JAMES HAROLD WILSON, BARON WILSON OF RIEVAULX, KG , OBE , PC , FRS ,
FSS (11 March 1916 – 24 May 1995) was a British Labour Party
politician who served as the
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
First entering Parliament in 1945 , Wilson was immediately appointed
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works and rose quickly
through the ministerial ranks, becoming the Secretary for Overseas
Trade in 1947 and being appointed to the Cabinet just months later as
President of the Board of Trade
Wilson's first period as Prime Minister coincided with a period of
low unemployment and relative economic prosperity, though also of
significant problems with Britain's external balance of payments. In
1969 Wilson sent British troops to
Wilson's own approach to socialism was moderate, with emphasis on increasing opportunity within society, for example through change and expansion within the education system , allied to the technocratic aim of taking better advantage of rapid scientific progress, rather than on the more controversial socialist goal of promoting wider public ownership of industry. He took little action to pursue the Labour Party constitution's stated dedication to such nationalisation , though he did not formally disown it. Himself a member of the Labour Party's "soft left", Wilson joked about leading a Cabinet that was made up mostly of social democrats , comparing himself to a Bolshevik revolutionary presiding over a Tsarist cabinet, but there was arguably little to divide him ideologically from the cabinet majority.
Labour Party historians see his years in office as lost opportunities
for major reforms. However, in keeping with the mood of the 1960s his
government sponsored liberal changes in a number of social areas; they
were generally not his initiatives. These included the liberalisation
of laws on censorship, divorce, homosexuality, immigration, and
abortion; as well as the abolition of capital punishment , which was
due in part to the initiatives of backbench MPs who had the support of
Roy Jenkins during his time as
* 1 Early life
* 1.1 Education * 1.2 Marriage * 1.3 Statistician for the War
* 2 Member of Parliament (1945–64)
* 2.1 Cabinet Minister, 1947–51 * 2.2 Shadow Cabinet, 1954–63 * 2.3 Opposition Leader, 1963–64
* 3 First term as Prime Minister (1964–70)
* 3.1 Domestic affairs
* 3.1.1 Economic policies * 3.1.2 Social issues * 3.1.3 Education * 3.1.4 Housing * 3.1.5 Social Services and welfare * 3.1.6 Agriculture * 3.1.7 Health * 3.1.8 Workers * 3.1.9 Transport * 3.1.10 Regional development * 3.1.11 Urban renewal * 3.1.12 International development * 3.1.13 Taxation * 3.1.14 Liberal reforms * 3.1.15 Record on income distribution
* 3.2 External affairs
* 3.2.1 Europe * 3.2.2 Asia * 3.2.3 Africa
* 4 Defeat and return to opposition, 1970–74
* 5 Second term as Prime Minister (1974–76)
* 5.1 Domestic affairs
* 6 Retirement and death, 1983–95
* 7 Political style
* 7.1 Reputation
* 8 Possible plots and conspiracy theories
* 9 Honours
* 9.1 Statues and other tributes
* 10 Titles from birth to death * 11 Cultural depictions * 12 Arms * 13 Ancestry * 14 See also * 15 References
* 16 Further reading
* 16.1 Bibliography * 16.2 Biographical * 16.3 Domestic policy and politics * 16.4 Foreign policy * 16.5 Primary sources
* 17 External links
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Wilson was born at 4 Warneford Road,
When Wilson was eight, he visited
He was a supporter of his hometown football club,
Wilson won a scholarship to attend Royds Hall Grammar School , his
local grammar school (now a comprehensive school ) in
Wilson did well at school and, although he missed getting a scholarship, he obtained an exhibition; which, when topped up by a county grant, enabled him to study Modern History at Jesus College, 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 . 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 says: 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
On New Year's Day 1940, in the chapel of Mansfield College, Oxford , 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. In their twenties, his sons were under a kidnap threat from the IRA because of their father's prominence.
STATISTICIAN FOR THE WAR
On the outbreak of the Second World War, Wilson volunteered for
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
He was to remain passionately interested in statistics. As President of the Board of Trade , he was the driving force behind the Statistics of Trade Act 1947, which is still the authority governing most economic statistics in Great Britain . He was instrumental as Prime Minister in appointing Claus Moser as head of the Central Statistical Office , and was president of the Royal Statistical Society in 1972–73.
MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT (1945–64)
As the war drew to an end, he searched for a seat to fight at the impending general election. He was selected for the constituency of Ormskirk , 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 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 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
In the general election of 1950, his Ormskirk constituency was
significantly altered and he was narrowly elected for the new seat of
CABINET MINISTER, 1947–51
On 29 September 1947 Wilson was appointed President of the Board of Trade , at 31 becoming the youngest member of a British Cabinet in the 20th century. He took a lead in abolishing some wartime rationing, which he referred to as a "bonfire of controls".
In the summer of 1949, with
Wilson was becoming known in the Labour Party as a left-winger and
After the Labour Party lost the 1951 election , he became the Chairman of Keep Left, Bevan's political group. At the bitter Morecambe Conference in the autumn of 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 were voted off.
SHADOW CABINET, 1954–63
Wilson had never made much secret that his support of the left-wing
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 he backed
Hugh Gaitskell , the right-wing candidate in internal
Labour Party terms, against Bevan for the party leadership. Gaitskell
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer 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 in
1955, and his speeches as Shadow
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. 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 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. Wilson
was adopted as the left-wing candidate for the leadership , defeating
At the Labour Party's 1963 Annual Conference, Wilson made both 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 , a
ministerial sex scandal that had mortally wounded
FIRST TERM AS PRIME MINISTER (1964–70)
Labour won the 1964 general election with a narrow majority of four
seats, and Wilson became Prime Minister , the youngest person to hold
that office since Lord Rosebery 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
In economic terms, Wilson's first three years in office were dominated by an ultimately doomed effort to stave off the devaluation of the pound. He inherited an unusually large external deficit on the balance of trade . This partly reflected the preceding government's expansive fiscal policy in the run-up to the 1964 election, and the incoming Wilson team tightened the fiscal stance in response. Many British economists advocated devaluation, 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". In the latter half of 1967, however, 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 winter rise in unemployment.
After a costly battle, market pressures forced the government into devaluation in 1967. Wilson was much criticised for a broadcast in which he assured listeners that the "pound in your pocket" had not lost its value. It was widely forgotten that his next sentence had been "prices will rise". Economic performance did show some improvement after the devaluation, as economists had predicted. The devaluation, with accompanying austerity measures, successfully restored the balance of payments to surplus by 1969. This unexpectedly turned into a small deficit again in 1970. The bad figures were announced just before polling in the 1970 general election , and are often cited as one of the reasons for Labour's defeat.
A main theme of Wilson's economic approach was to place enhanced
emphasis on "indicative economic planning ". He created a new
Department of Economic Affairs to generate ambitious targets that were
in themselves supposed to help stimulate investment and growth (the
government also created a Ministry of Technology (shortened to
Mintech) to support the modernisation of industry). The DEA itself was
in part intended to serve as an expansionary counter-weight to what
Labour saw as the conservative influence of the Treasury, though the
appointment of Wilson's deputy, George Brown, as the Minister in
charge of the DEA was something of a two-edged sword, in view of
Brown's reputation for erratic conduct; in any case 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. Though now out of fashion, the 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 (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, with 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, under Tony
Benn . Harold and Mary Wilson with Richard and
The continued relevance of industrial nationalisation (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 , 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. He placated the party's left wing by renationalising the steel industry; otherwise, he left Clause Four formally in the constitution but in practice on the shelf.
Wilson made periodic attempts to mitigate inflation, largely through wage-price controls—better known in Britain as "prices and incomes policy ". (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 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 , 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 .
Following a confrontation with the
Trades Union Congress , which
strongly opposed the proposals, and internal dissent from Home
Wilson's government made a variety of changes to the tax system.
Largely under the influence of the Hungarian -born economists Nicholas
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
Wilson had entered power at a time when unemployment stood at around 400,000. It still stood 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.
Main article: First Wilson ministry § Social issues
A number of liberalising social reforms were passed through parliament during Wilson's first period in government. These dealt with the death penalty, homosexual acts, abortion, censorship and the voting age. There were new restrictions on immigration. Wilson personally, coming culturally from a provincial non-conformist background, showed no particular enthusiasm for much of this agenda.
Main article: First Wilson ministry § Education
Education held special significance for a socialist of Wilson's generation, in view of 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. Wilson continued the rapid creation of new universities, in line with the recommendations of the Robbins Report , a bipartisan policy already in train when Labour took power.
Wilson promoted the concept of an
Open University , to give adults
who had missed out on tertiary education a second chance through
part-time study and distance learning. His political commitment
included assigning implementation responsibility to Baroness Lee , the
Wilson's record on secondary education is, by contrast, highly controversial. Pressure grew for the abolition of the selective principle underlying the "eleven-plus ", and replacement with Comprehensive schools which would serve the full range of children (see the article Debates on the grammar school ). Comprehensive education became Labour Party policy. From 1966 to 1970, the proportion of children in comprehensive schools increased from about 10% to over 30%.
Labour pressed local authorities to convert grammar schools into
comprehensives. Conversion continued on a large scale during the
subsequent Conservative Heath administration, although the Secretary
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. As summarised by Brian Lapping,
"The years 1964–70 were largely taken up with creating extra places in universities, polytechnics, technical colleges, colleges of education: preparing for the day when a new Act would make it the right of a student, on leaving school, to have a place in an institution of further education."
Main article: First Wilson ministry § 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 rose from 42% to 50% of the total, while the number of council homes built increased steadily, from 119,000 in 1964 to 133,000 in 1965 and to 142,000 in 1966. Allowing for demolitions, 1.3 million new homes were built between 1965 and 1970, To encourage home ownership, 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 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,
Social Services And Welfare
Main article: First Wilson ministry § Social Services and welfare
According to A.B. 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 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 (a social assistance scheme for the poor) was overhauled and renamed Supplementary Benefit . 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.
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. 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%. 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).
Under the First Wilson Government, subsidies for farmers were increased. 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, 40,000 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." A Hill Land Improvement Scheme, introduced by the Agriculture Act of 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.
The proportion of GNP spent on the NHS 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 GPs, extra pay for doctors who served in areas particularly short of them, a 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, a 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 family planning advice to any who requested it and to provide supplies free of charge. 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 Family Planning Act 1967 empowered local authorities to set up a family planning service with free advice and means-tested provision of contraceptive devices while the Clean Air Act 1968 extended powers to combat air pollution. 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.
Main article: First Wilson ministry § 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. 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.
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 development 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.
The Travel Concessions Act of 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 established the principle of government grants for
transport authorities if uneconomic passenger services were justified
on social grounds. A National Freight Corporation 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 test for drunken
driving, under the 1967 Road Traffic Act. The Transport Act gave a
much needed financial boost to
The road building programme was also expanded, with capital expenditure increased to 8% of GDP, "the highest level achieved by any post-war government". 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 regulations were introduced, covering seat belts, 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.
Encouragement of regional development was given increased attention
under the First Wilson Government, with the aim of narrowing economic
dispratiies between the various regions. A policy was introduced in
1965 whereby any new government organisation should be established
The Industrial Development Act 1966 changed the name of Development
Districts (parts of the country with higher levels of unemployment
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
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
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."
Main article: First Wilson ministry § Urban renewal
A number of 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. 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. A number of 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.
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 , 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 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 to devise ways of tackling global socio-economic inequalities. Overseas aid, however, bore a major brunt of 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.
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.
Main article: First Wilson ministry § 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 was
passed. Another important reform, the 1967 Welsh Language Act,
granted 'equal validity' to the declining
The Commons Registration Act 1965 provided for the registration of all common land and village greens , whilst under the Countryside Act 1968, 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 interstate. The legislation increased the amount that could be paid of surviving spouses if a will hadn't 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 of either parent. In 1967, homosexuality was partially decriminalised by the passage of the Sexual Offences Act . The First Wilson Government also introduced a thirty-year rule for access to public records, replacing a previous fifty-year rule.
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. 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 one historian,
"In its commitment to social services and public welfare, the Wilson government put together a record unmatched by any subsequent administration, and the mid-sixties are justifiably seen as the 'golden age' of the welfare state".
As noted by Ben Pimlott , 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 dependant 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. Also, in spite of an increase in unemployment, the poor improved their share of the national income while that of the rich was slightly reduced. 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%. 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 course of 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".
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. An entry attempt was vetoed in 1963 by
Charles de Gaulle
After initially hesitating over the issue, 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
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
During the renegotiations, other EEC members conceded, as a partial offset, the establishment of a significant European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), from which it was clearly 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.
American military involvement in Vietnam escalated continuously from
1964 to 1968 and President Lyndon 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
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 " 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
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
Wilson was known for his strong pro-
The British "retreat from Empire" had made headway by 1964 and was to continue during Wilson's administration. The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland came to present serious problems. Southern Rhodesia, which had been the economic powerhouse of the Federation, was not granted independence, principally because Wilson refused to grant independence to the white minority government headed by Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith which not willing to extend unqualified voting rights to the native African population. Smith's defiant response was a Unilateral Declaration of Independence , on 11 November 1965. Wilson's immediate recourse was to the United Nations, and in 1965, the Security Council 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, Tiger in 1966 and Fearless 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. The matter was still unresolved at the time of Wilson's resignation in 1976.
DEFEAT AND RETURN TO OPPOSITION, 1970–74
See also: Second Shadow Cabinet of Harold Wilson
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.
Wilson survived as leader of the Labour party in opposition. In the
summer of 1973, holidaying on the
Isles of Scilly
Economic conditions during the 1970s were becoming more difficult for Britain and many other western economies as a result of the ending of the Bretton Woods Agreement and the 1973 oil shock , 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 ) towards the end of 1973, and on 7 February 1974 (with the crisis still ongoing) Heath called a snap election for 28 February.
SECOND TERM AS PRIME MINISTER (1974–76)
Further information: Labour government 1974–79
Labour won more seats (though fewer votes) than the Conservative
Party in the General Election in February 1974, which resulted in a
hung parliament . As Heath was unable to persuade the Liberals to form
a coalition , Wilson returned to
10 Downing Street
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, 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, however, 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 1,000,000 by April of that year.
Wilson's earlier government had witnessed the outbreak of The
Troubles in Northern Ireland. In response to a request from the
Out of office in the autumn of 1971, Wilson 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 as a "sectarian strike", which was "being done for sectarian
purposes having no relation to this century but only to the
seventeenth century". However he refused to pressure a reluctant
On 11 September 2008, BBC Radio Four'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. 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 who admitted the 12,000-strong Irish army would be unable to deal with the ensuing civil war.
In 1975 Wilson secretly offered Libya's dictator
On 16 March 1976, Wilson announced his resignation as Prime Minister (taking effect on 5 April 1976). 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 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 , 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 , which was to cause both his formerly excellent memory and his powers of concentration to fail dramatically. Garter Banner of Lord Wilson of Rievaulx, Jesus College Chapel, Oxford
Wilson's Prime Minister\'s Resignation Honours 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 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, 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 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 , James
Roy Jenkins ,
As Wilson wished to remain an MP after leaving office, he was not immediately given the peerage customarily offered to retired Prime Ministers, but instead was created a Knight of the Garter . On leaving the House of Commons after the 1983 general election he was created BARON WILSON OF RIEVAULX, after Rievaulx Abbey , in the north of his native Yorkshire.
RETIREMENT AND DEATH, 1983–95
Wilson in 1986 Harold Wilson's grave
Shortly after resigning as Prime Minister, Wilson was signed by David Frost 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 chose one of his appearances as one of the 100 Moments of TV Hell. Wilson also coined the name of charity War on Want .
Gilbert and Sullivan
Wilson was not especially active in the House of Lords, 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 . In the same year he played himself
as Prime Minister in an
He continued regularly attending the
House of Lords
Wilson regarded himself as a "man of the people" and did much to
promote this image, contrasting himself with the stereotypical
aristocratic conservatives who had preceded him. Features of this
portrayal included his working man's
Gannex 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 smoked
cigars), his love of simple cooking and fondness for popular British
HP Sauce , and his support for his home town's football team,
Wilson exhibited his populist touch in June 1965 when he had the
Beatles honoured with the award of MBE (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
In 1967, Wilson had a different interaction with a musical ensemble. He sued the pop group the Move 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 ) were assigned in perpetuity to a charity of Wilson's choosing.
Wilson coined the term ' Selsdon Man ' to refer to the anti-interventionist policies of the Conservative leader Edward Heath , developed at a policy retreat held at the Selsdon Park Hotel in early 1970. This phrase, intended to evoke the 'primitive throwback' qualities of anthropological discoveries such as Piltdown Man and Swanscombe Man , 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 revolution", 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.
Despite his successes and one-time popularity, Harold Wilson's
reputation took a long time to recover from the low ebb reached
immediately following his second premiership. Some accuse him of undue
deviousness, some claim he did not do enough to modernise the Labour
Party's policy positions on issues such as the respective roles of the
state and the market or the reform of industrial relations. This line
of argument partly blames Wilson for the civil unrest of the late
1970s (during Britain's
Winter of Discontent ), and for the electoral
success of the Conservative party and its ensuing 18-year rule. His
supporters argue that Wilson's skilful management (on issues such as
nationalisation, Europe and Vietnam) allowed an otherwise fractious
party to stay politically united and govern. This co-existence did not
long survive his leadership, and the factionalism that followed
contributed greatly to the Labour Party's electoral weakness during
the 1980s. The reinvention of the Labour Party would take the better
part of two decades, at the hands of
Neil Kinnock , John Smith and –
electorally, most conclusively –
In 1964, when Wilson took office, the mainstream of informed opinion
(in all the main political parties, in academia and the media, etc.)
strongly favoured the type of technocratic, "indicative planning "
approach that Wilson endeavoured to implement. Radical
market-orientated reforms, of the kind eventually adopted by Margaret
Thatcher , were in the mid-1960s backed only by a 'fringe' of
enthusiasts (such as the leadership of the later-influential Institute
of Economic Affairs ), and had almost no representation at senior
levels even of the Conservative Party. Fifteen years later,
disillusionment with Britain's weak economic performance and troubled
industrial relations, combined with active spadework by figures such
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.
POSSIBLE PLOTS AND CONSPIRACY THEORIES
Main article: Harold Wilson conspiracy theories
in 2009 historian Christopher Andrew 's official history of MI5,
Defend the Realm: The Authorized History of
In 1963, Soviet defector
Anatoliy Golitsyn is said to have secretly
claimed that Wilson was a
KGB agent. 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 , Deputy Director of Operations for
Counter-Intelligence at the U.S.
Central Intelligence Agency
In March 1987, James Miller, a former agent, claimed that the Ulster
Workers Council Strike of 1974 had been promoted by
In 2009, The Defence of the Realm, the authorised history of
* Wilson was elected a
Fellow of the Royal Society
STATUES AND OTHER TRIBUTES
Statue in St George's Square,
A portrait of Harold Wilson, painted by the Scottish portrait artist
Cowan Dobson , hangs today at University College, Oxford. Two statues
In September 2006,
Also in 2006, a street on a new housing development in
TITLES FROM BIRTH TO DEATH
Further information: Cultural depictions of British prime ministers
Notes The arms of
ANCESTORS OF HAROLD WILSON
Below is a list of the ancestors of Harold Wilson.
16. James Wilson
8. John Wilson
17. Elizabeth Hawkins
4. James Wilson
18. Thomas Cole
9. Esther Cole
19. Sarah Bentley
2. James Herbert Wilson
20. Thomas Thewlis
10. Titus Thewlis
21. Phoebe Wood
5. Eliza Jane Thewlis
22. James Eastwood
11. Mary Ann Eastwood
23. Betty Clegg
1. JAMES HAROLD WILSON
24. Thomas Seddon
12. Thomas Seddon
6. William Seddon
26. Thomas Brown
13. Sarah Brown
3. Ethel Seddon
28. David Davy
14. David Davy
7. Elizabeth Ann Davy
30. James Whitfield
15. Jane Whitfield
31. Susannah Hall
* ^ The Labour government, 1974–79: political aims and economic
reality by Martin Holmes
* ^ A B The Labour Party since 1945 by Eric Shaw
* ^ A B Goodman, Geoffrey (1 July 2005). "
* ^ Pimlott, pp 211-12
* ^ Andrew S. Crines; Kevin Hickson (2016). Harold Wilson: The
Unprincipled Prime Minister?: A Reappraisal of Harold Wilson.
Biteback. p. 62.
* ^ Pimlott, pp 194-96
* ^ Frum, David (2000). How We Got Here: The '70s. New York, New
York: Basic Books. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-465-04195-4 .
* ^ Pimlott, pp 285-99.
* ^ Crines and Hickson (2016). Harold Wilson: The Unprincipled
Prime Minister?: A Reappraisal of Harold Wilson. p. 258.
* ^ "VOTE2001 THE ELECTION BATTLES 1945–1997". BBC News.
Retrieved 27 December 2011.
* ^ A B C D E F G H Thorpe, Andrew (2001). A History Of The British
Labour Party. Palgrave. ISBN 978-0-333-92908-7 .
* ^ A B C D E F G H I J Townsend, Peter. Bosanquet, Nicholas, ed.
Labour and inequality: Sixteen Fabian Essays.
* ^ Roy Jenkins, \'Wilson, (James) Harold, Baron Wilson of Rievaulx
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Main article: Harold Wilson bibliography
There is an extensive bibliography on Harold Wilson. He is the author
of a number of books. He is the subject of many biographies (both
light and serious) and academic analyses of his career and various
aspects of the policies pursued by the governments he led. He features
in many "humorous" books. He was the Prime Minister in the so-called
* Crines, Andrew S. Harold Wilson: The Unprincipled Prime Minister?:
A Reappraisal of
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
* Butler, David and M. Pinto-Duschinsky. The British General
Election of 1970 (1971).
* Butler, Butler and David Kavanagh. The British General Election of
* Campbell, John (1987). Nye Bevan and the Mirage of British
Socialism. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 978-0-297-78998-7 .
* Childs, David. Britain since 1945: A Political History (7th ed.
2012) pp 117–61, 179-96. excerpt
* Coopey, Richard, and Steven Fielding. The Wilson Governments,
* Davies, Andrew. To build a new Jerusalem: the British Labour
movement from the 1880s to the 1990s (1992) pp 209–31.
* 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
* Definitions from Wiktionary * Media from Commons * News from Wikinews * Quotations from Wikiquote * Texts from Wikisource * Textbooks from Wikibooks * Learning resources from Wikiversity
* Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Harold Wilson
PARLIAMENT OF THE UNITED KINGDOM
Preceded by Reginald Manningham-Buller PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY FOR THE MINISTRY OF WORKS 1945–1947 Succeeded by Evan Durbin
Preceded by Hugh Gaitskell SHADOW CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER 1955–1961 Succeeded by Jim Callaghan
Acting LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
1963–1964 Succeeded by
FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY 1964–1970
NEW OFFICE MINISTER FOR THE CIVIL SERVICE 1968–1970
Preceded by Ted Heath LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION 1970–1974
PRIME MINISTER OF THE UNITED KINGDOM 1974–1976 Succeeded by Jim Callaghan
FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY 1974–1976
MINISTER FOR THE CIVIL SERVICE 1974–1976
PARTY POLITICAL OFFICES
Preceded by Dick Crossman CHAIR OF THE LABOUR PARTY 1961–1962 Succeeded by Dai Davies
Preceded by George Brown Acting LEADER OF THE LABOUR PARTY 1963–1976 Succeeded by Jim Callaghan
NEW OFFICE CHANCELLOR OF THE UNIVERSITY OF BRADFORD 1966–1985 Succeeded by John Harvey-Jones
Preceded by George Barnard PRESIDENT OF THE ROYAL STATISTICAL SOCIETY 1972–1973 Succeeded by D. J. Finney
HAROLD WILSON NAVIGATIONAL BOXES
* v * t * e
* 1964–1970 * 1974–1976
* 1964 * 1966 * 1970 * February 1974 * October 1974
* 1960 * 1963
* 1970 * 1976
* Mary Wilson, Baroness Wilson of Rievaulx * Hon. Robin Wilson
* Rhodesia\'s Unilateral Declaration of Independence * Beira Patrol * D-notice affair * Gnomes of Zürich * Harold Wilson conspiracy theories * Clockwork Orange * Harry letters affair * The Lavender List * Wilson Doctrine * Bibliography
* v * t * e
Second Wilson Cabinet
* v * t * e
Prime Ministers of the
KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN
* Walpole * Wilmington * Pelham * Newcastle * Devonshire * Newcastle * Bute * G. Grenville * Rockingham * Chatham (Pitt the Elder) * Grafton * North * Rockingham * Shelburne * Portland * Pitt the Younger
* Pitt the Younger
* Pitt the Younger
* Ld. Grenville
* v * t * e
Presidents of the Board of Trade
* v * t * e
* Hardie * Henderson * Barnes * MacDonald * Henderson * Adamson * Clynes * MacDonald * Henderson * Lansbury * Attlee * Gaitskell * Wilson * Callaghan * Foot * Kinnock * Smith * Blair * Brown * Miliband * Corbyn
* Clynes * Graham * Attlee * Greenwood * Morrison * Griffiths * Bevan * Brown * Jenkins * Short * Foot * Healey * Hattersley * Beckett * Prescott * Harman * Watson
* MacDonald * Henderson * Middleton * Phillips * Williams * Nicholas * Hayward * Mortimer * Whitty * Sawyer * McDonagh * Triesman * Carter * Watt * Collins * McNicol
* Henderson * MacDonald * Henderson * Lathan * Greenwood * Gaitskell * Bevan * Nicholas * Davies * Callaghan * Atkinson * Varley * Booth * McCluskie * Burlison * Prosser * Elsby * Dromey * Holland
LEADERS IN THE LORDS
* Haldane * Cripps * Ponsonby * Snell * Addison * Jowitt * Alexander * Pakenham * Shackleton * Shepherd * Peart * Hughes * Richard * Jay * Williams * Amos * Ashton * Royall * Smith
* Hardie * Henderson * Barnes * MacDonald * Henderson * Hodge * * Wardle * * Adamson * Clynes * MacDonald * Henderson * Lansbury * Attlee * Lees-Smith * * Pethick-Lawrence * * Greenwood * * Gaitskell * Wilson * Houghton * Mikardo * Hughes * Willey * Dormand * Orme * Hoyle * Soley * Corston * Clwyd * Lloyd * Watts * Cryer
* = wartime, in opposition
* 1922 (MacDonald) * 1931 (Henderson) * 1932 (Lansbury) * 1935 (Attlee) * 1955 (Gaitskell) * 1960 * 1961 * 1963 (Wilson) * 1976 (Callaghan) * 1980 (Foot) * 1983 (Kinnock) * 1988 * 1992 (Smith) * 1994 (Blair) * 2007 (Brown) * 2010 (Miliband) * 2015 (Corbyn) * 2016
DEPUTY LEADERSHIP ELECTIONS
* 1952 (Morrison) * 1953 * 1956 (Griffiths) * 1959 (Bevan) * 1960 (Brown) * 1961 * 1962 * 1970 (Jenkins) * 1971 * 1972 (Short) * 1976 (Foot) * 1980 (Healey) * 1981 * 1983 (Hattersley) * 1988 * 1992 (Beckett) * 1994 (Prescott) * 2007 (Harman) * 2015 (Watson)
SHADOW CABINET ELECTIONS
* 1979 (Callaghan) * 1980 (Foot) * 1981 (Foot) * 1982 (Foot) * 1983 (Kinnock) * 1984 (Kinnock) * 1985 (Kinnock) * 1986 (Kinnock) * 1987 (Kinnock) * ... * 1990 (Kinnock) * 1991 (Kinnock) * 1992 (Smith) * 1993 (Smith) * 1994 (Blair) * 1995 (Blair) * 1996 (Blair) * 2010 (Miliband)
* Branch Labour Party
* Socialist societies * Association of Labour Councillors
* Affiliated trade unions * Trade Union and Labour Party Liaison Organisation
* as Labour Co-operative Candidates
* Young Labour * Labour International
* Christians on the Left * Compass
Jewish Labour Movement
Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform
* Labour Friends of
HISTORY AND RELATED TOPICS
* History of the
Labour Party (UK)
* v * t * e
Shadow Chancellors of the Exchequer of the
* Stanley * Butler * Gaitskell * Wilson * Callaghan * Maudling * Heath * Macleod * Jenkins * Healey * Carr * Howe * Healey * Shore * Hattersley * Smith * Brown * Clarke * Lilley * Maude * Portillo * Howard * Letwin * Osborne * Darling * Johnson * Balls * Leslie * McDonnell
* v * t * e
Shadow Foreign Secretaries of the
* Robens * Bevan * Healey * Wilson * Gordon Walker * Butler * Maudling * Soames * Douglas-Home * Healey * Callaghan * Rippon * Maudling * Davies * Pym * Shore * Healey * Kaufman * Cunningham * Cook * Major * Howard * Maples * Maude * Ancram * Fox * Hague * Miliband * Cooper * Alexander * Benn * Thornberry
* WorldCat Identities * VIAF : 76345097 * LCCN : n50015727 * ISNI : 0000 0001 2282 0331 * GND : 118772090 * SELIBR : 237125 * SUDOC : 029320909 * BNF : cb12097198t (data) * NLA : 35830422 * NDL : 00540796 * BNE : XX1160636 * IATH