned company that operated most of the overground rail transport in Great Britain from 1948 to 1997. It was formed from the nationalisation of the Big Four (British ra ...
, treating them like they were a company which had become bankrupt but could now, under new management, carry on debt-free. The act also established a national freight corporation and introduced government
rail subsidies Many countries offer Subsidy, subsidies to their railways because of the social and economic benefits that it brings. The economic benefits can greatly assist in funding the rail network. Those countries usually also fund or subsidize road construc ...
for passenger transport on the same basis as existing subsidies for roads to enable local authorities to improve public transport in their areas. The road-building programme was also expanded, with capital expenditure increased to 8% of GDP, "the highest level achieved by any post-war government".''Ten Years of New Labour'', edited by Matt Beech and Simon Lee. Central government expenditure on roads went up from £125 million in 1963/64 to £225 million in 1967/68, while a number of
road safety Road traffic safety refers to the methods and measures used to prevent road users from being killed or seriously injured. Typical road users include pedestrians, cyclists, Driving, motorists, vehicle passengers, horse riders, and passengers o ...
regulations were introduced, covering
seat belts A seat belt (also known as a safety belt, or spelled seatbelt) is a vehicle safety device designed to secure the driver or a passenger of a vehicle against harmful movement that may result during a collision or a sudden stop. A seat belt reduc ...
, lorry drivers' hours, car and lorry standards, and an experimental 70 mile per hour speed limit. In Scotland, spending on trunk roads went up from £6.8 million in 1963/64 to £15.5 million in 1966/67, while in Wales, spending on Welsh roads went up from £21.2 million in 1963/64 to £31.4 million in 1966/67.


Regional development

Encouragement of regional development was given increased attention under the First Wilson Government, to narrow economic disparities between the various regions. A policy was introduced in 1965 whereby any new government organisation should be established outside London and in 1967 the government decided to give preference to development areas. A few government departments were also moved out of London, with the
Royal Mint The Royal Mint is the United Kingdom's oldest company and the official maker of British coins. Operating under the legal name The Royal Mint Limited, it is a limited company that is wholly owned by HM Treasury, His Majesty's Treasury and is un ...
moved to
South Wales South Wales ( cy, De Cymru) is a Regions of Wales, loosely defined region of Wales bordered by England to the east and mid Wales to the north. Generally considered to include the Historic counties of Wales, historic counties of Glamorgan and Mon ...
, the Giro and Inland Revenue to
Bootle Bootle (pronounced ) is a town in the Metropolitan Borough of Sefton, Merseyside, England, which had a population of 51,394 in 2011; the wider Bootle (UK Parliament constituency), Parliamentary constituency had a population of 98,449. Histo ...
, and the Motor Tax Office to
Swansea Swansea (; cy, Abertawe ) is a coastal City status in the United Kingdom, city and the List of urban areas in the United Kingdom, second-largest city of Wales. It forms a Principal areas of Wales, principal area, officially known as the City ...
.''The Labour government's Economic record: 1964–1970'', edited by Wilfred Beckerman. A new Special Development Status was also introduced in 1967 to provide even higher levels of assistance. In 1966, five development areas (covering half the population in the UK) were established, while subsidies were provided for employers recruiting new employees in the Development Areas. A Highlands and Islands Development Board was also set up to "re-invigorate" the north of Scotland. The Industrial Development Act 1966 changed the name of Development Districts (parts of the country with higher levels of
unemployment Unemployment, according to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), is people above a specified age (usually 15) not being in paid employment or self-employment but currently available for Work (human activity), w ...
than the national average and which governments sought to encourage greater investment in) to Development Areas and increased the percentage of the workforce covered by development schemes from 15% to 20%, which mainly affected rural areas in
Scotland Scotland (, ) is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. Covering the northern third of the island of Great Britain, mainland Scotland has a Anglo-Scottish border, border with England to the southeast ...
and
Wales Wales ( cy, Cymru ) is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It is bordered by England to the Wales–England border, east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, the Celtic Sea to the south west and the ...
. Tax allowances were replaced by grants to extend coverage to include firms which were not making a profit, and in 1967 a Regional Employment Premium was introduced. Whereas the existing schemes tended to favour capital-intensive projects, this aimed for the first time at increasing employment in depressed areas. Set at 30s per employee per week and guaranteed for seven years, the Regional Employment Premium subsidised all
manufacturing industry Manufacturing is the creation or Production (economics), production of goods with the help of equipment, Work (human activity), labor, machines, tools, and chemical or biological processing or formulation. It is the essence of secondary secto ...
(though not services) in Development Areas, amounting to an average subsidy of 7% of labour costs. Regional unemployment differentials were narrowed, and spending on regional infrastructure was significantly increased. Between 1965–66 and 1969–70, yearly expenditure on new construction (including power stations, roads, schools, hospitals and housing) rose by 41% in the United Kingdom as a whole. Subsidies were also provided for various industries (such as
shipbuilding Shipbuilding is the construction of ships and other Watercraft, floating vessels. It normally takes place in a specialized facility known as a shipyard. Shipbuilders, also called shipwrights, follow a specialized occupation that traces its roo ...
in
Clydeside Greater Glasgow is an urban settlement in Scotland consisting of all localities which are physically attached to the city of Glasgow Glasgow ( ; sco, Glesca or ; gd, Glaschu ) is the most populous city A city is a human settle ...
), which helped to prevent many job losses. It is estimated that, between 1964 and 1970, 45,000 government jobs were created outside London, 21,000 of which were located in the Development Areas. The Local Employment Act, passed in March 1970, embodied the government's proposals for assistance to 54 "intermediate" employment exchange areas not classified as full "development" areas.''Britannica Book of the Year 1971'', Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., William Benton (Publisher). Funds allocated to regional assistance more than doubled, from £40 million in 1964/65 to £82 million in 1969/70, and from 1964 to 1970, the number of factories completed was 50% higher than from 1960 to 1964, which helped to reduce unemployment in development areas. In 1970, the unemployment rate in development areas was 1.67 times the national average, compared to 2.21 times in 1964. Although national rates of unemployment were higher in 1970 than in the early 1960s, unemployment rates in the development areas were lower and had not increased for three years. Altogether, the impact of the first Wilson government's regional development policies was such that, according to one historian, the period 1963 to 1970 represented "the most prolonged, most intensive, and most successful attack ever launched on regional problems in Britain."


International development

A new Ministry of Overseas Development was established, with its greatest success at the time being the introduction of interest-free loans for the poorest countries. The Minister of Overseas Development,
Barbara Castle Barbara Anne Castle, Baroness Castle of Blackburn, (''née'' Betts; 6 October 1910 – 3 May 2002), was a Labour Party (UK), British Labour Party politician who was a Member of Parliament (United Kingdom), Member of Parliament from 1945 United ...
, set a standard in interest relief on loans to developing nations which resulted in changes to the loan policies of many donor countries, "a significant shift in the conduct of rich white nations to poor brown ones." Loans were introduced to
developing countries A developing country is a sovereign state with a lesser developed Industrial sector, industrial base and a lower Human Development Index (HDI) relative to other countries. However, this definition is not universally agreed upon. There is al ...
on terms that were more favourable to them than those given by governments of all other developed countries at that time. In addition, Castle was instrumental in setting up an Institute of Development Studies at the
University of Sussex The University of Sussex is a public university, public research university located in Falmer, East Sussex, England, it is mostly within the city boundaries of Brighton and Hove but extends into the Lewes District in its eastern fringe. Its large ...
to devise ways of tackling global socio-economic inequalities. Overseas aid suffered from the austerity measures introduced by the first Wilson government in its last few years in office, with British aid as a percentage of GNP falling from 0.53% in 1964 to 0.39% in 1969.


Taxation

Wilson's government made a variety of changes to the
tax system A tax is a compulsory financial charge or some other type of levy imposed on a taxpayer (an individual or legal person, legal entity) by a governmental organization in order to fund government spending and various public expenditures (regiona ...
. Largely under the influence of the Hungarian-born economists
Nicholas Kaldor Nicholas Kaldor, Baron Kaldor (12 May 1908 – 30 September 1986), born Káldor Miklós, was a Cambridge economist in the post-war period. He developed the "compensation" criteria called Kaldor–Hicks efficiency for welfare comparisons (1939), d ...
and Thomas Balogh, an idiosyncratic Selective Employment Tax (SET) was introduced that was designed to tax employment in the service sectors while subsidising employment in manufacturing. (The rationale proposed by its economist authors derived largely from claims about potential economies of scale and technological progress, but Wilson in his memoirs stressed the tax's revenue-raising potential.) The SET did not long survive the return of a Conservative government. Of longer-term significance,
capital gains tax A capital gains tax (CGT) is the tax on profits realized on the sale of a non-inventory asset In financial accounting, an asset is any resource owned or controlled by a business or an economic entity. It is anything (tangible or intangible ...
(CGT) was introduced across the UK on 6 April 1965. Across his two periods in office, Wilson presided over significant increases in the overall tax burden in the UK. In 1974, three weeks after forming a new government, Wilson's new chancellor
Denis Healey Denis Winston Healey, Baron Healey, (30 August 1917 – 3 October 2015) was a British Labour Party (UK), Labour politician who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1974 to 1979 and as Secretary of State for Defence from 1964 to 1970; he ...
partially reversed the 1971 reduction in the top rate of tax from 90% to 75%, increasing it to 83% in his first budget, which came into law in April 1974. This applied to incomes over £20,000 (equivalent to £ in ), and combined with a 15% surcharge on 'unearned' income (investments and dividends) could add up to a 98% marginal rate of personal income tax. In 1974, as many as 750,000 people were liable to pay the top rate of income tax. Various changes were also made to the tax system which benefited workers on low and middle incomes. Married couples with low incomes benefited from the increases in the single personal allowance and marriage allowance. In 1965, the regressive allowance for national insurance contributions was abolished and the single personal allowance, marriage allowance and wife's earned income relief were increased. These allowances were further increased in the tax years 1969–70 and 1970–71. Increases in the age exemption and dependant relative's income limits benefited the low-income elderly. In 1967, new tax concessions were introduced for widows. Increases were made in some of the minor allowances in the 1969 Finance Act, notably the additional personal allowance, the age exemption and age relief and the dependent relative limit. Apart from the age relief, further adjustments in these concessions were implemented in 1970. 1968 saw the introduction of aggregation of the investment income of unmarried minors with the income of their parents. According to Michael Meacher, this change put an end to a previous inequity whereby two families, in otherwise identical circumstances, paid differing amounts of tax "simply because in one case the child possessed property transferred to it by a grandparent, while in the other case the grandparent's identical property was inherited by the parent." In the 1969 budget, income tax was abolished for about 1 million of the lowest-paid and reduced for a further 600,000 people, while in the government's last budget (introduced in 1970), two million small taxpayers were exempted from paying any income tax altogether.


Liberal reforms

A wide range of liberal measures were introduced during Wilson's time in office. The Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Act 1970 made provision for the welfare of children whose parents were about to divorce or be judicially separated, with courts (for instance) granted wide powers to order financial provision for children in the form of maintenance payments made by either parent. This legislation allowed courts to order provision for either spouse and recognised the contribution to the joint home made during marriage. That same year, spouses were given an equal share of household assets following divorce via the Matrimonial Property Act. The Race Relations Act 1968 was also extended in 1968 and in 1970 the
Equal Pay Act 1970 The Equal Pay Act 1970 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that prohibited any less favourable treatment between men and women in terms of pay and conditions of employment. The Act was proposed by the then Labour government, and was ...
was passed. Another important reform, the
Welsh Language Act 1967 The Welsh Language Act 1967, is an Act of Parliament, Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which gave some rights to use the Welsh language in legal proceedings in Wales (including Monmouthshire (historic), Monmouthshire) and gave the rele ...
, granted 'equal validity' to the declining
Welsh language Welsh ( or ) is a Celtic language family, Celtic language of the Brittonic languages, Brittonic subgroup that is native to the Welsh people. Welsh is spoken natively in Wales, by some in England, and in Y Wladfa (the Welsh colony in Chubut P ...
and encouraged its revival. Government expenditure was also increased on both sport and the arts. The Mines and Quarries (Tips) Act 1969, passed in response to the
Aberfan disaster The Aberfan disaster was the catastrophic collapse of a colliery spoil tip on 21 October 1966. The tip had been created on a mountain slope above the Welsh village of Aberfan, near Merthyr Tydfil, and overlaid a natural spring. Heavy rain led t ...
, made provision for preventing disused tips from endangering members of the public. In 1967, corporal punishment in borstals and
prisons A prison, also known as a jail, gaol (dated, standard English In an English-speaking country, Standard English (SE) is the Variety (linguistics), variety of English language, English that has undergone substantial Standard language, regul ...
was abolished. 7 regional associations were established to develop the arts, and government expenditure on cultural activities rose from £7.7 million in 1964/64 to £15.3 million in 1968/69. A Criminal Injuries Compensation Board was also set up, which had paid out over £2 million to victims of criminal violence by 1968. The Commons Registration Act 1965 provided for the registration of all
common land Common land is land owned by a person or collectively by a number of persons, over which other persons have certain common rights, such as to allow their livestock to graze upon it, to collect Wood fuel, wood, or to cut turf for fuel. A person ...
and
village green A village green is a commons, common open area within a village or other settlement. Historically, a village green was common pasture, grassland with a pond for watering cattle and other stock, often at the edge of a rural settlement, used for ...
s, whilst under the
Countryside Act 1968 The Countryside Act 1968 is an Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom which enlarged the conservation and recreation functions of the existing National Parks Commission and re-named it the Countryside Commission. It provided for the establishmen ...
, local authorities could provide facilities "for enjoyment of such lands to which the public has access". The Family Provision Act 1966 amended a series of pre-existing estate laws mainly related to persons who died intestate. The legislation increased the amount that could be paid to surviving spouses if a will had not been left, and also expanded upon the jurisdiction of county courts, which were given the jurisdiction of high courts under certain circumstances when handling matters of estate. The rights of adopted children were also improved with certain wording changed in the Inheritance (Family Provision) Act 1938 to bestow upon them the same rights as natural-born children. In 1968, the Nurseries and Child-Minders Regulation Act 1948 was updated to include more categories of childminders. A year later, the Family Law Reform Act 1969 was passed, which allowed people born outside marriage to inherit on the
intestacy Intestacy is the condition of the estate (law), estate of a person who dies without having in force a valid Will and testament, will or other binding declaration. Alternatively this may also apply where a will or declaration has been made, but ...
of either parent. In 1967,
homosexuality Homosexuality is Romance (love), romantic attraction, sexual attraction, or Human sexual activity, sexual behavior between members of the same sex or gender. As a sexual orientation, homosexuality is "an enduring pattern of emotional, romant ...
was partially decriminalised (in England & Wales only) by the passage of the Sexual Offences Act. The
Public Records Act 1967 The Public Records Act 1967 is an Act of Parliament, Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed during Harold Wilson's Labour Party (UK), Labour government. The Act amended the Public Records Act 1958 by reducing the period whereby public ...
also introduced a
thirty-year rule The "thirty-year rule" is the informal name given to laws in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, and the Commonwealth of Australia that provide that certain government documents will be released publicly thirty years after they were creat ...
for access to public records, replacing a previous fifty-year rule.''New Labour, Old Labour: The Wilson and Callaghan Governments, 1974–79'' edited by Anthony Seldon and Kevin Hickson.


Industrial relations

Wilson made periodic attempts to mitigate inflation, largely through
wage A wage is payment made by an employer to an Worker, employee for work (human activity), work done in a specific period of time. Some examples of wage payments include wiktionary:compensatory, compensatory payments such as ''minimum wage'', ''p ...
-
price controls Price controls are restrictions set in place and enforced by governments, on the prices that can be charged for goods and services in a market. The intent behind implementing such controls can stem from the desire to maintain affordability of good ...
—better known in Britain as "prices and
incomes policy Incomes policies in economics are economy-wide wage and price controls, most commonly instituted as a response to inflation, and usually seeking to establish wages and prices below free market level. Incomes policies have often been resorted to ...
". (As with indicative planning, such controls—though now generally out of favour—were widely adopted at that time by governments of different ideological complexions, including the
Nixon administration Richard Nixon's tenure as the List of presidents of the United States, 37th president of the United States began with First inauguration of Richard Nixon, his first inauguration on January 20, 1969, and ended when he resigned on August 9, 1974 ...
in the United States.) Partly as a result of this reliance, the government tended to find itself repeatedly injected into major industrial disputes, with late-night "beer and sandwiches at Number Ten" an almost routine culmination to such episodes. Among the most damaging of the numerous strikes during Wilson's periods in office was a six-week stoppage by the
National Union of Seamen The National Union of Seamen (NUS) was the principal trade union A trade union (labor union in American English), often simply referred to as a union, is an organization of workers intent on "maintaining or improving the conditions of ...
, beginning shortly after Wilson's re-election in 1966, and conducted, he claimed, by "politically motivated men". With public frustration over strikes mounting, Wilson's government in 1969 proposed a series of changes to the legal basis for industrial relations (labour law), which were outlined in a White Paper " In Place of Strife" put forward by the Employment Secretary
Barbara Castle Barbara Anne Castle, Baroness Castle of Blackburn, (''née'' Betts; 6 October 1910 – 3 May 2002), was a Labour Party (UK), British Labour Party politician who was a Member of Parliament (United Kingdom), Member of Parliament from 1945 United ...
. Following a confrontation with the
Trades Union Congress The Trades Union Congress (TUC) is a national trade union center, national trade union centre, a federation of trade unions in England and Wales, representing the majority of trade unions. There are 48 affiliated unions, with a total of about 5. ...
, which strongly opposed the proposals, and internal dissent from
Home Secretary The secretary of state for the Home Department, otherwise known as the home secretary, is a senior minister of the Crown in the Government of the United Kingdom. The home secretary leads the Home Office, and is responsible for all national s ...
James Callaghan Leonard James Callaghan, Baron Callaghan of Cardiff, ( ; 27 March 191226 March 2005), commonly known as Jim Callaghan, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1976 to 1979 and Leader of the Labour Party (UK), Leader of the Labour Party ...
, the government substantially backed-down from its intentions. The Heath government (1970–1974) introduced the
Industrial Relations Act 1971 The Industrial Relations Act 1971 (c.72) was an Act of Parliament, Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, since repealed. It was based on proposals outlined in the governing Conservative Party (UK), Conservative Party's manifesto for the 197 ...
with many of the same ideas, but this was largely repealed by the post-1974 Labour government. Some elements of these changes were subsequently to be enacted (in modified form) during the premiership of
Margaret Thatcher Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher (; 13 October 19258 April 2013) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 and Leader of the Conservative Party (UK), Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990. S ...
.


Record on income distribution

Despite the economic difficulties faced by the first Wilson government, it succeeded in maintaining low levels of unemployment and inflation during its time in office. Unemployment was kept below 2.7%, and inflation for much of the 1960s remained below 4%. Living standards generally improved, while public spending on housing, social security, transport, research, education and health went up by an average of more than 6% between 1964 and 1970.''White Heat: A History of Britain in the Swinging Sixties'', Dominic Sandbrook. The average household grew steadily richer, with the number of cars in the United Kingdom rising from one to every 6.4 persons to one for every five persons in 1968, representing a net increase of three million cars on the road. The rise in the standard of living was also characterised by increased ownership of various consumer durables from 1964 to 1969, as demonstrated by television sets (from 88% to 90%), refrigerators (from 39% to 59%), and washing machines (from 54% to 64%). By 1970, income in Britain was more equally distributed than in 1964, mainly because of increases in cash benefits, including family allowances. According to the historian,
Dominic Sandbrook Dominic Christopher Sandbrook (born 2 October 1974) is a British historian, author, columnist and television presenter. Early life and career Born in Bridgnorth, Shropshire, he was educated at Malvern College and studied history and French at B ...
: As noted by
Ben Pimlott Benjamin John Pimlott Fellow of the British Academy, FBA (4 July 1945 – 10 April 2004), known as Ben Pimlott, was a British historian of the post-war period in Britain. He made a substantial contribution to the literary genre of political biog ...
, the gap between those on lowest incomes and the rest of the population "had been significantly reduced" under Wilson's first government. The first Wilson government thus saw the distribution of income became more equal, while reductions in poverty took place. These achievements were mainly brought about by several increases in social welfare benefits, such as supplementary benefit, pensions and family allowances, the latter of which were doubled between 1964 and 1970 (although most of the increase in family allowances did not come about until 1968). A new system of rate rebates was introduced, which benefited one million households by the end of the 1960s. Increases in national insurance benefits in 1965, 1967, 1968 and 1969 ensured that those dependent on state benefits saw their disposable incomes rise faster than manual wage earners, while income differentials between lower-income and higher-income workers were marginally narrowed. Greater progressivity was introduced in the tax system, with greater emphasis on direct (income-based) as opposed to indirect (typically expenditure-based) taxation as a means of raising revenue, with the amount raised by the former increasing twice as much as that of the latter.''The Labour Party and Taxation: Party Identity and Political Purpose in Twentieth-Century Britain'' by Richard Whiting. Also, despite an increase in unemployment, the poor improved their share of the national income while that of the rich was slightly reduced.''The Labour Party since 1945'' by Eric Shaw. Despite various cutbacks after 1966, expenditure on services such as education and health was still much higher as a proportion of national wealth than in 1964. In addition, by raising taxes to pay their reforms, the government paid careful attention to the principle of redistribution, with disposable incomes rising for the lowest paid while falling amongst the wealthiest during its time in office. Between 1964 and 1968, benefits in kind were significantly progressive, in that over the period those in the lower half of the income scale benefited more than those in the upper half. On average those receiving state benefits benefited more in terms of increases in real disposable income than the average manual worker or salaried employee between 1964 and 1969. From 1964 to 1969, low-wage earners did substantially better than other sections of the population. In 1969, a married couple with two children were 11.5% per cent richer in real terms, while for a couple with three children, the corresponding increase was 14.5%, and for a family with four children, 16.5%.Clause 14, ALTERATIONS OF PERSONAL RELIEFS (Hansard, 27 May 1970)
-Hansard.millbanksystems.com. Retrieved 13 February 2012.
From 1965 to 1968, the income of single pensioner households as a percentage of other one adult households rose from 48.9% to 52.5%. For two pensioner households, the equivalent increase was from 46.8% to 48.2%. In addition, mainly as a result of big increases in cash benefits, unemployed persons and large families gained more in terms of real disposable income than the rest of the population during Wilson's time in office. As noted by Paul Whiteley, pensions, sickness, unemployment, and supplementary benefits went up more in real terms under the First Wilson Government than under the preceding Conservative administration: "To compare the Conservative period of office with the Labour period, we can use the changes in benefits per year as a rough estimate of comparative performance. For the Conservatives and Labour respectively increases in supplementary benefits per year were 3.5 and 5.2 percentage points, for sickness and unemployment benefits 5.8 and 30.6 percentage points, for pensions 3.8 and 4.6, and for family allowances −1.2 and −2.6. Thus the poor, the retired, the sick and the unemployed did better in real terms under Labour than they did under Conservatives, and families did worse." Between 1964 and 1968, cash benefits rose as a percentage of income for all households but more so for poorer than for wealthier households. As noted by the economist Michael Stewart, "it seems indisputable that the high priority the Labour Government gave to expenditure on education and the health service had a favourable effect on income distribution." For a family with two children in the income range £676 to £816 per annum, cash benefits rose from 4% of income in 1964 to 22% in 1968, compared with a change from 1% to 2% for a similar family in the income range £2,122 to £2,566 over the same period. For benefits in kind the changes over the same period for similar families were from 21% to 29% for lower-income families and from 9% to 10% for higher-income families. When taking into account all benefits, taxes and Government expenditures on social services, the first Wilson government succeeded in bringing about a reduction in income inequality. As noted by the historian Kenneth O. Morgan, "In the long term, therefore, fortified by increases in supplementary and other benefits under the Crossman regime in 1968–70, the welfare state had made some impact, almost by inadvertence, on social inequality and the maldistribution of real income". Public expenditure as a percentage of GDP rose significantly under the 1964–1970 Labour government, from 34% in 1964–65 to nearly 38% of GDP by 1969–70, whilst expenditure on social services rose from 16% of national income in 1964 to 23% by 1970. These measures had a major impact on the living standards of low-income Britons, with disposable incomes rising faster for low-income groups than for high-income groups during the 1960s. When measuring disposable income after taxation but including benefits, the total disposable income of those on the highest incomes fell by 33%, whilst the total disposable income of those on the lowest incomes rose by 104%. As noted by one historian, "the net effect of Labour's financial policies was indeed to make the rich poorer and the poor richer".


External affairs


United States

Wilson believed in a strong "
Special Relationship The Special Relationship is a term that is often used to describe the politics, political, social, diplomacy, diplomatic, culture, cultural, economics, economic, law, legal, Biophysical environment, environmental, religion, religious, military ...
" with the United States and wanted to highlight his dealings with the White House to strengthen his prestige as a statesman. President Lyndon B. Johnson disliked Wilson and ignored any "special" relationship. The
Vietnam War The Vietnam War (also known by #Names, other names) was a conflict in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. It was the second of the Indochina Wars and was officially fought between North Vi ...
was a sore point. Johnson needed and asked for help to maintain American prestige. Wilson offered lukewarm verbal support and no military aid. Wilson's policy angered the left-wing of his Labour Party, who opposed the Vietnam War. Wilson and Johnson also differed sharply on British economic weakness and its declining status as a world power. Historian Jonathan Colman concludes it made for the most unsatisfactory "special" relationship in the 20th century. The only point of total agreement was that both Johnson and Wilson emphatically supported
Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל, ; ar, إِسْرَائِيل, ), officially the State of Israel ( he, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, label=none, translit=Medīnat Yīsrāʾēl; ), is a country in Western Asia. It is situated ...
in the 1967
Six-Day War The Six-Day War (, ; ar, النكسة, , or ) or June War, also known as the 1967 Arab–Israeli War or Third Arab–Israeli War, was fought between Israel and a coalition of Arab world, Arab states (primarily United Arab Republic, Egypt, S ...
.


Europe

Among the more challenging political dilemmas Wilson faced was the issue of British membership of the European Community, the forerunner of the present
European Union The European Union (EU) is a supranational union, supranational political union, political and economic union of Member state of the European Union, member states that are located primarily in Europe, Europe. The union has a total area of ...
. An entry attempt was vetoed in 1963 by French President
Charles de Gaulle Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle (; ; (commonly abbreviated as CDG) 22 November 18909 November 1970) was a French army officer and statesman who led Free France against Nazi Germany in World War II and chaired the Provisional Government ...
. The Labour Party in Opposition had been divided on the issue, with Hugh Gaitskell having come out in 1962 in opposition to Britain joining the
European Community The European Economic Community (EEC) was a regional organization created by the Treaty of Rome of 1957,Today the largely rewritten treaty continues in force as the ''Treaty on the functioning of the European Union'', as renamed by the Lisbo ...
. After initial hesitation, Wilson's Government in May 1967 lodged the UK's second application to join the European Community. It was vetoed by de Gaulle in November 1967. After De Gaulle lost power, Conservative prime minister
Edward Heath Sir Edward Richard George Heath (9 July 191617 July 2005), often known as Ted Heath, was a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1970 to 1974 and Leader of the Conservative Party (UK), Leader of the Conserv ...
negotiated Britain's admission to the EC in 1973. Wilson in opposition showed political ingenuity in devising a position that both sides of the party could agree on, opposing the terms negotiated by Heath but not membership in principle. Labour's 1974 manifesto included a pledge to renegotiate terms for Britain's membership and then hold a referendum on whether to stay in the EC on the new terms. This was a constitutional procedure without precedent in British history. Following Wilson's return to power, the renegotiations with Britain's fellow EC members were carried out by Wilson himself in tandem with Foreign Secretary
James Callaghan Leonard James Callaghan, Baron Callaghan of Cardiff, ( ; 27 March 191226 March 2005), commonly known as Jim Callaghan, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1976 to 1979 and Leader of the Labour Party (UK), Leader of the Labour Party ...
, and they toured the capital cities of Europe meeting their European counterparts. The discussions focused primarily on Britain's net budgetary contribution to the EC. As a small agricultural producer heavily dependent on imports, Britain suffered doubly from the dominance of: :(i) agricultural spending in the EC
budget A budget is a calculation play, usually but not always financial plan, financial, for a defined accounting period, period, often one year or a month. A budget may include anticipated sales volumes and revenues, resource quantities including tim ...
, :(ii) agricultural import taxes as a source of EC
revenue In accounting, revenue is the total amount of income generated by the sale of goods and services related to the primary operations of the business. Commercial revenue may also be referred to as sales or as turnover. Some companies receive rev ...
s. During the renegotiations, other EEC members conceded, as a partial offset, the establishment of a significant
European Regional Development Fund The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) is one of the European Structural and Investment Funds allocated by the European Union. Its purpose is to transfer money from richer regions (not countries), and invest it in the infrastructure and se ...
(ERDF), from which it was agreed that Britain would be a major net beneficiary. In the subsequent referendum campaign, rather than the normal British tradition of "collective responsibility", under which the government takes a policy position which all cabinet members are required to support publicly, members of the Government were free to present their views on either side of the question. The electorate voted on 5 June 1975 to continue membership, by a substantial majority.


Asia

American military involvement in Vietnam escalated continuously from 1964 to 1968 and President Lyndon B. Johnson brought pressure to bear for at least a token involvement of British military units. Wilson consistently avoided any commitment of British forces, giving as reasons British military commitments to the
Malayan Emergency The Malayan Emergency, also known as the Anti–British National Liberation War was a guerrilla warfare, guerrilla war fought in British Malaya between communist pro-independence fighters of the Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA) and th ...
and British co-chairmanship of the
1954 Geneva Conference The Geneva Conference, intended to settle outstanding issues resulting from the Korean War and the First Indochina War, was a conference involving several nations that took place in Geneva, Switzerland, from 26 April to 20 July 1954. The part o ...
. His government offered some rhetorical support for the US position (most prominently in the defence offered by the Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart in a much-publicised "
teach-in A teach-in is similar to a general educational forum on any complicated issue, usually an issue involving current political affairs. The main difference between a teach-in and a seminar A seminar is a form of academic instruction, either at an ...
" or debate on Vietnam). On at least one occasion the British government made an unsuccessful effort to mediate in the conflict, with Wilson discussing peace proposals with
Alexei Kosygin Alexei Nikolayevich Kosygin ( rus, Алексе́й Никола́евич Косы́гин, p=ɐlʲɪkˈsʲej nʲɪkɐˈla(j)ɪvʲɪtɕ kɐˈsɨɡʲɪn; – 18 December 1980) was a Soviet people, Soviet statesman during the Cold War. He serv ...
, the
Chairman The chairperson, also chairman, chairwoman or chair, is the presiding officer of an organized group such as a board, committee, or deliberative assembly. The person holding the office, who is typically elected or appointed by members of the gr ...
of the
USSR Council of Ministers The Council of Ministers of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics ( rus, Совет министров СССР, r=Sovet Ministrov SSSR, p=sɐˈvʲet mʲɪˈnʲistrəf ɛsɛsɛˈsɛr; sometimes abbreviated to ''Sovmin'' or referred to as the '' ...
. On 28 June 1966 Wilson 'dissociated' his Government from American bombing of the cities of
Hanoi Hanoi or Ha Noi ( or ; vi, Hà Nội ) is the capital and second-largest city of Vietnam. It covers an area of . It consists of 12 urban districts, one district-leveled town and 17 rural districts. Located within the Red River Delta, Hanoi i ...
and
Haiphong Haiphong ( vi, Hải Phòng, ), or Hải Phòng, is a major industrial city and the third-largest in Vietnam. Hai Phong is also the center of technology, economy, culture, medicine, education, science and trade in the Red River delta. Haiphong wa ...
. In his memoirs, Wilson writes of "selling LBJ a bum steer", a reference to Johnson's Texas roots, which conjured up images of cattle and cowboys in British minds. Part of the price paid by Wilson after talks with President Johnson in June 1967 for US assistance with the UK economy was his agreement to maintain a military presence East of Suez. In July 1967
Defence Secretary A defence minister or minister of defence is a cabinet official position in charge of a ministry of defense {{unsourced, date=February 2021 A ministry of defence or defense (see spelling differences), also known as a department of defence o ...
Denis Healey Denis Winston Healey, Baron Healey, (30 August 1917 – 3 October 2015) was a British Labour Party (UK), Labour politician who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1974 to 1979 and as Secretary of State for Defence from 1964 to 1970; he ...
announced that Britain would abandon her mainland bases East of Suez by 1977, although airmobile forces would be retained which could if necessary be deployed in the region. Shortly afterwards, in January 1968, Wilson announced that the proposed timetable for this withdrawal was to be accelerated and that British forces were to be withdrawn from
Singapore Singapore (), officially the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign island country, island country and city-state in maritime Southeast Asia. It lies about one degree of latitude () north of the equator, off the southern tip of the Malay Pen ...
,
Malaysia Malaysia ( ; ) is a country in Southeast Asia. The federation, federal constitutional monarchy consists of States and federal territories of Malaysia, thirteen states and three federal territories, separated by the South China Sea into two r ...
, and the
Persian Gulf The Persian Gulf ( fa, خلیج فارس, translit=xalij-e fârs, lit=Gulf of Persis, Fars, ), sometimes called the ( ar, اَلْخَلِيْجُ ٱلْعَرَبِيُّ, Al-Khalīj al-ˁArabī), is a Mediterranean sea (oceanography), me ...
by the end of 1971. Wilson was known for his strongly pro-Israel views. He was a particular friend of Israeli Premier
Golda Meir Golda Meir, ; ar, جولدا مائير, Jūldā Māʾīr., group=nb (born Golda Mabovitch; 3 May 1898 – 8 December 1978) was an Israeli politician, teacher, and ''kibbutznikit'' who served as the fourth prime minister of Israel from 1969 to 1 ...
, though her tenure largely coincided with Wilson's 1970–1974 hiatus. Another associate was West German
Chancellor Chancellor ( la, cancellarius) is a title of various official positions in the governments of many nations. The original chancellors were the of Roman courts of justice—ushers, who sat at the or lattice work screens of a basilica or law cou ...
Willy Brandt Willy Brandt (; born Herbert Ernst Karl Frahm; 18 December 1913 – 8 October 1992) was a German politician and statesman who was leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) from 1964 to 1987 and served as the chancellor of West Germ ...
; all three were members of the
Socialist International The Socialist International (SI) is a political international or worldwide organisation of political parties which seek to establish democratic socialism. It consists mostly of Socialism, socialist and Labour movement, labour-oriented political ...
.


Africa

The British "retreat from Empire" had made headway by 1964 and was to continue during Wilson's administration.
Southern Rhodesia Southern Rhodesia was a landlocked self-governing colony, self-governing British Crown colony in southern Africa, established in 1923 and consisting of British South Africa Company (BSAC) territories lying south of the Zambezi River. The reg ...
was not granted independence, principally because Wilson refused to grant independence to the white minority government headed by Rhodesian Prime Minister
Ian Smith Ian Douglas Smith (8 April 1919 – 20 November 2007) was a Rhodesian politician, farmer, and fighter pilot who served as Prime Minister of Rhodesia, Prime Minister of Rhodesia (known as Southern Rhodesia until October 1964 and now known ...
which was not willing to extend unqualified
voting rights Suffrage, political franchise, or simply franchise, is the right to vote in representative democracy, public, political elections and referendums (although the term is sometimes used for any right to vote). In some languages, and occasionally i ...
to the native African population. Smith's defiant response was a
Unilateral Declaration of Independence A unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) is a formal process leading to the establishment of a new state by a subnational entity which declares itself independent and sovereign ''Sovereign'' is a title which can be applied to the highe ...
, on 11 November 1965. Wilson's immediate recourse was to the United Nations, and in 1965, the
Security Council The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the Organs of the United Nations, six principal organs of the United Nations (UN) and is charged with ensuring international security, international peace and security, recommending the admi ...
imposed sanctions, which were to last until official independence in 1979. This involved British warships blockading the port of Beira to try to cause economic collapse in Rhodesia. Wilson was applauded by most nations for taking a firm stand on the issue (and none extended diplomatic recognition to the Smith régime). A number of nations did not join in with sanctions, undermining their efficiency. Certain sections of public opinion started to question their efficacy, and to demand the toppling of the régime by force. Wilson declined to intervene in Rhodesia with military force, believing the British population would not support such action against their "kith and kin". The two leaders met for discussions aboard British warships, in 1966 and in 1968. Smith subsequently attacked Wilson in his memoirs, accusing him of delaying tactics during negotiations and alleging duplicity; Wilson responded in kind, questioning Smith's good faith and suggesting that Smith had moved the goal-posts whenever a settlement appeared in sight.Harold Wilson, "The Labour Government, 1964–70: a Personal Record". The matter was still unresolved at the time of Wilson's resignation in 1976. Wilson had a good relationship with
Siaka Stevens Siaka Probyn Stevens (24 August 1905 – 29 May 1988) was the leader of Sierra Leone Sierra Leone,)]. officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, is a country on the southwest coast of West Africa. It is bordered by Liberia to the southeast ...
of
Sierra Leone Sierra Leone,)]. officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, is a country on the southwest coast of West Africa. It is bordered by Liberia to the southeast and Guinea surrounds the northern half of the nation. Covering a total area of , Sierra ...
, the two leaders attempted to work together to find a solution the question of
Biafra Biafra, officially the Republic of Biafra, was a partially recognised Secession, secessionist state in West Africa that declared independence from Nigeria and existed from 1967 until 1970. Its territory consisted of the predominantly Igbo peop ...
in Nigeria.


Defeat and return to opposition, 1970–1974

By 1969, the Labour Party was suffering serious electoral reverses, and by the turn of 1970 had lost a total of 16 seats in by-elections since the previous general election. By 1970, the economy was showing signs of improvement, and by May that year, Labour had overtaken the Conservatives in the opinion polls. Wilson responded to this apparent recovery in his government's popularity by calling a general election, but, to the surprise of most observers, was defeated at the polls by the Conservatives under Heath. Most opinion polls had predicted a Labour win, with a poll six days before the election showing a 12.4% Labour lead. Writing in the aftermath of the election, ''The Times'' journalist George Clark wrote that the 1970 contest would be "remembered as the occasion when the people of the United Kingdom hurled the findings of the opinion polls back into the faces of the pollsters and at the voting booths proved them wrong—most of them badly wrong". Heath and the Conservatives had attacked Wilson over the economy. Towards the end of the campaign, bad trade figures for May added weight to Heath's campaign and he claimed that a Labour victory would result in a further devaluation. Wilson considered Heath's claims "irresponsible" and "damaging to the nation". Ultimately, however, the election saw Labour's vote share fall to its lowest since
1935 Events January * January 7 – Italian premier Benito Mussolini and French Foreign Minister Pierre Laval conclude Franco-Italian Agreement of 1935, an agreement, in which each power agrees not to oppose the other's colonial claims. * ...
. Several prominent Labour figures lost their seats, notably George Brown who was still Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. Wilson survived as leader of the Labour Party in opposition. In mid-1973, holidaying on the
Isles of Scilly The Isles of Scilly (; kw, Syllan, ', or ) is an archipelago off the southwestern tip of Cornwall, England. One of the islands, St Agnes, Isles of Scilly, St Agnes, is the most southerly point in Great Britain, Britain, being over further s ...
, he tried to board a motorboat from a dinghy and stepped into the sea. He was unable to get into the boat and was left in the cold water, hanging on to the fenders of the motorboat. He was close to death before he was saved by the father of novelist Isabel Wolff. The incident was taken up by the press and resulted in some embarrassment for Wilson; his press secretary, Joe Haines, tried to deflect some of the comment by blaming Wilson's dog Paddy for the problem. Economic conditions during the 1970s were becoming more difficult for Britain and many other western economies as a result of the Nixon shock and the
1973 oil crisis The 1973 oil crisis or first oil crisis began in October 1973 when the members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC), led by Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia, officially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), is a coun ...
, and the Heath government in its turn was buffeted by economic adversity and industrial unrest (notably including confrontation with the coalminers which led to the
Three-Day Week The Three-Day Week was one of several measures introduced in the United Kingdom in 1973–1974 by Edward Heath Sir Edward Richard George Heath (9 July 191617 July 2005), often known as Ted Heath, was a British politician who served as Prime ...
) towards the end of 1973, and on 7 February 1974 (with the crisis still ongoing) Heath called a snap election for 28 February.


Second period as prime minister (1974–1976)

Labour won more seats (though fewer votes) than the Conservative Party in the
general election A general election is a political voting election where generally all or most members of a given political body are chosen. These are usually held for a nation, state, or territory's primary legislative body, and are different from by-election ...
in February 1974, which resulted in a
hung parliament A hung parliament is a term used in legislatures primarily under the Westminster system to describe a situation in which no single political party or pre-existing coalition (also known as an alliance or bloc) has an Majority, absolute majority o ...
. As Heath was unable to persuade the Liberals to form a
coalition A coalition is a group formed when two or more people or groups temporarily work together to achieve a common goal. The term is most frequently used to denote a formation of power in political or economical spaces. Formation According to ''A Gui ...
, Wilson returned to 10 Downing Street on 4 March 1974 as prime minister of a minority Labour Government. He gained a three-seat majority in another election later that year, on 10 October 1974. One of the key issues addressed during his second period in office was the referendum on British membership of the European Community (EC) which took place in June 1975: Labour had pledged in its February 1974 manifesto to renegotiate the terms of British accession to the EC, and then to consult the public in a referendum on whether Britain should stay in on the new terms. Although the government recommended a vote in favour of continued membership, the cabinet was split on the issue, and Ministers were allowed to campaign on different sides of the question. The referendum resulted in a near two-to-one majority in favour of Britain remaining in the EC.


Domestic affairs

The Second Wilson Government made a major commitment to the expansion of the British welfare state, with increased spending on education, health, and housing rents. To pay for it, it imposed controls and raised taxes on the rich. It partially reversed the 1971 reduction in the top rate of tax from 90% to 75%, increasing it to 83% in the first budget from new chancellor
Denis Healey Denis Winston Healey, Baron Healey, (30 August 1917 – 3 October 2015) was a British Labour Party (UK), Labour politician who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1974 to 1979 and as Secretary of State for Defence from 1964 to 1970; he ...
, which came into law in April 1974. Also implemented was an investment income surcharge which raised the top rate on investment income to 98%, the highest level since the Second World War. Despite its achievements in social policy, Wilson's government came under scrutiny in 1975 for the rise in the unemployment rate, with the total number of Britons out of work passing one million by that April. Wilson's second government came into office at a troubled time for the British economy, due to a global recession and
stagflation In economics, stagflation or recession-inflation is a situation in which the inflation rate is high or increasing, the economic growth rate slows, and unemployment remains steadily high. It presents a dilemma for economic policy, since actions ...
, in large part this was due to the
1973 oil crisis The 1973 oil crisis or first oil crisis began in October 1973 when the members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC), led by Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia, officially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), is a coun ...
, and also the preceding government's inflationary attempts to boost growth. In order to deal with inflation (which peaked at 26% in 1975) the government negotiated a '
social contract In moral and political philosophy, the social contract is a theory or model that originated during the Age of Enlightenment and usually, although not always, concerns the legitimacy of the authority of the state over the individual. Soci ...
' with the
Trades Union Congress The Trades Union Congress (TUC) is a national trade union center, national trade union centre, a federation of trade unions in England and Wales, representing the majority of trade unions. There are 48 affiliated unions, with a total of about 5. ...
to implement a voluntary
incomes policy Incomes policies in economics are economy-wide wage and price controls, most commonly instituted as a response to inflation, and usually seeking to establish wages and prices below free market level. Incomes policies have often been resorted to ...
, in which pay rises were held down to limits set by the government. This policy operated with reasonable success for the next few years, and inflation fell to single figures by 1978. By 1976 the recession had ended and economic recovery began, by 1978/79 living standards recovered to the level they had been in 1973/74. The Labour governments of the 1970s did, however, manage to protect the living standards of many people from the worst effects of the recession and high inflation, with pensions increasing by 20% in real terms between 1974 and 1979, while measures such as rent and
price controls Price controls are restrictions set in place and enforced by governments, on the prices that can be charged for goods and services in a market. The intent behind implementing such controls can stem from the desire to maintain affordability of good ...
and food and transport subsidies mitigated the adverse impact on the living standards of many more people. The government's
industrial policy An industrial policy (IP) or industrial strategy of a country is its official strategic effort to encourage the development and growth of all or part of the economy, often focused on all or part of the manufacturing sector. The government takes m ...
was greatly influenced by the economist Stuart Holland and the
Secretary of State for Industry The secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, is a Secretary of State (United Kingdom), secretary of state in the Government of the United Kingdom, with responsibility for the Department for Business, Energy and Industri ...
Tony Benn Anthony Neil Wedgwood Benn (3 April 1925 – 14 March 2014), known between 1960 and 1963 as Viscount Stansgate, was a British politician, writer and diarist who served as a Cabinet minister in the 1960s and 1970s. A member of the Labour Party, ...
. The centrepiece of the policy was the
National Enterprise Board The National Enterprise Board (NEB) was a United Kingdom government body. It was set up in 1975 by the Labour Party (UK), Labour government of Harold Wilson, to support the government's interventionist approach to economy of the United Kingdom, ind ...
(NEB) which was established in 1975 and was intended to channel public investment into industry, in return for taking a holding of equity in private companies. The NEB was intended to extend
public ownership State ownership, also called government ownership and public ownership, is the ownership of an Industry (economics), industry, asset, or Business, enterprise by the State (polity), state or a public body representing a community, as opposed to a ...
of the economy as well as investing in the regeneration of industry, although it had some successes in that aim, in practice one of its main activities became that of propping up failing companies such as
British Leyland British Leyland was an automotive engineering and manufacturing Conglomerate (company), conglomerate formed in the United Kingdom in 1968 as British Leyland Motor Corporation Ltd (BLMC), following the merger of Leyland Motors and British Motor ...
. The government also continued its policy of encouraging regional development by increasing Regional Employment Premiums, which had first been established in 1967.


Northern Ireland

Wilson's earlier government had witnessed the outbreak of
The Troubles The Troubles ( ga, Na Trioblóidí) were an ethno-nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland that lasted about 30 years from the late 1960s to 1998. Also known internationally as the Northern Ireland conflict, it is sometimes described as an "i ...
in
Northern Ireland Northern Ireland ( ga, Tuaisceart Éireann ; sco, label=Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots, Norlin Airlann) is a part of the United Kingdom, situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, that is #Descriptions, variously described as ...
. In response to a request from the
Government of Northern Ireland The government of Northern Ireland is, generally speaking, whatever political body exercises political authority over Northern Ireland Northern Ireland ( ga, Tuaisceart Éireann ; sco, label=Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots, Norlin Ai ...
, Wilson agreed to deploy the British Army in August 1969 to restore the peace. While out of office in late 1971, Wilson had formulated a 16-point, 15-year programme that was designed to pave the way for the unification of Ireland. The proposal was not adopted by the then Heath government. In May 1974, when back in office as leader of a minority government, Wilson condemned the Unionist-controlled
Ulster Workers Council Strike The Ulster Workers' Council (UWC) strike was a general strike that took place in Northern Ireland between 15 May and 28 May 1974, during "the Troubles". The strike was called by Unionism in Ireland, unionists who were against the Sunningdale Ag ...
as a "
sectarian Sectarianism is a political or cultural conflict between two groups which are often related to the form of government which they live under. Prejudice Prejudice can be an affect (psychology), affective feeling towards a person based on their ...
strike", which was "being done for sectarian purposes having no relation to this century but only to the seventeenth century". He refused to pressure a reluctant
British Army The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western ...
to face down the
Ulster loyalist Ulster loyalism is a strand of Unionism in Ireland, Ulster unionism associated with working class Ulster Protestants in Northern Ireland. Like other unionists, loyalists support the continued existence of Northern Ireland within the United King ...
paramilitaries who were intimidating utility workers. In a televised speech later, he referred to the loyalist strikers and their supporters as "spongers" who expected Britain to pay for their lifestyles. The strike was eventually successful in breaking the power-sharing
Northern Ireland Northern Ireland ( ga, Tuaisceart Éireann ; sco, label=Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots, Norlin Airlann) is a part of the United Kingdom, situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, that is #Descriptions, variously described as ...
executive. On 11 September 2008,
BBC Radio 4 BBC Radio 4 is a British national radio station owned and operated by the BBC #REDIRECT BBC Here i going to introduce about the best teacher of my life b BALAJI sir. He is the precious gift that I got befor 2yrs . How has helped and thought al ...
's ''Document'' programme claimed to have unearthed a secret plan—codenamed ''Doomsday''—which proposed to cut all of the United Kingdom's constitutional ties with Northern Ireland and transform the province into an independent
dominion The term ''Dominion'' is used to refer to one of several self-governing nations of the British Empire. "Dominion status" was first accorded to Canada, Australia, Dominion of New Zealand, New Zealand, Dominion of Newfoundland, Newfoundland, Un ...
. ''Document'' went on to claim that the Doomsday plan was devised mainly by Wilson and was kept a closely guarded secret. The plan then allegedly lost momentum, due in part, it was claimed, to warnings made by both the then Foreign Secretary, James Callaghan, and the then Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs
Garret FitzGerald Garret Desmond FitzGerald (9 February 192619 May 2011) was an Irish Fine Gael politician, economist and barrister who served twice as Taoiseach, serving from 1981 to 1982 and 1982 to 1987. He served as Leader of Fine Gael from 1977 to 1987, and ...
who admitted the 12,000-strong
Irish Army The Irish Army, known simply as the Army ( ga, an tArm), is the land component of the Defence Forces (Ireland), Defence Forces of Republic of Ireland, Ireland.The Defence Forces are made up of the Permanent Defence Forces – the standing bran ...
would be unable to deal with the ensuing civil war. Later, Callaghan himself spoke and wrote despondently about the prospect for a British-derived solution to the Northern Ireland issue, supporting a similar plan to push Northern Ireland towards independent status. In 1975, Wilson secretly offered Libya's dictator
Muammar Gaddafi Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi, . Due to the lack of standardization of transcribing written and regionally pronounced Arabic, Gaddafi's name has been romanized in various ways. A 1986 column by ''The Straight Dope'' lists 32 spelling ...
£14 million (£500 million in 2009 values) to stop arming the
Provisional Irish Republican Army The Irish Republican Army (IRA; ), also known as the Provisional Irish Republican Army, and informally as the Provos, was an Irish republicanism, Irish republican paramilitary organisation that sought to end British rule in Northern Ireland, fa ...
, but Gaddafi demanded a far greater sum of money. This offer did not become publicly known until 2009.


Resignation

When Wilson entered office for the second time, he had privately admitted that he had lost his enthusiasm for the role, telling a close adviser in 1974 that "I have been around this racetrack so often that I cannot generate any more enthusiasm for jumping any more hurdles." On 16 March 1976, Wilson announced his resignation as prime minister (taking effect on 5 April). He claimed that he had always planned on resigning at the age of 60 and that he was physically and mentally exhausted. As early as the late 1960s he had been telling intimates, like his doctor Sir Joseph Stone (later Lord Stone of Hendon), that he did not intend to serve more than eight or nine years as prime minister.
Roy Jenkins Roy Harris Jenkins, Baron Jenkins of Hillhead, (11 November 1920 – 5 January 2003) was a British politician who served as President of the European Commission The president of the European Commission is the head of the European Com ...
has suggested that Wilson may have been motivated partly by the distaste for politics felt by his loyal and long-suffering wife, Mary. His doctor had detected problems which would later be diagnosed as
colon cancer Colorectal cancer (CRC), also known as bowel cancer, colon cancer, or rectal cancer, is the development of cancer from the colon or rectum (parts of the large intestine). Signs and symptoms may include blood in the stool, a change in bow ...
, and Wilson had begun drinking brandy during the day to cope with stress. In addition, by 1976 he might already have been aware of the first stages of early-onset
Alzheimer's disease Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a neurodegeneration, neurodegenerative disease that usually starts slowly and progressively worsens. It is the cause of 60–70% of cases of dementia. The most common early symptom is difficulty in short-term me ...
, which was to cause both his formerly excellent memory and his powers of concentration to fail dramatically. Wilson's
Prime Minister's Resignation Honours The Prime Minister's Resignation Honours in the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western coast of the Europ ...
included many businessmen and celebrities, along with his political supporters. His choice of appointments caused lasting damage to his reputation, worsened by the suggestion that the first draft of the list had been written by his political secretary Marcia Williams on lavender notepaper (it became known as the " Lavender List").
Roy Jenkins Roy Harris Jenkins, Baron Jenkins of Hillhead, (11 November 1920 – 5 January 2003) was a British politician who served as President of the European Commission The president of the European Commission is the head of the European Com ...
noted that Wilson's retirement "was disfigured by his, at best, eccentric resignation honours list, which gave peerages or knighthoods to some adventurous business gentlemen, several of whom were close neither to him nor to the Labour Party." Some of those whom Wilson honoured included Lord Kagan, the inventor of
Gannex Gannex is a waterproof fabric composed of an outer layer of nylon and an inner layer of wool Wool is the textile fibre obtained from sheep and other mammal, mammals, especially goat, goats, rabbit, rabbits, and camelid, camelids. The term ...
(Wilson's preferred raincoat), who was eventually imprisoned for fraud, and Sir Eric Miller, who later committed suicide while under police investigation for corruption. The Labour Party held an
election An election is a formal group decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual or multiple individuals to hold Public administration, public office. Elections have been the usual mechanism by which modern representative ...
to replace Wilson as leader of the Party (and therefore prime minister). Six candidates stood in the first ballot; in order of votes they were:
Michael Foot Michael Mackintosh Foot (23 July 19133 March 2010) was a Labour Party (UK), British Labour Party politician who served as Leader of the Labour Party (UK), Labour Leader from 1980 to 1983. Foot began his career as a journalist on Tribune (magaz ...
,
James Callaghan Leonard James Callaghan, Baron Callaghan of Cardiff, ( ; 27 March 191226 March 2005), commonly known as Jim Callaghan, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1976 to 1979 and Leader of the Labour Party (UK), Leader of the Labour Party ...
,
Roy Jenkins Roy Harris Jenkins, Baron Jenkins of Hillhead, (11 November 1920 – 5 January 2003) was a British politician who served as President of the European Commission The president of the European Commission is the head of the European Com ...
,
Tony Benn Anthony Neil Wedgwood Benn (3 April 1925 – 14 March 2014), known between 1960 and 1963 as Viscount Stansgate, was a British politician, writer and diarist who served as a Cabinet minister in the 1960s and 1970s. A member of the Labour Party, ...
,
Denis Healey Denis Winston Healey, Baron Healey, (30 August 1917 – 3 October 2015) was a British Labour Party (UK), Labour politician who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1974 to 1979 and as Secretary of State for Defence from 1964 to 1970; he ...
and
Anthony Crosland Charles Anthony Raven Crosland (29 August 191819 February 1977) was a British Labour Party (UK), Labour Party politician and author. A social democrat on the right wing of the Labour Party, he was a prominent socialist intellectual. His influ ...
. In the third ballot, on 5 April, Callaghan defeated Foot in a parliamentary vote of 176 to 137, thus becoming Wilson's successor as prime minister and leader of the Labour Party, and he continued to serve as prime minister until May 1979. As Wilson wished to remain an MP after leaving office, he was not immediately given the
peerage A peerage is a legal system historically comprising various hereditary titles (and sometimes Life peer, non-hereditary titles) in a number of countries, and composed of assorted Imperial, royal and noble ranks, noble ranks. Peerages include: Aus ...
customarily offered to retired prime ministers, but instead was created a
Knight of the Garter The Most Noble Order of the Garter is an order of chivalry founded by Edward III of England Edward III (13 November 1312 – 21 June 1377), also known as Edward of Windsor before his accession, was King of England and Lord of Ireland ...
. Following his departure from the
House of Commons The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house of the bicameral parliaments of the United Kingdom and Canada. In both of these countries, the Commons holds much more legislative power than the nominally upper house of parliament. T ...
before the 1983 general election, he was granted a
life peerage In the United Kingdom, life peers are appointed members of the Peerages in the United Kingdom, peerage whose titles cannot be inherited, in contrast to hereditary peers. In modern times, life peerages, always created at the rank of baron, are cr ...
as Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, of
Kirklees Kirklees is a local government district of West Yorkshire West Yorkshire is a metropolitan and ceremonial county in the Yorkshire and Humber Region of England. It is an inland and upland county having eastward-draining valleys while t ...
in the County of West Yorkshire, after
Rievaulx Abbey Rievaulx Abbey was a Cistercians, Cistercian abbey in Rievaulx, near Helmsley, in the North York Moors National Park, North Yorkshire, England. It was one of the great abbeys in England until it was seized in 1538 under Henry VIII during th ...
, in the north of his native Yorkshire, and Kirklees, the metropolitan borough which includes his hometown of Huddersfield.


Retirement and death, 1976–1995

He was appointed in 1976 to chair the Committee to Review the Functioning of Financial Institutions (the Wilson Committee) which reported in June 1980. Shortly after resigning as prime minister, Wilson was signed by
David Frost Sir David Paradine Frost (7 April 1939 – 31 August 2013) was a British television host, journalist, comedian and writer. He rose to prominence during the satire boom in the United Kingdom when he was chosen to host the satirical programme ...
to host a series of interview/chat show programmes. The pilot episode proved to be a flop as Wilson appeared uncomfortable with the informality of the format. Wilson also hosted two editions of the BBC chat show '' Friday Night, Saturday Morning''. He famously floundered in the role, and in 2000,
Channel 4 Channel 4 is a British free-to-air public broadcast television network operated by the state-owned Channel Four Television Corporation. It began its transmission on 2 November 1982 and was established to provide a fourth television servic ...
chose one of his appearances as one of the 100 Moments of TV Hell. A lifelong
Gilbert and Sullivan Gilbert and Sullivan was a Victorian era, Victorian-era theatrical partnership of the dramatist W. S. Gilbert (1836–1911) and the composer Arthur Sullivan (1842–1900), who jointly created fourteen comic operas between 1871 and 1896, of which ...
fan, in 1975, Wilson joined the Board of Trustees of the D'Oyly Carte Trust at the invitation of Sir Hugh Wontner, who was then the
Lord Mayor of London The Lord Mayor of London is the Mayors in England, mayor of the City of London and the Leader of the council, leader of the City of London Corporation. Within the City, the Lord Mayor is accorded Order of precedence, precedence over all individu ...
. At Christmas 1978, Wilson appeared on the ''
Morecambe and Wise Eric Morecambe (John Eric Bartholomew, 14 May 1926 – 28 May 1984) and Ernie Wise (Ernest Wiseman, 27 November 1925 – 21 March 1999), known as Morecambe and Wise (and sometimes as Eric and Ernie), were an English comic double act, workin ...
'' Christmas Special. Eric Morecambe's habit of appearing not to recognise the guest stars was repaid by Wilson, who referred to him throughout as 'Morry-camby' (the mispronunciation of Morecambe's name made by
Ed Sullivan Edward Vincent Sullivan (September 28, 1901 – October 13, 1974) was an American television personality, impresario, sports and entertainment reporter, and print syndication, syndicated columnist for the ''New York Daily News'' and the Tribun ...
when the pair appeared on his famous American television show). Wilson appeared on the show again in 1980. Wilson was not especially active in the
House of Lords The House of Lords, also known as the House of Peers, is the Bicameralism, upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Membership is by Life peer, appointment, Hereditary peer, heredity or Lords Spiritual, official function. Like the ...
, although he did initiate a debate on unemployment in May 1984. His last speech was in a debate on marine pilotage in 1986, when he commented as an elder brother of
Trinity House "Three In One" , formation = , founding_location = Deptford, London, England , status = Royal Charter corporation and registered charity , purpose = Maintenance of lighthouses, buoys and beacons , he ...
. In the same year he played himself as prime minister in an
Anglia Television ITV Anglia, previously known as Anglia Television, is the ITV (TV network), ITV franchise holder for the East of England. The station is based at Anglia House in Norwich, with regional news bureaux in Cambridge and Northampton. ITV Anglia is own ...
drama, ''Inside Story''. Wilson continued regularly attending the House of Lords until just over a year before his death; the last sitting he attended was on 27 April 1994. He had a picture taken with other Labour Lords on 15 June 1994, just under a year before his death. He died from
colon cancer Colorectal cancer (CRC), also known as bowel cancer, colon cancer, or rectal cancer, is the development of cancer from the colon or rectum (parts of the large intestine). Signs and symptoms may include blood in the stool, a change in bow ...
and
Alzheimer's disease Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a neurodegeneration, neurodegenerative disease that usually starts slowly and progressively worsens. It is the cause of 60–70% of cases of dementia. The most common early symptom is difficulty in short-term me ...
on 24 May 1995, aged 79. His death came five months before that of his predecessor
Alec Douglas-Home Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home, Baron Home of the Hirsel (; 2 July 1903 – 9 October 1995), styled as Lord Dunglass between 1918 and 1951 and being The 14th Earl of Home from 1951 till 1963, was a British Conservative Party (UK), Conse ...
. Wilson's memorial service was held in
Westminster Abbey Westminster Abbey, formally titled the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter at Westminster, is an historic, mainly Gothic architecture, Gothic Church (building), church in the City of Westminster, London, England, just to the west of the Palace of ...
on 13 July 1995. It was attended by the
Prince of Wales Prince of Wales ( cy, Tywysog Cymru, ; la, Princeps Cambriae/Walliae) is a title traditionally given to the heir apparent An heir apparent, often shortened to heir, is a person who is first in an order of succession and cannot be displaced ...
, former Prime Ministers
Edward Heath Sir Edward Richard George Heath (9 July 191617 July 2005), often known as Ted Heath, was a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1970 to 1974 and Leader of the Conservative Party (UK), Leader of the Conserv ...
,
James Callaghan Leonard James Callaghan, Baron Callaghan of Cardiff, ( ; 27 March 191226 March 2005), commonly known as Jim Callaghan, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1976 to 1979 and Leader of the Labour Party (UK), Leader of the Labour Party ...
, and
Margaret Thatcher Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher (; 13 October 19258 April 2013) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 and Leader of the Conservative Party (UK), Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990. S ...
, incumbent Prime Minister
John Major Sir John Major (born 29 March 1943) is a British former politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party (UK), Leader of the Conservative Party from 1990 to 1997, and as Member of Parliament ...
and also
Tony Blair Sir Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (born 6 May 1953) is a British former politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party (UK), Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007. He pr ...
, then Leader of the Opposition and later Prime Minister. Wilson was buried at St Mary's Old Church,
St Mary's, Isles of Scilly St Mary's ( kw, Ennor, meaning ''The Mainland'') is the largest and most populous island of the Isles of Scilly The Isles of Scilly (; kw, Syllan, ', or ) is an archipelago off the southwestern tip of Cornwall, England. One of the islands ...
, on 6 June. His epitaph is ' (''Time the Commander of Things'').


Political style

Wilson regarded himself as a "man of the people" and did much to promote this image, contrasting himself with the stereotypical aristocratic conservatives and other statesmen who had preceded him, as an example of social mobility. He largely retained his Yorkshire accent. Other features of this persona included his working man's
Gannex Gannex is a waterproof fabric composed of an outer layer of nylon and an inner layer of wool Wool is the textile fibre obtained from sheep and other mammal, mammals, especially goat, goats, rabbit, rabbits, and camelid, camelids. The term ...
raincoat, his pipe (the British Pipesmokers' Council voted him Pipe Smoker of the Year in 1965 and Pipeman of the Decade in 1976, though in private he preferred cigars), his love of simple cooking and fondness for popular British relish
HP Sauce HP Sauce is a British brown sauce, the main ingredients of which are tomatoes and tamarind extract. It was named after London's Houses of Parliament. After making its first appearance on British dinner tables in the late 19th century, HP Sauce w ...
, and his support for his home town's football team,
Huddersfield Town Huddersfield Town Association Football Club is a professional association football, football club based in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, England, which compete in the . The team have played home games at the Kirklees Stadium since moving from L ...
. His first general election victory relied heavily on associating these down-to-earth attributes with a sense that the UK urgently needed to modernise after "thirteen years of Tory mis-rule". Wilson exhibited his populist touch in June 1965 when he had
the Beatles The Beatles were an English Rock music, rock band, formed in Liverpool in 1960, that comprised John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. They are regarded as the Cultural impact of the Beatles, most influential band of al ...
honoured with the award of
MBE Mbe may refer to: * Mbé, a town in the Republic of the Congo * Mbe Mountains Community Forest, in Nigeria * Mbe language, a language of Nigeria * Mbe' language, language of Cameroon * ''mbe'', ISO 639 code for the extinct Molala language of the Un ...
(such awards are officially bestowed by the Queen but are nominated by the prime minister of the day). The award was popular with young people and contributed to a sense that the prime minister was "in touch" with the younger generation. There were some protests by conservatives and elderly members of the military who were earlier recipients of the award, but such protesters were in the minority. Critics claimed that Wilson acted to solicit votes for the next general election (which took place less than a year later), but defenders noted that, since the minimum voting age at that time was 21, this was hardly likely to impact many of the Beatles' fans who at that time were predominantly teenagers. It cemented Wilson's image as a modernistic leader and linked him to the burgeoning pride in the 'New Britain' typified by the Beatles. The Beatles mentioned Wilson rather negatively, naming both him and his opponent
Edward Heath Sir Edward Richard George Heath (9 July 191617 July 2005), often known as Ted Heath, was a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1970 to 1974 and Leader of the Conservative Party (UK), Leader of the Conserv ...
in
George Harrison George Harrison (25 February 1943 – 29 November 2001) was an English musician and singer-songwriter who achieved international fame as the lead guitarist of the Beatles. Sometimes called "the quiet Beatle", Harrison embraced Culture ...
's song "
Taxman "Taxman" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles from their 1966 album ''Revolver (Beatles album), Revolver''. Written by the group's lead guitarist, George Harrison, with some lyrical assistance from John Lennon, it protests against th ...
", the opener to 1966's ''
Revolver A revolver (also called a wheel gun) is a repeating firearm, repeating handgun that has at least one gun barrel, barrel and uses a revolving cylinder (firearms), cylinder containing multiple chamber (firearms), chambers (each holding a single ...
''—recorded and released after the MBEs. In 1967, Wilson had a different interaction with a musical ensemble. He sued the pop group
the Move The Move were a British Rock music, rock band of the late 1960s and the early 1970s. They scored nine Top 40, top 20 UK singles in five years, but were among the most popular British bands not to find any real success in the United States. For ...
for libel after the band's manager Tony Secunda published a promotional postcard for the single " Flowers in the Rain", featuring a caricature depicting Wilson in bed with his female assistant, Marcia Williams. Gossip had hinted at an improper relationship, though these rumours were never substantiated. Wilson won the case, and all royalties from the song (composed by Move leader
Roy Wood Roy Wood (born 8 November 1946) is an English musician and singer-songwriter. He was particularly successful in the 1960s and 1970s as member and co-founder of the Move, Electric Light Orchestra and Wizzard. As a songwriter, he contributed a n ...
) were assigned in perpetuity to a charity of Wilson's choosing. Wilson coined the term ' Selsdon Man' to refer to the free market policies of the Conservative leader
Edward Heath Sir Edward Richard George Heath (9 July 191617 July 2005), often known as Ted Heath, was a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1970 to 1974 and Leader of the Conservative Party (UK), Leader of the Conserv ...
, developed at a policy retreat held at the
Selsdon Park Hotel Selsdon Park Hotel is a luxury hotel located in Selsdon, London, England. It is housed in a English country house, country house. History Selsdon Park passed through several private owners until 1924 when Allan Doble Sanderson bought the hous ...
in early 1970. This phrase, intended to evoke the 'primitive throwback' qualities of anthropological discoveries such as Piltdown Man and
Swanscombe Man Swanscombe /ˈswɒnzkəm/ is a village in the Borough of Dartford in Kent Kent is a Counties of England, county in South East England and one of the home counties. It borders Greater London to the north-west, Surrey to the west and East ...
, was part of a British political tradition of referring to political trends by suffixing 'man'. Other memorable phrases attributed to Wilson include "the white heat of the echnologicalrevolution", and "a week is a long time in politics", meaning that political fortunes can change extremely rapidly. In his broadcast after the 1967 devaluation of the pound, Wilson said: "This does not mean that the pound here in Britain—in your pocket or purse—is worth any less" and the phrase "the pound in your pocket" subsequently took on a life of its own.


Reputation

Despite his successes, Wilson's reputation took a long time to start a recovery from the low ebb reached immediately following his second premiership. The reinvention of the Labour Party would take the better part of two decades at the hands of
Neil Kinnock Neil Gordon Kinnock, Baron Kinnock (born 28 March 1942) is a British former politician. As a member of the Labour Party (UK), Labour Party, he served as a Member of Parliament (United Kingdom), Member of Parliament from 1970 United Kingdom ge ...
, John Smith and, electorally and most conclusively,
Tony Blair Sir Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (born 6 May 1953) is a British former politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party (UK), Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007. He pr ...
. Disillusion with Britain's weak economic performance and troubled industrial relations, combined with active spadework by figures such as Sir
Keith Joseph Keith Sinjohn Joseph, Baron Joseph, (17 January 1918 – 10 December 1994), known as Sir Keith Joseph, 2nd Baronet, for most of his political life, was a British politician A politician is a person active in party politics, or a person ...
, had helped to make a radical market programme politically feasible for
Margaret Thatcher Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher (; 13 October 19258 April 2013) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 and Leader of the Conservative Party (UK), Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990. S ...
(which was, in turn, to influence the subsequent Labour leadership, especially under Blair). An opinion poll in September 2011 found that Wilson came in third place when respondents were asked to name the best post-war Labour Party leader. He was beaten only by John Smith and
Tony Blair Sir Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (born 6 May 1953) is a British former politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party (UK), Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007. He pr ...
. According to Glen O'Hara in 2006 :
Much of the disillusionment with Harold Wilson as Labour's leader and prime minister was due to his perceived failure on the economic front. He pledged not to devalue sterling, but did exactly that in 1967; he promised to keep unemployment low, but had by 1970 accepted a higher rate of joblessness than the Conservatives had managed. Some of the elements in Labour's programme – the emphasis on steadier growth, for instance – were probably misguided. These problems and defeats have, however, obscured some of the real achievements of the period. Science and education spending grew very quickly; industrial investment rose; government was increasingly well informed and better advised about the performance of the economy. In an increasingly unstable and rapidly changing economic environment, this government's economic record is here shown to be, if not hugely impressive, then at least relatively creditable.


Possible plots and conspiracy theories

In 1963, Soviet defector Anatoliy Golitsyn is said to have secretly claimed that Wilson was a
KGB The KGB (russian: links=no, lit=Committee for State Security, Комитет государственной безопасности (КГБ), a=ru-KGB.ogg, p=kəmʲɪˈtʲet ɡəsʊˈdarstvʲɪn(ː)əj bʲɪzɐˈpasnəsʲtʲɪ, Komitet gosud ...
agent.
Vasili Mitrokhin Vasili Nikitich Mitrokhin (russian: link=no, Васи́лий Ники́тич Митро́хин; March 3, 1922 – January 23, 2004) was a major and senior archivist for the Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of ...
, Christopher Andrew (2000). The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West. Gardners Books.
The majority of intelligence officers did not believe that Golitsyn was credible in this and various other claims, but a significant number did (most prominently
James Jesus Angleton James Jesus Angleton (December 9, 1917 – May 11, 1987) was chief of counterintelligence Counterintelligence is an activity aimed at protecting an agency's Intelligence agency, intelligence program from an opposition's intelligence service ...
, Deputy Director of Operations for
Counter-Intelligence Counterintelligence is an activity aimed at protecting an agency's Intelligence agency, intelligence program from an opposition's intelligence service. It includes gathering information and conducting activities to prevent espionage, sabotage, ...
at the U.S.
Central Intelligence Agency The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA ), known informally as the Agency and historically as the Company, is a civilian intelligence agency, foreign intelligence service of the federal government of the United States, officially tasked with gat ...
) and factional strife broke out between the two groups. Former
MI5 The Security Service, also known as MI5 ( Military Intelligence, Section 5), is the United Kingdom's domestic counter-intelligence and security agency and is part of its intelligence machinery alongside the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), ...
officer Peter Wright claimed in his memoirs, ''
Spycatcher ''Spycatcher: The Candid Autobiography of a Senior Intelligence Officer'' (1987) is a memoir written by Peter Wright, former MI5 officer and Assistant Director, and co-author Paul Greengrass. He drew on his own experiences and research in ...
'', that 30 MI5 agents then collaborated in an attempt to undermine Wilson. He retracted that claim, saying there was only one man. In March 1987, James Miller, a former agent, claimed that the
Ulster Workers Council Strike The Ulster Workers' Council (UWC) strike was a general strike that took place in Northern Ireland between 15 May and 28 May 1974, during "the Troubles". The strike was called by Unionism in Ireland, unionists who were against the Sunningdale Ag ...
of 1974 had been promoted by MI5 to help destabilise Wilson's government. In July 1987, Labour MP
Ken Livingstone Kenneth Robert Livingstone (born 17 June 1945) is an English politician who served as the Leader of the Greater London Council (GLC) from 1981 until the council was Local Government Act 1985, abolished in 1986, and as Mayor of London from the ...
used his
maiden speech A maiden speech is the first speech given by a newly elected or appointed member of a legislature or parliament. Traditions surrounding maiden speeches vary from country to country. In many Westminster system governments, there is a convention tha ...
to raise the 1975 allegations of a former Army Press officer in Northern Ireland,
Colin Wallace John Colin Wallace (born June 1943) is a British former member of Army Intelligence in Northern Ireland and a psychological warfare Psychological warfare (PSYWAR), or the basic aspects of modern psychological operations (PsyOp), have bee ...
, who also alleged a plot to destabilise Wilson.
Chris Mullin Christopher Paul Mullin (born July 30, 1963) is an American former professional basketball Basketball is a team sport in which two teams, most commonly of five players each, opposing one another on a rectangular court, compete with th ...
MP, speaking on 23 November 1988, argued that sources other than Peter Wright supported claims of a long-standing attempt by MI5 to undermine Wilson's government. On the
BBC #REDIRECT BBC
Here i going to introduce about the best teacher of my life b BALAJI sir. He is the precious gift that I got befor 2yrs . How has helped and thought all the concept and made my success in the 10th board exam. ...
television programme ''The Plot Against Harold Wilson'', broadcast on 16 March 2006 on
BBC2 BBC Two is a British free-to-air Public service broadcasting in the United Kingdom, public broadcast television network owned and operated by the BBC. It covers a wide range of subject matter, with a remit "to broadcast highbrow, programmes o ...
, it was claimed there were threats of a ''
coup d'état A coup d'état (; French for 'stroke of state'), also known as a coup or overthrow, is a seizure and removal of a government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In ...
'' against the Wilson government, which were corroborated by leading figures of the time on both the left and the right. Wilson told two BBC journalists, Barrie Penrose and Roger Courtiour, who recorded the meetings on a cassette tape recorder, that he feared he was being undermined by MI5. The first time was in the late 1960s after the Wilson Government
devalued In macroeconomics Macroeconomics (from the Greek prefix ''makro-'' meaning "large" + ''economics'') is a branch of economics dealing with performance, structure, behavior, and decision-making of an economy as a whole. For example, using inter ...
the pound sterling but the threat faded after
Conservative Conservatism is a Philosophy of culture, cultural, Social philosophy, social, and political philosophy that seeks to promote and to preserve traditional institutions, practices, and values. The central tenets of conservatism may vary in r ...
leader
Edward Heath Sir Edward Richard George Heath (9 July 191617 July 2005), often known as Ted Heath, was a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1970 to 1974 and Leader of the Conservative Party (UK), Leader of the Conserv ...
won the election of 1970. However, after the 1972 British miners' strike Heath decided to hold an election to renew his mandate to govern in February 1974 but lost narrowly to Wilson. There was again talk of a military coup, with rumours of
Lord Mountbatten Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma (25 June 1900 – 27 August 1979) was a British naval officer, colonial administrator and close relative of the British royal family. Mountbatten, who was of German ...
as head of an interim administration after Wilson had been deposed. In 1974, the
British Army The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western ...
occupied
Heathrow Airport Heathrow Airport (), called ''London Airport'' until 1966 and now known as London Heathrow , is a major international airport in London, England. It is the largest of the six international airports in the Airports of London, London airport sys ...
on the grounds of training for possible IRA terrorist action at the airport. Although the military stated that this was a planned
military exercise A military exercise or war game is the employment of military resources in training for military operations, either exploring the effects of warfare or testing strategies without actual combat. This also serves the purpose of ensuring the comb ...
,
10 Downing Street 10 Downing Street in London, also known colloquially in the United Kingdom as Number 10, is the official residence and executive office of the First Lord of the Treasury, first lord of the treasury, usually, by convention, the Prime Minister of ...
was not informed in advance, and Wilson himself interpreted it as a show of strength, or warning, being made by the army. Historian Christopher Andrew's official history of MI5, '' The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5'', included a chapter (section E part 4) specifically alluding to a conspiracy instead of a plot against Wilson in the 1970s.: The Director-General of the Security Service assured Prime Minister
Margaret Thatcher Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher (; 13 October 19258 April 2013) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 and Leader of the Conservative Party (UK), Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990. S ...
, and she told the House of Commons on 6 May 1987: In 2009, ''The Defence of the Realm'' held that while MI5 kept a file on Wilson from 1945 when he became an MP—because communist civil servants claimed that he had similar political sympathies—there was no bugging of his home or office, and no conspiracy against him. In 2010 newspaper reports made detailed allegations that the
Cabinet Office The Cabinet Office is a Departments of the Government of the United Kingdom, department of Government of the United Kingdom, His Majesty's Government responsible for supporting the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, prime minister and Cabine ...
had required that the section on bugging of
10 Downing Street 10 Downing Street in London, also known colloquially in the United Kingdom as Number 10, is the official residence and executive office of the First Lord of the Treasury, first lord of the treasury, usually, by convention, the Prime Minister of ...
be omitted from the history for "wider public interest reasons". In 1963, on Macmillan's orders following the Profumo affair, MI5 bugged the Cabinet room, the waiting room, and the prime minister's study until the devices were removed in 1977 on Callaghan's orders. From the records, it is unclear if Wilson or Heath knew of the bugging, and no recorded conversations were retained by MI5 so possibly the bugs were never activated. Professor Andrew had previously recorded in the preface of the history that "One significant excision as a result of these abinet Officerequirements (in the chapter on The Wilson Plot) is, I believe, hard to justify", giving credence to these new allegations. As a result of his concerns about the danger to British parliamentary democracy from these activities, Wilson issued instructions that no agency should ever bug the telephones of any members of Parliament, a policy (still in place) which came to be known as the Wilson Doctrine.


Honours

* Wilson was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1969 under Statute 12 of the Society's regulations, which covers people who have rendered conspicuous service to the cause of science or are such that their election would be of signal benefit to the Society.


Statues and other tributes

A portrait of Harold Wilson, painted by the Scottish portrait artist Cowan Dobson, hangs today at University College, Oxford. Two statues of Harold Wilson stand in prominent places. The first, unveiled by the then Prime Minister
Tony Blair Sir Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (born 6 May 1953) is a British former politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party (UK), Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007. He pr ...
in July 1999, stands outside Huddersfield railway station in St George's Square, Huddersfield. Costing £70,000, the statue, designed by sculptor Ian Walters, is based on photographs taken in 1964 and depicts Wilson in walking pose at the start of his first term as prime minister. His widow, Mary requested that the eight-foot-tall monument not show Wilson holding his famous pipe as she feared it would make the representation a caricature. A block of high-rise flats owned by Kirklees Metropolitan District Council in Huddersfield is named after Wilson. In September 2006,
Tony Blair Sir Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (born 6 May 1953) is a British former politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party (UK), Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007. He pr ...
unveiled a second bronze statue of Wilson in the latter's former constituency of
Huyton Huyton ( ) is a town in the Metropolitan Borough of Knowsley, Merseyside, England. Part of the Liverpool Urban Area, it borders the Liverpool suburbs of Dovecot, Merseyside, Dovecot, Knotty Ash and Belle Vale, and the neighbouring village of Ro ...
, near
Liverpool Liverpool is a City status in the United Kingdom, city and metropolitan borough in Merseyside, England. With a population of in 2019, it is the List of English districts by population, 10th largest English district by population and its E ...
. The statue was created by Liverpool sculptor, Tom Murphy, and Blair paid tribute to Wilson's legacy at the unveiling, including the
Open University The Open University (OU) is a British Public university, public research university and the largest university in the United Kingdom by List of universities in the United Kingdom by enrolment, number of students. The majority of the OU's underg ...
. He added: "He also brought in a whole new culture, a whole new country. He made the country very, very different". Also in 2006, a street on a new housing development in
Tividale Tividale is a district of the Metropolitan Borough of Sandwell Sandwell is a metropolitan borough of the West Midlands (county), West Midlands county in England. The borough is named after the Sandwell Priory, and spans a densely populated ...
, West Midlands, was named Wilson Drive in honour of Wilson. Along with neighbouring new development Callaghan Drive (named after
James Callaghan Leonard James Callaghan, Baron Callaghan of Cardiff, ( ; 27 March 191226 March 2005), commonly known as Jim Callaghan, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1976 to 1979 and Leader of the Labour Party (UK), Leader of the Labour Party ...
), it formed part of a large housing estate developed since the 1960s where all streets were named after former prime ministers or senior parliamentary figures.


Scholastic honours

; Chancellor, visitor, governor, and fellowships ;Honorary degrees


Cultural depictions


See also

* History of the Labour Party (UK) * Lord Goodman


References


Further reading


Bibliography

* Wilson, Harold. ''A Personal Record: The Labour Government, 1964–1970'' (1971). * Wilson, Harold. ''The Labour Government 1964–1970: A Personal Record'' (1979)


Biographical

* Farr, Martin. "Wilson, (James) Harold, 1st Baron Wilson 1916–1995." in David Loades, ed., ''Reader's Guide to British History'' London: Routledge, 2003. online at Credo Reference; historiography * * ; 830pp; a standard scholarly biography. * * , the authorized biography


Domestic policy and politics

* Blick, Andrew. "Harold Wilson, Labour and the machinery of government". ''Contemporary British History'' 20#3 (2006): 343–362. * Butler, David, and Anthony King. ''The British General Election of 1964'' (1965) * Butler, David, and M. Pinto-Duschinsky. ''The British General Election of 1970'' (1971). * Butler, David, and Dennis Kavanagh. ''The British General Election of February 1974'' (1974). * Butler, David, and Dennis Kavanagh. ''The British General Election of October 1974'' (1975). * * Childs, David. ''Britain since 1945: A Political History'' (7th ed. 2012), pp. 117–161, 179–196
excerpt
* Coopey, Richard, and Steven Fielding. ''The Wilson Governments, 1964–1970'' (1993). * Davies, Andrew. ''To build a new Jerusalem: the British Labour movement from the 1880s to the 1990s'' (1992), pp. 209–231. * Dell, Edmund. ''The Chancellors: A History of the Chancellors of the Exchequer, 1945–90'' (HarperCollins, 1997) (covers economic policy under the Attlee and Wilson governments) * Donoughue, Bernard. ''Prime Minister: the conduct of policy under Harold Wilson and James Callaghan'' (1987), highly favourable report by insider. * Dorey, Pete. "'Well, Harold Insists on Having It!'—The Political Struggle to Establish The Open University, 1965–67." ''Contemporary British History'' 29#2 (2015): 241–272. * Fielding, Steven, ed. ''The Labour governments, 1964–70, volume 1: Labour and cultural change'' (Manchester UP, 2003). * Heppell, Timothy. "The Labour Party leadership election of 1963: Explaining the unexpected election of Harold Wilson." ''Contemporary British History'' 24.2 (2010): 151-171
online
* Holmes, Martin. ''The labour government, 1974–79: political aims and economic reality'' (Macmillan, 1985). * King, Anthony. ''The British General Election of 1966'' (1966). * Lapping, Brian. ''The Labour Government, 1964–70'' (Penguin books, 1970). * Morgan, Kenneth O. ''The People's Peace: British History 1945–1989'' (1990), pp. 239–313. * O'Hara, Glen. ''From dreams to disillusionment: economic and social planning in 1960s Britain'' (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007
online PhD version
* Ponting, Clive. ''Breach of promise: Labour in power, 1964–1970'' (Penguin, 1989). * Pugh, Martin. '' Speak for Britain!: A New History of the Labour Party'' (2010), pp. 319–352. * Rogers, Chris. "From Social Contract to 'Social Contrick': The Depoliticisation of Economic Policy‐Making under Harold Wilson, 1974–751." ''British Journal of Politics & International Relations'' 11#4 (2009): 634–651
online
* Sked, Alan and Chris Cook. ''Post-War Britain: A Political History'' (4th ed. 1993), pp. 200–253, 292–311.


Foreign policy

* Colman, Jonathan. ''A 'Special Relationship'? Harold Wilson, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Anglo-American Relations 'At the Summit', 1964–68'' (2004
online
* Daddow, Oliver J. ''Harold Wilson and European integration: Britain's second application to join the EEC'' (Psychology Press, 2003). * Dockrill, Saki. "Forging the Anglo‐American global defence partnership: Harold Wilson, Lyndon Johnson and the Washington summit, December 1964." ''Journal of Strategic Studies'' 23#4 (2000): 107–129. * Ellis, Sylvia A. "Lyndon Johnson, Harold Wilson and the Vietnam War: A Not So Special Relationship?." in Jonathan Hollowell, ed., ''Twentieth-Century Anglo-American Relations''. (Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2001), pp. 180–204. * Haeussler, Mathias. "A Pyrrhic Victory: Harold Wilson, Helmut Schmidt, and the British Renegotiation of EC Membership, 1974–5." ''International History Review'' 37#4 (2015): 768–789. * Hughes, Geraint. ''Harold Wilson's Cold War: The Labour Government and East-West Politics, 1964–1970'' (2009) * Parr, Helen. "A question of leadership: July 1966 and Harold Wilson's European decision." ''Contemporary British History'' 19.4 (2005): 437–458. * Parr, Helen. ''Britain's Policy Towards the European Community: Harold Wilson and Britain's World Role, 1964–1967'' (Routledge, 2005). * Vickers, Rhiannon. "Harold Wilson, the British Labour Party, and the War in Vietnam." ''Journal of Cold War Studies'' 10.2 (2008): 41–70
online
* Young, John W. ed. ''The Labour governments 1964–1970 volume 2: International policy'' (2008).


Historiography

* Crines, Andrew S., ed. ''Harold Wilson: The Unprincipled Prime Minister?: A Reappraisal of Harold Wilson'' (2016). evaluations by scholars and politicians
excerpt
* O'Hara, Glen; Parr, Helen. "The Fall and Rise of a Reputation" ''Contemporary British History'' (2006) 20#3, pp. 295–302 * Perkins, Anne. "Labour needs to rethink Harold Wilson’s legacy. It still matters
''The Guardian'', 10 March 2016
* Pimlott, Ben. ''Frustrate Their Knavish Tricks: Writings on Biography, History and Politics'' (1994) pp. 31–36.


External links

*
Harold Wilson & Censorship - UK Parliament Living Heritage
obituary in ''
The Daily Telegraph ''The Daily Telegraph'', known online and elsewhere as ''The Telegraph'', is a national British daily broadsheet newspaper published in London by Telegraph Media Group and distributed across the United Kingdom and internationally. It was fou ...
''
Harold Wilson
on the
Downing Street Downing Street is a street in City of Westminster, Westminster in London that houses the official residences and offices of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Situated off Whitehall, it is long, and ...
website * * , - , - , - , - , - , - , - , - , - , - , - , - , - , - , - , - , - , - , - {{DEFAULTSORT:Wilson, Harold 1916 births 1995 deaths 20th-century prime ministers of the United Kingdom Alumni of Jesus College, Oxford British social democrats British Zionists Burials in Cornwall Chairs of the Fabian Society Chairs of the Labour Party (UK) Chancellors of the University of Bradford Civil servants in the Ministry of Power Deaths from dementia in England Deaths from Alzheimer's disease Deaths from cancer in England Deaths from colorectal cancer English Congregationalists Fellows of New College, Oxford Fellows of University College, Oxford Fellows of the Royal Society (Statute 12) Knights of the Garter Labour Party (UK) MPs for English constituencies Labour Party (UK) life peers Labour Party prime ministers of the United Kingdom Leaders of the Labour Party (UK) Leaders of the Opposition (United Kingdom) Members of HM Government Statistical Service Members of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom Ministers in the Attlee governments, 1945–1951 Officers of the Order of the British Empire People associated with the Open University People educated at Wirral Grammar School for Boys People from Huddersfield People of the Cold War Politicians awarded knighthoods Life peers created by Elizabeth II Presidents of the Board of Trade Presidents of the Royal Statistical Society Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom Shadow Chancellors of the Exchequer UK MPs 1945–1950 UK MPs 1950–1951 UK MPs 1951–1955 UK MPs 1955–1959 UK MPs 1959–1964 UK MPs 1964–1966 UK MPs 1966–1970 UK MPs 1970–1974 UK MPs 1974 UK MPs 1974–1979 UK MPs 1979–1983