Harold Wilson
Overview
James Harold Wilson, Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, KG
Order of the Garter
The Most Noble Order of the Garter, founded in 1348, is the highest order of chivalry, or knighthood, existing in England. The order is dedicated to the image and arms of St...

, OBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

, FRS, FSS
Royal Statistical Society
The Royal Statistical Society is a learned society for statistics and a professional body for statisticians in the UK.-History:It was founded in 1834 as the Statistical Society of London , though a perhaps unrelated London Statistical Society was in existence at least as early as 1824...

, PC (11 March 191624 May 1995) was a British Labour
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 Member of Parliament, Leader of the Labour Party. He was twice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

 during the 1960s and 1970s, winning four general elections
United Kingdom general elections
This is a list of United Kingdom general elections since the first in 1802. The members of the 1801–1802 Parliament had been elected to the former Parliament of Great Britain and Parliament of Ireland, before being co-opted to serve in the first Parliament of the United Kingdom, so that Parliament...

, including a minority government after the February 1974 General Election resulted in a hung parliament. He is the most recent British Prime Minister to have served non-consecutive terms.

Harold Wilson first served as Prime Minister in the 1960s, during a period of low unemployment and relative economic prosperity (though also of significant problems with the UK's external balance of payments).
Quotations

On 5 September, when the Trades Union Congress|TUC unanimously rejected wage restraint, it was the end of an era, and all the financiers, all the little gnomes in Zürich and other finance centres about whom we keep on hearing, had started to make their dispositions in regard to sterling.

Hansard, House of Commons, 5th series, vol. 560, col. 579.

The government have only a small majority in the House of Commons. I want to make it quite clear that this will not affect our ability to govern. Having been charged with the duties of Government we intend to carry out those duties.

David Butler, Coalitions in British Politics (Macmillan, London, 1978), p. 99.

I know I speak for everyone in these islands, all parties, all our people, when I say to Ian Smith|Mr. Smith tonight: "Prime Minister, think again".

Broadcast speech calling on the Government of Rhodesia|Rhodesia not to Unilateral Declaration of Independence (Rhodesia)|declare independence, October 12, 1965. Quoted in The Times, October 13, 1965, p. 8.

We have taken steps which have not been taken by any other democratic government in the world. We are taking steps with regard to prices and wages which no other government, even in wartime, has taken.

The Times, July 30, 1966.

From now on, the pound abroad is worth 14 per cent or so less in terms of other currencies. That doesn't mean, of course, that the Pound here in Britain, in your pocket or purse or in your bank, has been devalued.

Televised speech, November 19, 1967 following the devaluation of the Pound sterling|Pound Sterling. Usually remembered as "the Pound in your pocket".

May I say, for the benefit of those who have been carried away by the gossip of the last few days, that I know what's going on. [pause] I'm going on, and the Labour government's going on.

"I am going on, your Government is going on—Mr Wilson", The Times, 5 May 1969, p. 1

Encyclopedia
James Harold Wilson, Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, KG
Order of the Garter
The Most Noble Order of the Garter, founded in 1348, is the highest order of chivalry, or knighthood, existing in England. The order is dedicated to the image and arms of St...

, OBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

, FRS, FSS
Royal Statistical Society
The Royal Statistical Society is a learned society for statistics and a professional body for statisticians in the UK.-History:It was founded in 1834 as the Statistical Society of London , though a perhaps unrelated London Statistical Society was in existence at least as early as 1824...

, PC (11 March 191624 May 1995) was a British Labour
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 Member of Parliament, Leader of the Labour Party. He was twice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

 during the 1960s and 1970s, winning four general elections
United Kingdom general elections
This is a list of United Kingdom general elections since the first in 1802. The members of the 1801–1802 Parliament had been elected to the former Parliament of Great Britain and Parliament of Ireland, before being co-opted to serve in the first Parliament of the United Kingdom, so that Parliament...

, including a minority government after the February 1974 General Election resulted in a hung parliament. He is the most recent British Prime Minister to have served non-consecutive terms.

Harold Wilson first served as Prime Minister in the 1960s, during a period of low unemployment and relative economic prosperity (though also of significant problems with the UK's external balance of payments). His second term in office began in 1974, when a period of economic crisis was beginning to hit most Western countries. On both occasions, economic concerns were to prove a significant constraint on his governments' ambitions. Wilson's own approach to socialism placed emphasis on efforts to increase 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 left's traditional goal of promoting wider public ownership of industry. While he did not challenge the Party constitution's stated dedication to nationalisation head-on, he took little action to pursue it. 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
Bolshevik
The Bolsheviks, originally also Bolshevists , derived from bol'shinstvo, "majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903....

 revolutionary presiding over a Tsarist cabinet, but there was arguably little to divide him ideologically from the cabinet majority.

Though generally not at the top of Wilson's personal areas of priority, his first period in office was notable for substantial legal changes in a number of social areas, including the liberalisation of censorship, divorce, homosexuality, immigration and abortion (see Social issues, below), as well as the abolition of capital punishment, due in part to the initiatives of backbench MPs who had the support of Roy Jenkins
Roy Jenkins
Roy Harris Jenkins, Baron Jenkins of Hillhead OM, PC was a British politician.The son of a Welsh coal miner who later became a union official and Labour MP, Roy Jenkins served with distinction in World War II. Elected to Parliament as a Labour member in 1948, he served in several major posts in...

 during his time as Home Secretary.

Overall, Wilson is seen to have managed a number of difficult political issues with considerable tactical skill, including such potentially divisive issues for his party as the role of public ownership, British membership of the European Community, and the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

, in which he resisted US pressure to involve Britain and send British troops. Nonetheless, his stated ambition of substantially improving Britain's long-term economic performance remained largely unfulfilled.

Early life

Wilson was born in Huddersfield
Huddersfield
Huddersfield is a large market town within the Metropolitan Borough of Kirklees, in West Yorkshire, England, situated halfway between Leeds and Manchester. It lies north of London, and south of Bradford, the nearest city....

, in the West Riding of Yorkshire
West Riding of Yorkshire
The West Riding of Yorkshire is one of the three historic subdivisions of Yorkshire, England. From 1889 to 1974 the administrative county, County of York, West Riding , was based closely on the historic boundaries...

, England on 11 March 1916, an almost exact contemporary of his rival, Edward Heath
Edward Heath
Sir Edward Richard George "Ted" Heath, KG, MBE, PC was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and as Leader of the Conservative Party ....

 (9 July 1916 – 17 July 2005). He came from a political family: his father James Herbert Wilson (December 1882–1971) was a works chemist who had been active in the Liberal Party
Liberal Party (UK)
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

 and then joined the Labour Party
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

. His mother Ethel (née Seddon; 1882–1957) was a schoolteacher prior to her marriage. When Wilson was eight, he visited London and a later-to-be-famous photograph was taken of him standing on the doorstep of 10 Downing Street
10 Downing Street
10 Downing Street, colloquially known in the United Kingdom as "Number 10", is the headquarters of Her Majesty's Government and the official residence and office of the First Lord of the Treasury, who is now always the Prime Minister....

.

He was a supporter of his hometown football club, Huddersfield Town.

Education

Wilson won a scholarship to attend the local grammar school
Grammar school
A grammar school is one of several different types of school in the history of education in the United Kingdom and some other English-speaking countries, originally a school teaching classical languages but more recently an academically-oriented secondary school.The original purpose of mediaeval...

, Royds Hall Grammar School, Huddersfield. His education was disrupted in October 1930 when he contracted typhoid fever after drinking contaminated milk on a Scouts
Scouting
Scouting, also known as the Scout Movement, is a worldwide youth movement with the stated aim of supporting young people in their physical, mental and spiritual development, that they may play constructive roles in society....

' outing. It took him three months to recover. In December 1930, his father, working as an industrial chemist, was made redundant and it took him nearly two years to find work. He moved to Spital
Spital, Merseyside
Spital is a suburban area of the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral, in Merseyside, England. It is located mid-way on the Wirral Peninsula, and is mostly incorporated into the town of Bebington and the most westerly point of Spital forms the most northern edge of Bromborough.Spital is primarily a...

 on the Wirral
Wirral Peninsula
Wirral or the Wirral is a peninsula in North West England. It is bounded by three bodies of water: to the west by the River Dee, forming a boundary with Wales, to the east by the River Mersey and to the north by the Irish Sea. Both terms "Wirral" and "the Wirral" are used locally , although the...

, Cheshire in order to do so. Wilson attended the sixth form at the Wirral Grammar School for Boys
Wirral Grammar School for Boys
Wirral Grammar School for Boys, founded in 1931, is situated on Cross Lane, Bebington, on the Wirral Peninsula in England.-Admissions:It is a foundation school, located within the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral and requires all potential pupils to take, and pass, the eleven plus exam exam prior to...

, where he became Head Boy
Head boy
Head Boy and Head Girl are terms commonly used in the British education system, and in private schools throughout the Commonwealth.-United Kingdom:...

.

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
Jesus College, Oxford
Jesus College is one of the colleges of the University of Oxford in England. It is in the centre of the city, on a site between Turl Street, Ship Street, Cornmarket Street and Market Street...

, from 1934. At Oxford, Wilson was moderately active in politics as a member of the Liberal Party but was later influenced by G. D. H. Cole
G. D. H. Cole
George Douglas Howard Cole was an English political theorist, economist, writer and historian. As a libertarian socialist he was a long-time member of the Fabian Society and an advocate for the cooperative movement...

 to join the Labour Party. After his first year, he changed his field of study to Philosophy, Politics and Economics. He graduated with "an outstanding first class Bachelor of Arts degree, with alphas on every paper" in the final examinations. A popular urban myth at Oxford University states that Wilson's grade in his final examination was the highest ever recorded up to that date. He also received exceptional testimonials from his tutors, including a comment from one that "he is, far and away, the ablest man I have taught so far".

Although Wilson had two abortive attempts at an All Souls
All Souls College, Oxford
The Warden and the College of the Souls of all Faithful People deceased in the University of Oxford or All Souls College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England....

 Fellowship, he continued in academia, becoming one of the youngest Oxford University dons of the century at the age of 21. He was a lecturer in Economic History
Economic history
Economic history is the study of economies or economic phenomena in the past. Analysis in economic history is undertaken using a combination of historical methods, statistical methods and by applying economic theory to historical situations and institutions...

 at New College
New College, Oxford
New College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.- Overview :The College's official name, College of St Mary, is the same as that of the older Oriel College; hence, it has been referred to as the "New College of St Mary", and is now almost always...

 from 1937, and a Research Fellow at University College
University College, Oxford
.University College , is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England. As of 2009 the college had an estimated financial endowment of £110m...

.

Marriage

On New Year's Day 1940, in the chapel of Mansfield College, Oxford
Mansfield College, Oxford
Mansfield College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. Of the colleges that accept both undergraduate and graduate students Mansfield College is one of the smallest, comprising approximately 210 undergraduates, 130 graduates, 35 visiting students and 50...

, he married Mary Baldwin who remained his wife until his death. Mary Wilson became a published poet. They had two sons, Robin
Robin Wilson (mathematician)
Robin James Wilson is a professor in the Department of Mathematics at the Open University, a Stipendiary Lecturer at Pembroke College, Oxford and, , Professor of Geometry at Gresham College, London, where he has also been a visiting professor...

 and Giles (named after Giles Alington
Giles Alington (academic)
Giles Alington was a Fellow of University College, Oxford from 1944 to 1956.Alington was eldest son of the Very Revd Dr Cyril Alington, Headmaster of Eton College and Dean at Durham Cathedral, and his wife, Hester Margaret, née Lyttelton Giles Alington ( 29 May 1914 – 24 February 1956) was a...

); Robin became a Professor of Mathematics, and Giles became a teacher. Both his sons went to the same independent school, University College School
University College School
University College School, generally known as UCS, is an Independent school charity situated in Hampstead, north west London, England. The school was founded in 1830 by University College London and inherited many of that institution's progressive and secular views...

, in Hampstead
Hampstead
Hampstead is an area of London, England, north-west of Charing Cross. Part of the London Borough of Camden in Inner London, it is known for its intellectual, liberal, artistic, musical and literary associations and for Hampstead Heath, a large, hilly expanse of parkland...

. In their twenties, his sons were under a kidnap threat from the IRA
Provisional Irish Republican Army
The Provisional Irish Republican Army is an Irish republican paramilitary organisation whose aim was to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and bring about a socialist republic within a united Ireland by force of arms and political persuasion...

. After becoming a teacher at a comprehensive school for two years, Giles later returned to teaching, becoming a Maths master at Salisbury Cathedral School
Salisbury Cathedral School
Salisbury Cathedral School is a school located in Salisbury, Wiltshire, England. It was founded in 1091 by Saint Osmund at Old Sarum . It was moved 150 years later to the newly built Salisbury Cathedral. In 1947 it was relocated to the former Bishop's Palace in the grounds of the cathedral. The...

, and later, Northcliffe Preparatory School, Nursling
Nursling
Nursling is a village in Hampshire, England, situated about 6 kilometres north-west of the city of Southampton. Formerly called Nhutscelle , then Nutshalling until the mid-19th century, it has now been absorbed into the suburbs of Southampton, although it is not officially part of the city...

, Southampton
Southampton
Southampton is the largest city in the county of Hampshire on the south coast of England, and is situated south-west of London and north-west of Portsmouth. Southampton is a major port and the closest city to the New Forest...

. In November 2006 it was reported that Giles had given up his teaching job and become a train driver for South West Trains
South West Trains
South West Trains is a British train operating company providing, under franchise, passenger rail services, mostly out of Waterloo station, to the southwest of London in the suburbs and in the counties of Surrey, Hampshire, Dorset, Devon, Somerset, Berkshire, and Wiltshire and on the Isle of Wight...

.

Wartime service

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 William Beveridge
William Beveridge
William Henry Beveridge, 1st Baron Beveridge KCB was a British economist and social reformer. He is best known for his 1942 report Social Insurance and Allied Services which served as the basis for the post-World War II welfare state put in place by the Labour government elected in 1945.Lord...

, the Master of the College, working on the issues of unemployment and the trade cycle. He later became a statistician and economist for the coal industry. He was Director of Economics and Statistics at the Ministry of Fuel and Power 1943–44, and received an OBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

 for his services.

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
Central Statistical Office, UK
The Central Statistical Office was a British government department charged with the collection and publication of economic statistics for the United Kingdom...

, and was president of the Royal Statistical Society
Royal Statistical Society
The Royal Statistical Society is a learned society for statistics and a professional body for statisticians in the UK.-History:It was founded in 1834 as the Statistical Society of London , though a perhaps unrelated London Statistical Society was in existence at least as early as 1824...

 in 1972–73.

Member of Parliament

As the war drew to an end, he searched for a seat to fight at the impending general election. He was selected for Ormskirk
Ormskirk (UK Parliament constituency)
Ormskirk was a county constituency represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It elected one Member of Parliament by the first past the post system of election. It was created by the Redistribution of Seats Act 1885 as a division of the parliamentary county of...

, then held by Stephen King-Hall
Stephen King-Hall
Sir William Stephen Richard King-Hall, Baron King-Hall of Headley was a British naval officer, writer, politician and playwright. -Life:...

. Wilson accidentally agreed to be adopted as the candidate immediately rather than delay until the election was called, and was therefore compelled to resign from the Civil Service. He served as Praelector
Praelector
A praelector is a traditional role at the colleges of the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford. The role differs between the two universities.At Cambridge, a praelector is a fellow of a college...

 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
United Kingdom general election, 1945
The United Kingdom general election of 1945 was a general election held on 5 July 1945, with polls in some constituencies delayed until 12 July and in Nelson and Colne until 19 July, due to local wakes weeks. The results were counted and declared on 26 July, due in part to the time it took to...

, Wilson won his seat in the Labour landslide. To his surprise, he was immediately appointed to the government as Parliamentary Secretary
Parliamentary Secretary
A Parliamentary Secretary is a member of a Parliament in the Westminster system who assists a more senior minister with his or her duties.In the parliamentary systems of several Commonwealth countries, such as the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, it is customary for the prime minister to...

 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
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 to negotiate supply contracts. Conspiracy-minded commentators would later seek to raise suspicions about these trips.

In government

On 29 September 1947, Wilson was appointed President of the Board of Trade and, at 31, became the youngest member of the Cabinet in the 20th century. He took a lead in abolishing some of the wartime rationing, which he referred to as a "bonfire of controls". His role in internal debates during the summer of 1949 over whether or not to devalue sterling, in which he was perceived to have played both sides of the issue, tarnished his reputation in both political and official circles. In the general election of 1950, his constituency was altered and he was narrowly elected for the new seat of Huyton
Huyton (UK Parliament constituency)
Huyton was a county constituency in the United Kingdom. Created in 1950, it was centred on Huyton in North West England. Its one and only Member of Parliament throughout its existence was Labour MP Harold Wilson, who served as prime minister from 1964 to 1970 and again from 1974 to 1976.The...

 near Liverpool
Liverpool
Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, England, along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. It was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880...

.

Wilson was becoming known as a left-winger
Left-wing politics
In politics, Left, left-wing and leftist generally refer to support for social change to create a more egalitarian society...

 and joined Aneurin Bevan
Aneurin Bevan
Aneurin "Nye" Bevan was a British Labour Party politician who was the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party from 1959 until his death in 1960. The son of a coal miner, Bevan was a lifelong champion of social justice and the rights of working people...

 and John Freeman in resigning from the government in April 1951 in protest at the introduction of National Health Service
National Health Service
The National Health Service is the shared name of three of the four publicly funded healthcare systems in the United Kingdom. They provide a comprehensive range of health services, the vast majority of which are free at the point of use to residents of the United Kingdom...

 (NHS) medical charges to meet the financial demands imposed by the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

. After the Labour Party lost the general election later that year, he was made chairman of Bevan's 'Keep Left' group, but shortly thereafter he distanced himself from Bevan. By coincidence, it was Bevan's further resignation from the Shadow Cabinet
Shadow Cabinet
The Shadow Cabinet is a senior group of opposition spokespeople in the Westminster system of government who together under the leadership of the Leader of the Opposition form an alternative cabinet to the government's, whose members shadow or mark each individual member of the government...

 in 1954 that put Wilson back on the front bench (as a spokesman, initially, on finance).

Opposition

Wilson soon proved to be a very effective Shadow Minister. One of his procedural moves caused a delay to the progress of the Government's Finance Bill in 1955, and his speeches as Shadow Chancellor from 1956 were widely praised for their clarity and wit. He coined the term "gnomes of Zurich
Gnomes of Zürich
Gnomes of Zürich is a disparaging term for Swiss bankers.Swiss bankers are popularly associated with extremely secretive policies, while gnomes in fairy tales live underground, in secret, counting their riches...

" to describe Swiss bankers whom he accused of pushing the pound down by speculation. In the meantime, he conducted an inquiry into the Labour Party's organisation following its defeat in the 1955 general election, which compared the Party organisation to an antiquated "penny farthing" 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 the chairmanship of the PAC from 1959 to 1963.

Wilson steered a course in intra-party matters in the 1950s and early 1960s which left him neither fully accepted and trusted by either the left or the right within the Labour Party. Despite his earlier association with the left-wing Aneurin Bevan
Aneurin Bevan
Aneurin "Nye" Bevan was a British Labour Party politician who was the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party from 1959 until his death in 1960. The son of a coal miner, Bevan was a lifelong champion of social justice and the rights of working people...

, in 1955 he backed Hugh Gaitskell
Hugh Gaitskell
Hugh Todd Naylor Gaitskell CBE was a British Labour politician, who held Cabinet office in Clement Attlee's governments, and was the Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition from 1955, until his death in 1963.-Early life:He was born in Kensington, London, the third and youngest...

, who was considered the right-of-centre candidate in internal Labour Party terms, against Bevan for the party leadership He then launched an opportunistic but unsuccessful challenge to Gaitskell in November 1960, in the wake of the Labour Party's 1959 defeat, Gaitskell's controversial attempt to ditch Labour's commitment to nationalisation in the shape of the Party's Clause Four, and Gaitskell's defeat at the 1960 Party Conference over a motion supporting Britain's unilateral nuclear disarmament. Wilson also challenged for the deputy leadership in 1962 but was defeated by George Brown
George Brown, Baron George-Brown
George Alfred Brown, Baron George-Brown, PC was a British Labour politician, who served as the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party from 1960 to 1970, and served in a number of positions in the Cabinet, most notably as Foreign Secretary, in the Labour Government of the 1960s...

. Following these challenges, he was moved to the position of Shadow Foreign Secretary.

Hugh Gaitskell died in January 1963, aged 56, after a sudden flare of Lupus erythematosus
Lupus erythematosus
Lupus erythematosus is a category for a collection of diseases with similar underlying problems with immunity . Symptoms of these diseases can affect many different body systems, including joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, heart, and lungs...

, an autoimmune disease
Autoimmunity
Autoimmunity is the failure of an organism to recognize its own constituent parts as self, which allows an immune response against its own cells and tissues. Any disease that results from such an aberrant immune response is termed an autoimmune disease...

, just as the Labour Party had begun to unite and appeared to have a good chance of being elected to government, with the Macmillan government running into trouble. Wilson became the left candidate for the leadership. He defeated George Brown
George Brown, Baron George-Brown
George Alfred Brown, Baron George-Brown, PC was a British Labour politician, who served as the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party from 1960 to 1970, and served in a number of positions in the Cabinet, most notably as Foreign Secretary, in the Labour Government of the 1960s...

, who was hampered by a reputation as an erratic figure and who was mistrusted by the likes of Denis Healey
Denis Healey
Denis Winston Healey, Baron Healey CH, MBE, PC is a British Labour politician, who served as Secretary of State for Defence from 1964 to 1970 and Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1974 to 1979.-Early life:...

 (Wilson's predecessor as shadow foreign secretary) and Anthony Crosland
Anthony Crosland
Charles Anthony Raven Crosland , otherwise Tony Crosland or C.A.R. Crosland, was a British Labour Party politician and author. He served as Member of Parliament for South Gloucestershire and later for Great Grimsby...

, in a straight contest in the second round of balloting, after James Callaghan
James Callaghan
Leonard James Callaghan, Baron Callaghan of Cardiff, KG, PC , was a British Labour politician, who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1976 to 1979 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1976 to 1980...

, who had entered the race as an alternative to Brown, had been eliminated in the first round.

Wilson's 1964 election campaign was aided by the Profumo Affair
Profumo Affair
The Profumo Affair was a 1963 British political scandal named after John Profumo, Secretary of State for War. His affair with Christine Keeler, the reputed mistress of an alleged Russian spy, followed by lying in the House of Commons when he was questioned about it, forced the resignation of...

, a 1963 ministerial sex scandal that had mortally wounded the Conservative government of Harold Macmillan
Harold Macmillan
Maurice Harold Macmillan, 1st Earl of Stockton, OM, PC was Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 10 January 1957 to 18 October 1963....

 and was to taint his successor Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Alec Douglas-Home
Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home, Baron Home of the Hirsel, KT, PC , known as The Earl of Home from 1951 to 1963 and as Sir Alec Douglas-Home from 1963 to 1974, was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from October 1963 to October 1964.He is the last...

, even though Home had not been involved in the scandal. 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
Technicolor is a color motion picture process invented in 1916 and improved over several decades.It was the second major process, after Britain's Kinemacolor, and the most widely used color process in Hollywood from 1922 to 1952...

!"). Home was an aristocrat who had given up his title as Lord Home to sit in the House of Commons. To Wilson's comment that he was the 14th Earl of Home
Earl of Home
The title Earl of Home was created in 1605 in the Peerage of Scotland for Alexander Home of that Ilk, who was already the 6th Lord Home.The Earl of Home holds the subsidiary titles of Lord Home , and Lord Dunglass , in the Peerage of Scotland; and Baron Douglas, of Douglas in the County of Lanark ...

, Home retorted, "I suppose Mr. Wilson is the fourteenth Mr. Wilson".

At the Labour Party's 1963 annual conference, Wilson made possibly his best-remembered speech, on the implications of scientific and technological change, in which 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.

First term as Prime Minister (1964–70)

Labour won the 1964 general election
United Kingdom general election, 1964
The United Kingdom general election of 1964 was held on 15 October 1964, more than five years after the preceding election, and thirteen years after the Conservative Party had retaken power...

 with a narrow majority of four seats, and Wilson became Prime Minister
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

. This was an insufficient parliamentary majority to last for a full term, and after 18 months, a second election in March 1966 returned Wilson with the much larger majority of 96.

Economic policies

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
Balance of trade
The balance of trade is the difference between the monetary value of exports and imports of output in an economy over a certain period. It is the relationship between a nation's imports and exports...

. 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".

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
United Kingdom general election, 1970
The United Kingdom general election of 1970 was held on 18 June 1970, and resulted in a surprise victory for the Conservative Party under leader Edward Heath, who defeated the Labour Party under Harold Wilson. The election also saw the Liberal Party and its new leader Jeremy Thorpe lose half their...

, 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
Economic planning
Economic planning refers to any directing or planning of economic activity outside the mechanisisms of the market, in an attempt to achieve specific economic or social outcomes. Planning is an economic mechanism for resource allocation and decision-making in contrast with the market mechanism...

". He created a new Department of Economic Affairs
Secretary of State for Economic Affairs
The Secretary of State for Economic Affairs was briefly an office of Her Majesty's government in the United Kingdom. It was established by Harold Wilson in October 1964...

 to generate ambitious targets that were in themselves supposed to help stimulate investment and growth (the government also created a Ministry of Technology
Minister of Technology
The Minister of Technology was a position in the government of the United Kingdom, sometimes abbreviated as "MinTech". The Ministry of Technology was established by the incoming government of Harold Wilson in October 1964 as part of Wilson's ambition to modernise the state for what he perceived to...

 (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
National Economic Development Council
The National Economic Development Council was a corporatist economic planning forum set up in the 1962 in the United Kingdom to bring together management, trades unions and government in an attempt to address Britain's relative economic decline. It was supported by the National Economic...

 (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
Tony Benn
Anthony Neil Wedgwood "Tony" Benn, PC is a British Labour Party politician and a former MP and Cabinet Minister.His successful campaign to renounce his hereditary peerage was instrumental in the creation of the Peerage Act 1963...

.

The continued relevance of industrial nationalisation (a centerpiece 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 Gaitskell
Hugh Todd Naylor Gaitskell CBE was a British Labour politician, who held Cabinet office in Clement Attlee's governments, and was the Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition from 1955, until his death in 1963.-Early life:He was born in Kensington, London, the third and youngest...

, 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 threw the party's left wing a symbolic bone with the renationalisation of the steel industry, but otherwise left Clause Four formally in the constitution but in practice on the shelf.

Wilson made periodic attempts to mitigate inflation through wage-price controls, better known in the UK as "prices and incomes policy
Incomes policy
Incomes policies in economics are economy-wide wage and price controls, most commonly instituted as a response to inflation, and usually below market level.Incomes policies have often been resorted to during wartime...

" (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
Richard Nixon
Richard Milhous Nixon was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. The only president to resign the office, Nixon had previously served as a US representative and senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961 under...

 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
National Union of Seamen
The National Union of Seamen was the principal trade union of merchant seafarers in the United Kingdom from the late 1880s to 1990. In 1990, the union amalgamated with the National Union of Railwaymen to form the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers .- The National Amalgamated...

, beginning shortly after Wilson's re-election in 1966
United Kingdom general election, 1966
The 1966 United Kingdom general election on 31 March 1966 was called by sitting Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Wilson's decision to call an election turned on the fact that his government, elected a mere 17 months previously in 1964 had an unworkably small majority of only 4 MPs...

, 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) in the UK, which were outlined in a White Paper "In Place of Strife
In Place of Strife
In Place of Strife was a UK Government white paper written in 1969. It was a proposed act to alter the functionality of trade unions in the United Kingdom, but was never passed into law....

" put forward by the Employment Secretary Barbara Castle
Barbara Castle
Barbara Anne Castle, Baroness Castle of Blackburn , PC, GCOT was a British Labour Party politician....

. Following a confrontation with the Trades Union Congress
Trades Union Congress
The Trades Union Congress is a national trade union centre, a federation of trade unions in the United Kingdom, representing the majority of trade unions...

, which strongly opposed the proposals, and internal dissent from Home Secretary
Home Secretary
The Secretary of State for the Home Department, commonly known as the Home Secretary, is the minister in charge of the Home Office of the United Kingdom, and one of the country's four Great Offices of State...

 James Callaghan
James Callaghan
Leonard James Callaghan, Baron Callaghan of Cardiff, KG, PC , was a British Labour politician, who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1976 to 1979 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1976 to 1980...

, the government substantially backed-down from its intentions. Some elements of these changes were subsequently to be revived (in modified form) during the premiership of Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

.

Wilson's administration made a variety of changes to the tax system. Largely under the influence of the Hungarian
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

-born economists Nicholas Kaldor
Nicholas Kaldor
Nicholas Kaldor, Baron Kaldor was one of the foremost Cambridge economists in the post-war period...

 and Thomas Balogh
Thomas Balogh
Thomas Balogh, Baron Balogh was a Hungarian economist and member of the British House of Lords....

, 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 (CGT) was introduced for the first time in 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. By 1974, the top-rate of income tax reached its highest rate since the war, 83%. This applied to incomes over £20,000 (£ as of ),, and combined with a 15% surcharge on 'un-earned' income (investments and dividends) could add 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. Labour's identification with high tax rates was to prove one of the issues that helped the Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

 and John Major
John Major
Sir John Major, is a British Conservative politician, who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1990–1997...

 dominate British politics during the 1980s and early-to-mid-1990s.

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.

Social issues

A number of liberalising social reforms were passed through parliament during Wilson's first period in government. These included the abolition of capital punishment
Capital punishment in the United Kingdom
Capital punishment in the United Kingdom was used from the creation of the state in 1707 until the practice was abolished in the 20th century. The last executions in the United Kingdom, by hanging, took place in 1964, prior to capital punishment being abolished for murder...

, decriminalisation
Sexual Offences Act 1967
The Sexual Offences Act 1967 is an Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom . It decriminalised homosexual acts in private between two men, both of whom had to have attained the age of 21. The Act applied only to England and Wales and did not cover the Merchant Navy or the Armed Forces...

 of sex between men in private, liberalisation of abortion law
Abortion Act 1967
The Abortion Act 1967 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom legalising abortions by registered practitioners, and regulating the free provision of such medical practices through the National Health Service ....

 and the abolition of theatre censorship
Theatres Act 1968
The Theatres Act 1968 abolished censorship of the stage in the United Kingdom.Since 1737, scripts had been licensed for performance by the Lord Chamberlain's Office a measure initially introduced to protect Walpole's administration from political satire...

. The Divorce Reform Act was passed by parliament in 1969 (and came into effect in 1971). Such reforms were mostly via private member's bills
Private Member's Bill
A member of parliament’s legislative motion, called a private member's bill or a member's bill in some parliaments, is a proposed law introduced by a member of a legislature. In most countries with a parliamentary system, most bills are proposed by the government, not by individual members of the...

 on 'free votes
Conscience vote
A conscience vote or free vote is a type of vote in a legislative body where legislators are allowed to vote according to their own personal conscience rather than according to an official line set down by their political party....

' in line with established convention, but the large Labour majority after 1966 was undoubtedly more open to such changes than previous parliaments had been.

Wilson personally, coming culturally from a provincial non-conformist background, showed no particular enthusiasm for much of this agenda (which some linked to the "permissive society"), but the reforming climate was especially encouraged by Roy Jenkins
Roy Jenkins
Roy Harris Jenkins, Baron Jenkins of Hillhead OM, PC was a British politician.The son of a Welsh coal miner who later became a union official and Labour MP, Roy Jenkins served with distinction in World War II. Elected to Parliament as a Labour member in 1948, he served in several major posts in...

 during his period at the Home Office. The franchise was also extended with the reduction of the voting age from twenty-one to eighteen in 1969.

Wilson's 1966–70 term witnessed growing public concern over the level of immigration to the United Kingdom
Immigration to the United Kingdom
Immigration to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland since 1922 has been substantial, in particular from Ireland and the former colonies and other territories of the British Empire - such as India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Caribbean, South Africa, Kenya and Hong Kong - under...

. The issue was dramatised at the political level by the famous "Rivers of Blood speech
Rivers of Blood speech
The "Rivers of Blood" speech was a speech criticising Commonwealth immigration, as well as proposed anti-discrimination legislation in the United Kingdom made on 20 April 1968 by Enoch Powell , the Conservative Member of Parliament for Wolverhampton South West...

" by the Conservative politician Enoch Powell
Enoch Powell
John Enoch Powell, MBE was a British politician, classical scholar, poet, writer, and soldier. He served as a Conservative Party MP and Minister of Health . He attained most prominence in 1968, when he made the controversial Rivers of Blood speech in opposition to mass immigration from...

, warning against the dangers of immigration, which led to Powell's dismissal from the Shadow Cabinet. Wilson's government adopted a two-track approach. While condemning racial discrimination (and adopting legislation to make it a legal offence), Wilson's Home Secretary James Callaghan
James Callaghan
Leonard James Callaghan, Baron Callaghan of Cardiff, KG, PC , was a British Labour politician, who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1976 to 1979 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1976 to 1980...

 introduced significant new restrictions on the right of immigration to the United Kingdom.

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 the UK 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
Robbins Report
The Robbins Report was commissioned by the British government and published in 1963. The Committee met from 1961 to 1963...

, a bipartisan policy already in train when Labour took power. The economic difficulties of the period deprived the tertiary system of the resources it needed. Nevertheless, university expansion remained a core policy. One notable effect was the first entry of women into university education in significant numbers. More broadly, higher education overall was significantly expanded, with a distinct bias towards the non-university sector. Some 29 polytechnics were established, whilst student participation rates were increased from 5% to 10.%.

Wilson also deserves credit for grasping the concept of an Open University
Open University
The Open University is a distance learning and research university founded by Royal Charter in the United Kingdom...

, 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 widow of Aneurin Bevan
Aneurin Bevan
Aneurin "Nye" Bevan was a British Labour Party politician who was the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party from 1959 until his death in 1960. The son of a coal miner, Bevan was a lifelong champion of social justice and the rights of working people...

, the charismatic leader of Labour's left wing whom Wilson had joined in resigning from the Attlee
Clement Attlee
Clement Richard Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee, KG, OM, CH, PC, FRS was a British Labour politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1945 to 1951, and as the Leader of the Labour Party from 1935 to 1955...

 cabinet. The Open University worked through summer schools, postal tuition and television programmes. 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 is, by contrast, highly controversial. A fuller description is in the article Education in England
Education in England
Education in England is overseen by the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Local authorities take responsibility for implementing policy for public education and state schools at a regional level....

. Two factors played a role. Following the Education Act 1944
Education Act 1944
The Education Act 1944 changed the education system for secondary schools in England and Wales. This Act, commonly named after the Conservative politician R.A...

 there was disaffection with the tripartite system of academically-oriented Grammar schools for a small proportion of "gifted" children, and Technical
Technical school
Technical school is a general term used for two-year college which provide mostly employment-preparation skills for trained labor, such as welding, culinary arts and office management.-Associations supporting technical schools:...

 and Secondary Modern
Secondary modern school
A secondary modern school is a type of secondary school that existed in most of the United Kingdom from 1944 until the early 1970s, under the Tripartite System, and was designed for the majority of pupils - those who do not achieve scores in the top 25% of the eleven plus examination...

 schools for the majority of children. Pressure grew for the abolition of the selective principle underlying the "eleven plus
Eleven plus
In the United Kingdom, the 11-plus or Eleven plus is an examination administered to some students in their last year of primary education, governing admission to various types of secondary school. The name derives from the age group for secondary entry: 11–12 years...

", and replacement with Comprehensive
Comprehensive school
A comprehensive school is a state school that does not select its intake on the basis of academic achievement or aptitude. This is in contrast to the selective school system, where admission is restricted on the basis of a selection criteria. The term is commonly used in relation to the United...

 schools which would serve the full range of children (see the article Debates on the grammar school
Debates on the grammar school
The Grammar schools debate is a debate about the merits and demerits of the existence of grammar schools in the United Kingdom. Grammar schools are state schools which select their pupils on the basis of academic ability with pupils sitting an exam in the last year of primary called the 11-plus to...

). Comprehensive education became Labour Party policy. From 1966 to 1970, the proportion of children in comprehensive schools increased from about 10% to over 30%. There was also a move in primary schools towards “child-centred” or individual learning, in keeping with the recommendations of the 1967 Plowden Report on improving the education system. Polytechnics were established in 1965 through the amalgamation of existing institutions such as colleges of technology, art, and commerce. A new external examination, designed for children of middling intellectual ability and leading to a Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE), was also introduced that same year.

Labour pressed local authorities to convert grammar schools, many of them cherished local institutions, into comprehensives. Conversion continued on a large scale during the subsequent Conservative Heath
Edward Heath
Sir Edward Richard George "Ted" Heath, KG, MBE, PC was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and as Leader of the Conservative Party ....

 administration, although the Secretary of State, Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

, ended the compulsion of local governments to convert. While the proclaimed goal was to level school quality up, the converse claim was made that the grammar schools' excellence was being sacrificed with little to show in the way of improvement of other schools (for details and sources on this and related arguments, see article on Debates on the grammar school
Debates on the grammar school
The Grammar schools debate is a debate about the merits and demerits of the existence of grammar schools in the United Kingdom. Grammar schools are state schools which select their pupils on the basis of academic ability with pupils sitting an exam in the last year of primary called the 11-plus to...

). Critically handicapping implementation, economic austerity meant that schools never received sufficient funding.

A second factor affecting education was change in teacher training, including introduction of "progressive" child-centred methods, abhorred by many established teachers. In parallel, the profession became increasingly politicised. The status of teaching suffered and is still recovering.

Another major controversy of the first Wilson term 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. Baroness Lee considered resigning in protest, but narrowly decided against this in the interests of party unity. It was left to Thatcher to carry out the change, during the Heath government.

Overal, 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 summed up by Brian Lapping,

“The years 1964–70 were largely taken up with creating extra laces 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.”

In 1966, Wilson was created the first Chancellor
Chancellor
Chancellor is the title of various official positions in the governments of many nations. The original chancellors were the Cancellarii of Roman courts of justice—ushers who sat at the cancelli or lattice work screens of a basilica or law court, which separated the judge and counsel from the...

 of the newly created University of Bradford
University of Bradford
The University of Bradford is a British university located in the city of Bradford, West Yorkshire, England. The University received its Royal Charter in 1966, making it the 40th University to be created in Britain, but its origins date back to the early 1800s...

, a position he held until 1985.

Housing

Housing was an issue the Conservatives were widely recognised to have made their own, after the Churchill government of the early 1950s, with Harold Macmillan
Harold Macmillan
Maurice Harold Macmillan, 1st Earl of Stockton, OM, PC was Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 10 January 1957 to 18 October 1963....

 as Minister for Housing, gave housing construction far higher political priority than it had received under the Attlee administration (where housing had been attached to the portfolio of Health Minister Aneurin Bevan
Aneurin Bevan
Aneurin "Nye" Bevan was a British Labour Party politician who was the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party from 1959 until his death in 1960. The son of a coal miner, Bevan was a lifelong champion of social justice and the rights of working people...

, whose attention was concentrated on his responsibilities for the National Health Service
National Health Service
The National Health Service is the shared name of three of the four publicly funded healthcare systems in the United Kingdom. They provide a comprehensive range of health services, the vast majority of which are free at the point of use to residents of the United Kingdom...

). Macmillan had accepted Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

's challenge to meet the latter's ambitious public commitment to build 300,000 new homes a year, and achieved the target a year ahead schedule. The First Wilson Government devoted significant attention to efforts at beating the Tories at their own game. Housing construction was markedly increased, though Labour's own specific manifesto commitment to raise construction to a new high of 500,000 new homes a year proved, unlike Churchill's, embarrassingly elusive. Nonetheless, more new houses were built between 1964 and 1970 than in the last six years of the previous Conservative government.

In parallel, the proportion of council housing rose from 42% to 50% of the total. The number of council homes built increased steadily under the First Wilson Government, 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.

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
Milton Keynes , sometimes abbreviated MK, is a large town in Buckinghamshire, in the south east of England, about north-west of London. It is the administrative centre of the Borough of Milton Keynes...

 – this trend itself a continuation of efforts initiated in the latter years of the preceding Conservative administration. 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 Town
New Town may refer to:*New town, a generic name for a planned city development or expansion*In the United Kingdom, any of a specific set of towns created under various Acts of Parliament for population moved out of overcrowded conurbations-Places:...

. The government also combined its push for the construction of more new housing with encouragement and subsidisation of the renovation of old houses (as an alternative to their destruction and replacement). The Housing Improvement Act of 1969, for example, made it easier to turn old houses into new homes by encouraging rehabilitation and modernisation through increased grants to property owners. The legislation also introduced special grants for installing amenities in houses in multi-occupation and government grants towards environmental improvement up to an expenditure of £100 per dwelling, while approved works of repair and replacement became eligible for grant aid for the first time ever. Altogether, between 1965 and 1970, over 2 million homes had been constructed (almost half of which were council properties), more than in any other five-year period since 1918.

The Protection from Eviction Act (1964) outlawed the eviction of tenants without a court order, while the Rent Act (1965) extended security of tenure, introduced registration of rents, and protection from eviction for private tenants. The Leasehold Reform Act (1967) was passed in order to enable holders of long leases to purchase the freehold of their homes. This legislation provided about one million leaseholders with the right to purchase the freehold of their homes. Controls were introduced over increases in the rents of council accommodation, a new Rent Act (introduced in 1965) froze the rent for most unfurnished accommodation in the private sector while providing tenants with greater security of tenure and protection against harassment, and a system was introduced whereby independent arbitrators had the power to fix fair rents. Legislation introduced regulated tenancies for properties with a rateable value of up to £200 per year (£400 in London), which meant that tenants were not only to be protected from intimidation, but that evictions would now require court orders. It also restructured the housing subsidy system such that the borrowing charges of local authorities of individual local authorities would be pegged to 4% interest. The 1966 Rating Act introduced the rating of empty properties and provided for the payment of rates in instalments. The Local Government Act introduced that same year introduced a “domestic” element in the new Rate Support Grant, by providing relief to domestic ratepayers on a rising scale, so that as local expenditure rose, government grant was geared to outpace it. As noted by one historian,

“The amount of grant in the domestic element would be calculated as sufficient to subsidise domestic ratepayers to the extent of a fivepenny rate in the first year, tenpence in the second, and so on."

The 1965 Housing (Slum Clearance Compensation) Act continued a provision for home owners of unfit dwellings purchased between 1939 and 1955 to be compensated at market values. The Building Control Act of 1966 introduced building licensing to give priority to housing construction. Under the Supplementary Benefit Act of 1966, an owner occupier on benefits was entitled to an allowance for repairs, insurance, rates, and “reasonable” interest charges on a mortgage. A Land Commission was also established to purchase land for building and therefore prevent profiteering in land values, although it only had limited success. The aim of the Land Commission was to purchase land for public goods such as housing or shopping redevelopment (compulsorily, if the need arose), and investigated the planning needs of a particular area in conjunction with the Ministry of Housing and some planning authorities to see if any land in any particular area would be needed for such developmental schemes. Although the Land Commission purchased substantial quantities of land, it did not become the dominant influence in the land market that the government had hoped for.

The Housing Subsidies Act (1967) fixed interest rates at 4% for councils borrowing to build homes. It also provided financial assistance to local authorities for conversions and improvements, while also reforming the standard of fitness for human habitation. A Town and Country Planning Act introduced in 1968 provided more local autonomy in town planning. This piece of legislation aimed for greater flexibility and speed in the planning of land use, and made public participation a statutory requirement in the preparation of development plans. The Act also introduced a new system of process planning under which the spatial distribution of social and economic trends superseded physical standards as the principal concern of planners. According to Maureen Rhoden, this effectively meant that the development control system operated by local authorities ‘policed’ new housing demand. This allowed for new development on infill sites or on the edge of larger towns and villages, “but preventing development in the open countryside and in designated areas such as green belts and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.” In addition, opportunities for public participation in the planning process were also increased by the Act, partly in response to opposition to some features of urban housing and planning policies.

Social Services and Welfare

Following its victory in the 1964 general election
United Kingdom general election, 1964
The United Kingdom general election of 1964 was held on 15 October 1964, more than five years after the preceding election, and thirteen years after the Conservative Party had retaken power...

, 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 and redundancy payments for laid-off workers were introduced. 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 abolished. 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%.

Increased funds were allocated to social services during the First Wilson Government's time in office. Between 1963 and 1968, spending on housing increased by 9.6%, social security by 6.6%, health by 6%, and education by 6.9%, while from 1964 to 1967 social spending increased by 45%. Altogether, from 1964 to 1970, spending on the social services rose from 16% to 23% of national wealth between 1964 and 1970. As noted by the historian Richard Whiting
Richard Whiting
Richard Whiting may refer to:* Richard Whiting , the last Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey before the Dissolution of the Monasteries...

, spending on social services under Wilson rose faster than the growth in GNP, by 65% (excluding housing) as against 37% for GNP, "a substantially better record than that achieved by the preceding Conservative governments.”

In terms of social security, the welfare state was significantly expanded through substantial increases in national insurance benefits (which rose in real terms by 20% from 1964 to 1970) and the creation of new social welfare benefits. Short-term unemployment benefits were increased, while the National Assistance Board was merged with the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance to become the new Ministry of Social Security, which replaced national assistance with supplementary benefit, improved benefit scale rates, and provided a statutory right to benefit for the out-of-work needy. Although people were kept above a new unofficial poverty line, however, many thousands lived only just above it.

The government also succeeded in persuading people to draw assistance to which they were entitled to but hadn’t claimed before. The number of elderly Britons receiving home helps rose by over 15% from 1964 to 1969, while nearly three times as many meals on wheels were served in 1968 as in 1964. In 1968, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Security were amalgamated into the Department of Health and Social Security, the purpose of which was to coordinate benefits in cash with benefits in kind since “the services needed to deal with social insecurity are not cash benefits only, but health and welfare as well.” 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.

The real value of most existing benefits was increased, with benefits rising at roughly the same rate as salaries over the course of the First Wilson Government, while family allowances were significantly increased. By 1969, family allowances were worth 72% more in real terms to a low income family with three children than in 1964. In addition, the First Wilson Government kept the old age pension rising roughly as fast as average earnings during its time in office. In addition, campaigns were launched by the government to encourage people to take up means-tested benefits to which they were entitled to.

Redundancy payments were introduced in 1965 to lessen the impact of unemployment, earnings-related benefits for 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. In 1968, the universal family allowance was raised for the first time in a decade. This measure was considered to be redistributive to some degree,

“from richer to poorer and from mainly male taxpayers to mothers who received family allowances, a tentative move towards what Roy Jenkins called ‘civilised selectivity’".

The National Insurance Act of 1966, which introduced supplementary earnings-related benefits for short-term sickness and unemployment, had far-reaching distributional consequences by “guaranteeing that insurance benefits rose at the same rate as wages in the late 1960s.” Trade unions were supportive of the advances made in social protection by the Wilson government, which had a considerable impact on the living standards of the lowest quintile of the population. A statement by the TUC argued that the unions’ acquiescence to the government’s incomes policy was justified given that “the government had deliberately refrained from attacking the social services."

The introduction of earnings-related unemployment and sickness benefits significantly reduced inequalities between those in work and those who were unemployed. In 1964, the net income received by the average wage earner, when on unemployment or sickness benefit, was only 45% of what he received at work, whereas by 1968 the figure had increased to 75%. The earnings-related supplement for unemployment benefits was made available to those who had earned at least £450 in the previous financial year. The supplement was paid after a twelve-day waiting period, and the rate was one-third the amount by which the average weekly earnings (up to £30) exceeded £9. The earnings-related supplement was based on the assertion that a person’s commitments for mortgages, rents, and hire purchase agreements were related to their normal earnings and could not be adjusted quickly when experiencing a loss of normal income. As a result of this supplement, the total benefit of a married man with two children went up by 52%, and that of a single man by 117.% The duration was limited to 26 weeks, while the total benefit was restricted to 85% of average weekly earnings in the preceding financial year.

Personal social services were integrated, expenditure increased and their responsibilities broadened following the enactment of the Children and Young Persons’ Act (1969) and the Local Authority Social Services Act (1970). The Children and Young Persons Act of 1969 reformed the juvenile court system and extended local authority duties to provide community homes for juvenile offenders. The legislation provided that “remand homes,” “approved schools,” and local authority and voluntary children’s homes became part of a comprehensive system of community homes for all children in care. This provided that children who got into trouble with the police should more certainly and quickly than ever before receive special educational assistance, social work help or any other form of assistance (financial or otherwise)that the community could provide. In addition, subsidies for farmers were increased, while in the 1970 budget, social security benefits were raised while income tax was abolished for about 1 million of the lowest paid and reduced for a further 600,000 people.

Health

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.

The Doctor’s Charter of 1966 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, ands 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.

Workers

The Industrial Training Act of 1964 set up an Industrial Training Board to encourage training for people in work. 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. Trade unions also benefited from the passage of the Trade Dispute Act in 1965. This restored the legal immunity of trade union officials, thus ensuring that they could no longer be sued for threatening to strike. Nurses benefited from the largest pay rise they had received in a generation (according to one MP), and in 1969, the Employers' Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act was passed, requiring employers to insure their liability to their employees for personal injury, disease or death sustained in their place of work. Wilson's government also ensured that low-income earners improved their position relative to that of average-income earners during its time in office. One of the principles of the government's prices and incomes policy was that low-paid workers would be given special consideration, and between 1965 and 1969 the earnings of the lowest paid workers increased slightly faster than the average (the increase in inflation in 1969–70 caused by devaluation, however, led to a deterioration in the position of low-paid workers). The Prices and Incomes Board was successful in directing some “above the norm” pay rises to low-paid groups such as local government employees and agricultural workers. However, the large increases in pay given to manual workers in local government in September 1969 (such as street sweepers and dustmen) subsequently set off a spiral of wage demands in industry, which meant that the improvement in the relative position of the local government manual worker was not sustained. In addition, various steps were taken in 1968 to reduce the severity with which the “wage-stop” operated, a regressive mechanism which restricted the amount of assistance payable to an unemployed person. In 1966, extensions and improvements were made in the allowances payable out of the Industrial Injuries Fund to people who had been injured before 5 July 1948 and who were entitled to weekly payments of worker’s compensation.

Transport

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 British Railways, 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 subsidy 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”.

Regional development

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 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
Royal Mint
The Royal Mint is the body permitted to manufacture, or mint, coins in the United Kingdom. The Mint originated over 1,100 years ago, but since 2009 it operates as Royal Mint Ltd, a company which has an exclusive contract with HM Treasury to supply all coinage for the UK...

 moved to South Wales
South Wales
South Wales is an area of Wales bordered by England and the Bristol Channel to the east and south, and Mid Wales and West Wales to the north and west. The most densely populated region in the south-west of the United Kingdom, it is home to around 2.1 million people and includes the capital city of...

, the Giro and Inland Revenue to Bootle
Bootle
Bootle is a town within the Metropolitan Borough of Sefton in Merseyside, England, and a 'Post town' in the L postcode area. Formally known as Bootle-cum-Linacre, the town is 4 miles  to the north of Liverpool city centre, and has a total resident population of 77,640.Historically part of...

, and the Motor Tax Office to Swansea
Swansea
Swansea is a coastal city and county in Wales. Swansea is in the historic county boundaries of Glamorgan. Situated on the sandy South West Wales coast, the county area includes the Gower Peninsula and the Lliw uplands...

. 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.

The Industrial Development Act of 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 Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 and Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

. Tax allowances were replaced by grants in order 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 £1.50 a man per week and guaranteed for seven years, the Regional Employment Premium subsidised all manufacturing industry (though not services) in Development Areas.

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
Shipbuilding is the construction of ships and 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 roots to before recorded history.Shipbuilding and ship repairs, both...

 in Clydeside), which helped to prevent a number of 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.

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.”

Urban renewal

A number of subsidies were allocated to local authorities faced with acute areas of severe poverty (or other social problems). The 1969 Housing Act 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). In addition, Section 11 of the 1966 Local Government Act enabled local authorities to claim grants to recruit additional staff to meet special needs of Commonwealth immigrants. According to Brian Lapping, this was the first step ever taken towards directing help to areas with special needs, “the reversal of the former position under which ministers had passed the burden of social help measures in housing, education and health to local authorities without passing them any money.”

In 1967, Wilson’s government decided to spent £16 million, mainly in “Educational Priority Areas,” over the next two years. After negotiations with teachers’ unions, £400,000 of this money was set aide to pay teachers an additional £75 per annum for working in “schools of exceptional difficulty,” of which 570 schools were designated. The government also sponsored an action research project, an experiment in five of the EPAs to try and devise the most effective ways of involving communities, according to Brian Lapping,

"in the work of their schools, compensating the children for the deprivation of their background, seeing whether, in one area pre-school play groups, in another intensive language tuition, in another emphasis on home-school relations, would be most effective."

The First Wilson Government made assistance to deprived urban communities a specific policy of national government in 1969 with the passage of the Local Government Grants (Social Need) Act, which empowered the Home Secretary to dispense grants to assist local authorities in providing extra help to areas “of special social need.” The Urban Aid Programme was subsequently launched to provide community and family advice centres, centres for the elderly, money for schools and other services, thereby alleviating urban deprivation. In introducing the Urban Aid Programme, the then Home Secretary James Callaghan
James Callaghan
Leonard James Callaghan, Baron Callaghan of Cardiff, KG, PC , was a British Labour politician, who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1976 to 1979 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1976 to 1980...

 stated that the goal of the legislation was to

“provide for the care of our citizens who live in the poorest overcrowded parts of our cities and towns. It is intended to arrest ... and reverse the downward spiral which afflicts so many of these areas. There is a deadly quagmire of need and poverty.”

Under the Urban Aid Programme, funds were provided for centres for unattached youngsters, family advice centres, community centres, centres for the elderly, and in one case for an experimental scheme for rehabilitating methylated spirit drinkers. Central government paid 75% of the costs of these schemes, which were nominated by local authorities in areas of ‘acute social need'. As a result of this legislation, many ideas were put into practice such as language classes for immigrants, daycentres for the elderly or disabled, day nurseries, adventure playgrounds, and holidays for deprived or handicapped children. The schemes therefore proved successful in making extra social provision while encouraging community development.

Twelve Community Development Projects (CDPs) were set up in areas with high levels of deprivation to encourage self-help and participation by local residents in order to improve their communication and access to local government, together with improving the provision of local services. In the years that followed, these action-research projects increasingly challenged existing ideas about the causes of inner-city deprivation, arguing that the roots of poverty in such areas could be traced to changes in the political economy of inner-city areas, such as the withdrawal of private capital (as characterised by the decline of manufacturing industries).

The Community Development Projects involved co-operation between specially created local teams of social workers, who were supported by part-timers (such as policemen and youth employment officers). The task given to these groups (who were watched over by their own action research teams) was to ascertain how much real demand t here was for support from the social services in their areas of choice, based on the theory that workers in social services usually failed to communicate what they had to offer or to make themselves available, thereby resulting in many deprived people failing to acquire the services that they so desperately needed.

As noted by Brian Lapping, the Community Development Projects were also designed to test the view that within poor communities local residents could articulate local grievances, get conditions in their areas improved, and provide some kind of political leadership, in a way that the existing political structure had failed to do, “largely because these areas of intense poverty were rarely big enough to be electorally important.” In assessing the First Wilson Government’s efforts to uplift the poorest members of British society via the establishment of the Community Development Projects and the designation of the Educational Priority Areas, Brian Lapping noted that

“The determination expressed in the diverse policies to give this unfortunate group the help it needed was among the most humane and important initiatives of the 1964-70 government.”

Although the Community Development Projects eventually wound up in the late 1970s, they are still regarded by many today as representing “the high water mark of local involvement in area-based regeneration initiatives,” and helped pave the way for future regeneration schemes in the United Kingdom.

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 Castle
Barbara Anne Castle, Baroness Castle of Blackburn , PC, GCOT was a British Labour Party politician....

, 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.

Liberal reforms

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, partners were given an equal share of household assets following divorce via the Matrimonial Property Act. The Race Relations Act
Race Relations Act
The Race Relations Acts are a series of statutes by the United Kingdom parliament to address racial discrimination.They are:* The Race Relations Act 1965* The Race Relations Act 1968* The Race Relations Act 1976* The Race Relations Amendment Act 2000...

 was also extended in 1968 and in 1970 the Equal Pay Act was passed. Another important reform, the 1967 Welsh Language Act, granted ‘equal validity’ to the declining Welsh language
Welsh language
Welsh is a member of the Brythonic branch of the Celtic languages spoken natively in Wales, by some along the Welsh border in England, and in Y Wladfa...

 and encouraged its revival. Government expenditure was also increased on both sport and the arts. The Commons Registration Act (1965) provided for the registration of all commons and village greens, whilst under the Countryside Act of 1968, local authorities could provide facilities “for enjoyment of such lands to which the public has access”. The Family Provision Act of 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 of 1938 to bestow opon them the same rights as natural-born children. In 1968, the Nurseries and Child-Minders Regulation Act 1948
Nurseries and Child-Minders Regulation Act 1948
The Nurseries and Child-Minders Regulation Act 1948 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It formally recognised the existence of childminding, and introduced provisions for the registration of child-minders and the inspection of premises...

 was updatedto include more categories of childminders. A year later, the Family Law Reform Act was passed, which allowed people born outside marriage to inherit on the intestacy of either parent. In 1967, homosexuality was decriminalised by the passage of the Sexual Offences Act.

The Race Relations Act of 1965 outlawed direct discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, and ethnic or national origin in some public places. The legislation also set up a Race Relations Board. A centrally financed network of local officers was provided to smooth inter-racial relations by conciliation, education, and informal pressure, while a National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants was established (under the chairmanship of the Archbishop of Canterbury) to encourage and help finance staff “for local voluntary, good-neighbour type bodies.” A further Race Relations Act was passed in 1968, which made discrimination in letting or advertising housing illegal, together with discrimination in hiring and promotion. The legislation also provided a strengthened Race Relations Board with powers to “conciliate” in cases of discrimination, which meant persuading discriminators to stop such acts and, if they refused to stop, legal action could be taken against them as an ultimate sanction. The legislation also replaced the National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants with a the Community Relations Commission, a statutory body. This body was provided with an annual grant (beginning at £300,000) for social work, propaganda, and education as a means of bringing about good race relations.. The Criminal Justice Act of 1967 introduced suspended prison sentences and allowed a ten to two majority vote for jury decisions. An Ombudsman (Parliamentary Commissioner) was appointed in 1967 to consider complaints against government departments and to impose remedies, while censorship of plays by the Lord Chamberlain was abolished (1969). In addition, the law on Sunday Observance was relaxed.

From 1966, a circular from several Whitehall ministries was sent to local authorities across the country urging them to provide permanent caravan sites for gypsies. This was followed by The First Wilson Government supported the Caravan Sites Act, introduced by the Liberal MP Eric Lubbock in 1968, obliged local authorities to carry out the recommendations of the 19566 circular. Under the Act, gypsies became entitled to settle in many areas as well as to enjoy regular visiting rights for their caravans in others.

A number of private members’ bills related to consumer affairs, put forward by Co-operative MPs, became law under the First Wilson Government, and much of the consumer legislation taken for granted by contemporary British shoppers can be attributed to the legislation passed during this period. In 1968, the Trade Descriptions Act (the “shoppers' charter") was enacted by parliament, and a farm and garden chemicals bill also became law that same year. Other co-operative bills enacted during this period included a new Clean Air Act, a bill removing restrictions on off-licences, and a bill to promote agriculture co-operatives passed in 1967, which established "A scheme administered by a new Central Council for Agriculture and Horticulture Co-operation with a budget to organise and promote co-operation with agriculture and horticulture". The 1970 Chronically Sick & Disabled Persons Act, regarded as a groundbreaking measure, was the first kind of legislation in the world to recognise and give rights to disabled people, and set down specific provisions to improve access and support for people with disabilities. The government effectively supported the passage of these bills by granting them the necessary parliamentary time.

Record of first term 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 '60s 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,
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 '60s. 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. In the government’s last budget (introduced in 1970), two million small taxpayers were exempted from paying any income tax altogether. 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.

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%. 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.

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 '60s. 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”.

Europe

Among the more challenging political dilemmas Wilson faced during his two terms in government and his two spells in Opposition before 1964 and between 1970 and 1974 was the issue of British membership of the European Community, the forerunner of the present European Union. An entry attempt had been issued in July 1961 by the Macmillan government, and negotiated by Edward Heath
Edward Heath
Sir Edward Richard George "Ted" Heath, KG, MBE, PC was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and as Leader of the Conservative Party ....

 as Lord Privy Seal
Lord Privy Seal
The Lord Privy Seal is the fifth of the Great Officers of State in the United Kingdom, ranking beneath the Lord President of the Council and above the Lord Great Chamberlain. The office is one of the traditional sinecure offices of state...

, but was vetoed in 1963 by French President Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969....

. The Labour Party in Opposition had been divided on the issue, with former party leader Hugh Gaitskell
Hugh Gaitskell
Hugh Todd Naylor Gaitskell CBE was a British Labour politician, who held Cabinet office in Clement Attlee's governments, and was the Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition from 1955, until his death in 1963.-Early life:He was born in Kensington, London, the third and youngest...

 having come out in 1962 in opposition to Britain joining the Community.

After initially hesitating over the issue, Wilson's Government in May 1967 lodged the UK's second application to join the European Community. Like the first, though, it was vetoed by de Gaulle in November that year.

Following his victory in the 1970 election (and helped by de Gaulle's fall from power in 1969), the new prime minister Edward Heath negotiated Britain’s admission to the EC, alongside Denmark and Ireland in 1973. The Labour Party in opposition continued to be deeply divided on the issue, and risked a major split. Leading opponents of membership included Richard Crossman
Richard Crossman
Richard Howard Stafford Crossman OBE was a British author and Labour Party politician who was a Cabinet Minister under Harold Wilson, and was the editor of the New Statesman. A prominent socialist intellectual, he became one of the Labour Party's leading Zionists and anti-communists...

, who was for two years (1970–72) the editor of New Statesman
New Statesman
New Statesman is a British centre-left political and cultural magazine published weekly in London. Founded in 1913, and connected with leading members of the Fabian Society, the magazine reached a circulation peak in the late 1960s....

, at that time the leading left-of-centre weekly journal, which published many polemics in support of the anti-EC case. Prominent among Labour supporters of membership was Roy Jenkins
Roy Jenkins
Roy Harris Jenkins, Baron Jenkins of Hillhead OM, PC was a British politician.The son of a Welsh coal miner who later became a union official and Labour MP, Roy Jenkins served with distinction in World War II. Elected to Parliament as a Labour member in 1948, he served in several major posts in...

.

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
James Callaghan
Leonard James Callaghan, Baron Callaghan of Cardiff, KG, PC , was a British Labour politician, who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1976 to 1979 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1976 to 1980...

, and they toured the capital cities of Europe meeting their European counterparts (some commentators have suggested that their co-operation in this exercise may have been the source of a close relationship between the two men which is claimed to have assisted a smooth change-over when Wilson retired from office). The discussions focused primarily on Britain's net budgetary
Public finance
Public finance is the revenue and expenditure of public authoritiesThe purview of public finance is considered to be threefold: governmental effects on efficient allocation of resources, distribution of income, and macroeconomic stabilization.-Overview:The proper role of government provides a...

 contribution to the EC. As a small agricultural producer heavily dependent on imports, the UK suffered doubly from the dominance of:
agricultural spending in the EC budget
Government budget
A government budget is a legal document that is often passed by the legislature, and approved by the chief executive-or president. For example, only certain types of revenue may be imposed and collected...

, agricultural import taxes
Tariff
A tariff may be either tax on imports or exports , or a list or schedule of prices for such things as rail service, bus routes, and electrical usage ....

 as a source of EC revenue
Revenue
In business, revenue is income that a company receives from its normal business activities, usually from the sale of goods and services to customers. In many countries, such as the United Kingdom, revenue is referred to as turnover....

s.

During the renegotiations, other EEC members conceded, as a partial offset, the establishment of a significant European Regional Development Fund
European Regional Development Fund
The European Regional Development Fund is a fund allocated by the European Union.-History:During the 1960s, the European Commission occasionally tried to establish a regional fund. Only Italy ever supported this, however, and nothing came of it. Britain made it an issue for their accession in...

 (ERDF), from which it was clearly agreed that the UK 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
United Kingdom referendum, 1975
The United Kingdom referendum of 1975 was a post-legislative referendum held on 5 June 1975 in the United Kingdom to gauge support for the country's continued membership of the European Economic Community , often known as the Common Market at the time, which it had entered in 1973 under the...

 to continue membership, by a substantial majority.

Asia

Prior United States military involvement in Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

 intensified following the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution
Gulf of Tonkin Resolution
The Tonkin Gulf Resolution was a joint resolution which the United States Congress passed on August 10, 1964 in response to a sea battle between the North Vietnamese Navy's Torpedo Squadron 10135 and the destroyer on August 2 and an alleged second naval engagement between North Vietnamese boats...

 in 1964. US President Lyndon Johnson
Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon Baines Johnson , often referred to as LBJ, was the 36th President of the United States after his service as the 37th Vice President of the United States...

 brought pressure to bear for at least a token involvement of British military units in the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

. Wilson consistently avoided any commitment of British forces, giving as reasons British military commitments to the Malayan Emergency
Malayan Emergency
The Malayan Emergency was a guerrilla war fought between Commonwealth armed forces and the Malayan National Liberation Army , the military arm of the Malayan Communist Party, from 1948 to 1960....

 and British co-chairmanship of the 1954 Geneva Conference which agreed the cessation of hostilities and internationally supervised elections in Vietnam. His government offered some rhetorical support for the US position (most prominently in the defence offered by the Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart
Michael Stewart, Baron Stewart of Fulham
Robert Michael Maitland Stewart, Baron Stewart of Fulham, CH, PC was a British Labour politician and Fabian Socialist who served twice as Foreign Secretary in the first cabinet of Harold Wilson.- Early life :...

 in a much-publicised "teach-in
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 is the refusal to limit the discussion to a specific frame of time or an academic scope of the topic. Teach-ins...

" 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, the Chairman
Premier of the Soviet Union
The office of Premier of the Soviet Union was synonymous with head of government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics . Twelve individuals have been premier...

 of the USSR Council of Ministers. On 28 June 1966 Wilson 'dissociated' his Government from American bombing of the cities of Hanoi and Haiphong. In his memoirs, Wilson writes of “selling LBJ a bum steer” a reference to Johnson’s Texas origins, which conjured up images of cattle and cowboys in British minds. Wilson's approach of maintaining close relations with the US while pursuing an independent line on Vietnam has attracted new interest in the light of the different approach taken by the Blair
Tony Blair
Anthony Charles Lynton Blair is a former British Labour Party politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2 May 1997 to 27 June 2007. He was the Member of Parliament for Sedgefield from 1983 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007...

 government vis-a-vis Britain's participation in the Iraq War (2003). Wilson's government secretly supported the US invasion of Cambodia on 29 April 1970.

Since World War II, Britain's presence in the Far East had gradually been run down. Former British colonies, whose defence had provided much of the rationale for a British military presence in the region, moved towards independence under British governments of both parties. Successive UK Governments also became conscious of the cost to the exchequer and the economy of maintaining major forces abroad (in parallel, several schemes to develop strategic weaponry were abandoned on the grounds of cost, for example, the Blue Streak missile
Blue Streak missile
The Blue Streak missile was a British medium range ballistic missile . The Operational Requirement for the missile was issued in 1955 and the design was complete by 1957...

 and the TSR2
BAC TSR-2
The British Aircraft Corporation TSR-2 was a cancelled Cold War strike and reconnaissance aircraft developed by the British Aircraft Corporation for the Royal Air Force in the late 1950s and early 1960s...

 aircraft).

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
East of Suez
The phrase East of Suez is used in British military and political discussions in reference to imperial interests beyond the European theatre ....

. In July 1967 Defence Secretary
Secretary of State for Defence
The Secretary of State for Defence, popularly known as the Defence Secretary, is the senior Government of the United Kingdom minister in charge of the Ministry of Defence, chairing the Defence Council. It is a Cabinet position...

 Denis Healey
Denis Healey
Denis Winston Healey, Baron Healey CH, MBE, PC is a British Labour politician, who served as Secretary of State for Defence from 1964 to 1970 and Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1974 to 1979.-Early life:...

 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 afterward, 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, Malaysia, and the Persian Gulf by the end of 1971. However, Wilson's successor Edward Heath
Edward Heath
Sir Edward Richard George "Ted" Heath, KG, MBE, PC was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and as Leader of the Conservative Party ....

 sought to reverse this policy, and British forces remained in Singapore and Malaysia until the mid-1970s. Whilst widely criticised at the time, over the longer term the decision can be seen as a logical culmination of the withdrawal from Britain's colonial-era political and military commitments in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere that had been underway under British governments of both parties since the Second World War – and of the parallel switch of Britain's emphasis to its European identity.

Wilson was known for his strong pro-Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 views. He was a particular friend of Israeli Premier Golda Meir
Golda Meir
Golda Meir ; May 3, 1898 – December 8, 1978) was a teacher, kibbutznik and politician who became the fourth Prime Minister of the State of Israel....

, though her tenure largely coincided with Wilson’s 1970–1974 hiatus. Another associate was German Chancellor Willy Brandt
Willy Brandt
Willy Brandt, born Herbert Ernst Karl Frahm , was a German politician, Mayor of West Berlin 1957–1966, Chancellor of West Germany 1969–1974, and leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany 1964–1987....

; all three were members of the Socialist International
Socialist International
The Socialist International is a worldwide organization of democratic socialist, social democratic and labour political parties. It was formed in 1951.- History :...

.
Africa

In 1960, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan
Harold Macmillan
Maurice Harold Macmillan, 1st Earl of Stockton, OM, PC was Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 10 January 1957 to 18 October 1963....

 made his important Wind of Change
Wind of Change
"Wind of Change" is a 1990 power ballad written by Klaus Meine, vocalist of the German heavy metal band Scorpions. It appeared on their 1990 album Crazy World, but did not become a worldwide hit single until 1991, when it topped the charts in Germany and across Europe, and hit #4 in the United...

 speech to the Parliament of South Africa
Parliament of South Africa
The Parliament of South Africa is South Africa's legislature and under the country's current Constitution is composed of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces....

 in Cape Town
Cape Town
Cape Town is the second-most populous city in South Africa, and the provincial capital and primate city of the Western Cape. As the seat of the National Parliament, it is also the legislative capital of the country. It forms part of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality...

. This heralded independence for many British colonies in Africa. The British "retreat from Empire" had made headway by 1964 and was to continue during Wilson’s administration. The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland
Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland
The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, also known as the Central African Federation , was a semi-independent state in southern Africa that existed from 1953 to the end of 1963, comprising the former self-governing colony of Southern Rhodesia and the British protectorates of Northern Rhodesia,...

 came to present serious problems.

The Federation was set up in 1953, and was an amalgamation of the Protectorates of Northern Rhodesia
Northern Rhodesia
Northern Rhodesia was a territory in south central Africa, formed in 1911. It became independent in 1964 as Zambia.It was initially administered under charter by the British South Africa Company and formed by it in 1911 by amalgamating North-Western Rhodesia and North-Eastern Rhodesia...

 and Nyasaland
Nyasaland
Nyasaland or the Nyasaland Protectorate, was a British protectorate located in Africa, which was established in 1907 when the former British Central Africa Protectorate changed its name. Since 1964, it has been known as Malawi....

 and the colony of Southern Rhodesia
Southern Rhodesia
Southern Rhodesia was the name of the British colony situated north of the Limpopo River and the Union of South Africa. From its independence in 1965 until its extinction in 1980, it was known as Rhodesia...

. After struggles for independence, the Federation was dissolved in 1963 and the states of Zambia
Zambia
Zambia , officially the Republic of Zambia, is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. The neighbouring countries are the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Tanzania to the north-east, Malawi to the east, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to the south, and Angola to the west....

 and Malawi
Malawi
The Republic of Malawi is a landlocked country in southeast Africa that was formerly known as Nyasaland. It is bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast, and Mozambique on the east, south and west. The country is separated from Tanzania and Mozambique by Lake Malawi. Its size...

 achieved independence. The colony of Southern Rhodesia, which had been the economic powerhouse of the Federation, was not granted independence, principally because of the regime in power. The colony bordered South Africa
Union of South Africa
The Union of South Africa is the historic predecessor to the present-day Republic of South Africa. It came into being on 31 May 1910 with the unification of the previously separate colonies of the Cape, Natal, Transvaal and the Orange Free State...

 to the south and its governance was heavily influenced by the apartheid regime, then headed by Hendrik Verwoerd
Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd
Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd , commonly identified as H.F. Verwoerd, was Prime Minister of South Africa from 1958 until his assassination in 1966...

. Wilson refused to grant independence to the white minority government headed by Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith
Ian Smith
Ian Douglas Smith GCLM ID was a politician active in the government of Southern Rhodesia, the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, Rhodesia, Zimbabwe Rhodesia and Zimbabwe from 1948 to 1987, most notably serving as Prime Minister of Rhodesia from 13 April 1964 to 1 June 1979...

 which showed little inclination to extend political influence to the native African population, let alone to grant majority rule.

Smith’s defiant response was a Unilateral Declaration of Independence
Unilateral Declaration of Independence (Rhodesia)
The Unilateral Declaration of Independence of Rhodesia from the United Kingdom was signed on November 11, 1965, by the administration of Ian Smith, whose Rhodesian Front party opposed black majority rule in the then British colony. Although it declared independence from the United Kingdom it...

, timed to coincide with Armistice Day
Armistice Day
Armistice Day is on 11 November and commemorates the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, which took effect at eleven o'clock in the morning—the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day...

 at 11.00 am on 11 November 1965, an attempt to garner support in the UK by reminding people of the contribution of the colony to the war effort (Smith himself had been a Spitfire
Supermarine Spitfire
The Supermarine Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft that was used by the Royal Air Force and many other Allied countries throughout the Second World War. The Spitfire continued to be used as a front line fighter and in secondary roles into the 1950s...

 pilot). Smith was personally vilified in the British media. Wilson’s immediate recourse was to the United Nations, and in 1965, the Security Council
United Nations Security Council
The United Nations Security Council is one of the principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of...

 imposed sanctions, which were to last until official independence in 1979. This involved British warships blockading the port of Beira
Beira Patrol
The Beira Patrol was a blockade of oil shipments to Rhodesia through Beira, Mozambique, resulting from United Nations trade sanctions after Rhodesia declared its independence...

 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 regime). 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 regime by force. Wilson declined to intervene in Rhodesia with military force, believing the UK 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. The matter was still unresolved at the time of Wilson’s resignation in 1976.

Elsewhere in Africa, trouble developed in Nigeria
Nigeria
Nigeria , officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in...

, brought about by the ethnic diversity of the country and the wealth being generated by the nascent oil
Petroleum
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

 industry. Wilson's government felt disinclined to interfere in the internal affairs of a fellow Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 nation and supported the government of General Yakubu Gowon
Yakubu Gowon
General Yakubu "Jack" Dan-Yumma Gowon was the head of state of Nigeria from 1966 to 1975. He took power after one military coup d'etat and was overthrown in another...

 during the Nigerian Civil War
Nigerian Civil War
The Nigerian Civil War, also known as the Nigerian-Biafran War, 6 July 1967–15 January 1970, was a political conflict caused by the attempted secession of the southeastern provinces of Nigeria as the self-proclaimed Republic of Biafra...

 of 1967–1970.

Electoral defeat and opposition

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.

In May 1970, Wilson responded to an 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. Economic conditions during the 1970s were becoming more difficult for the UK 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
Three-Day Week
The Three-Day Week was one of several measures introduced in the United Kingdom by the Conservative Government 1970–1974 to conserve electricity, the production of which was severely limited due to industrial action by coal miners...

) 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)

When Labour won more seats (though fewer votes) than the Conservative Party in February 1974
United Kingdom general election, February 1974
The United Kingdom's general election of February 1974 was held on the 28th of that month. It was the first of two United Kingdom general elections held that year, and the first election since the Second World War not to produce an overall majority in the House of Commons for the winning party,...

 and Heath was unable to persuade the Liberals
Liberal Party (UK)
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

 to form a coalition
Coalition
A coalition is a pact or treaty among individuals or groups, during which they cooperate in joint action, each in their own self-interest, joining forces together for a common cause. This alliance may be temporary or a matter of convenience. A coalition thus differs from a more formal covenant...

, Wilson returned to 10 Downing Street
10 Downing Street
10 Downing Street, colloquially known in the United Kingdom as "Number 10", is the headquarters of Her Majesty's Government and the official residence and office of the First Lord of the Treasury, who is now always the Prime Minister....

 on 4 March 1974 as Prime Minister of a minority Labour Government. He gained a three-seat majority in another election later that year
United Kingdom general election, October 1974
The United Kingdom general election of October 1974 took place on 10 October 1974 to elect 635 members to the British House of Commons. It was the second general election of that year and resulted in the Labour Party led by Harold Wilson, winning by a tiny majority of 3 seats.The election of...

, on 10 October 1974. One of the key issues addressed during his second period in office was the referendum on British membership of the EEC (see Europe, above).

The Second Wilson Government implemented a wide-ranging programme of social reform during its two years in office, with spending on education, health, price controls, and housing rents expanded from 1974 to 1976, amongst other reforms. In March 1974, an additional £2 billion were announced for benefits, food subsidies, and housing subsidies, including a record 25% increase in the pension. Council house rents were also frozen. That same year, national insurance benefits were increased by 13%, which brought pensions as a proportion of average earnings “up to a value equivalent to the previous high, which was reached in 1965 as a result of Labour legislation.” In order to maintain the real value of these benefits in the long term, the government introduced legislation which linked future increases in pensions to higher incomes or wages. In 1974–75, social spending was increased in real terms by 9%. In 1974, pensions were increased in real terms by 14%, while in early 1975 increases were made in family allowances. There were also significant increases in rate and rent subsidies, together with £500 million worth of food subsidies. Wilson also raised income tax on top earners to 83%, the highest level since the Second World War.

In 1975, a state earnings related pension scheme (SERPS) was introduced. A new pension, which was inflation-proofed and linked to earnings, was added to the basic pension which was to increase in line with earnings for the first time ever. This reform assisted women by the linking of pensions to the ‘twenty best years’ of earnings, and those who worked at home caring for children or others were counted as contributors. This scheme was eroded by the subsequent Thatcher Government, and insufficient pension rights had been built up by that time to establish resistance to its erosion. The Sex Discrimination Act (1975) gave women the right in principle to equal access to jobs and equal treatment at work with men, while the Employment Protection Act introduced statutory maternity leave. That same year, the wage stop was finally abolished. In addition, differentials between skilled and unskilled workers were narrowed as a result of egalitarian pay policies involving flat-rate increases.

To help those with disabilities, the government introduced an invalid care allowance, a mobility allowance, a non-contributory invalidity pension for those unable to contribute through national insurance, and other measures. To combat child poverty, legislation to create a universal Child Benefit was introduced in 1975 (a reform later implemented by the Callaghan Government). To raise the living standards of those dependant on national insurance benefits, the government index-linked short-term benefits to the rate of inflation, while pensions and long-term benefits were tied to increases in prices or earnings, whichever was higher.

Wilson's government came under scrutiny in 1975 for unemployment, with the total number of Britons out of work passing 1,000,000 by April of that year.

The Social Security Pensions Act of 1975 introduced equal treatment in pension schemes and eliminated the contributions test which limited state pensions for women. The Housing Finance Act(1974) increased aid to local authorities for slum clearance, introduced a system of “fair rents” in public and private sector unfurnished accommodation, and introduced rent rebates for council tenants. The Housing Act (1974) improved a renovation grants scheme, provided increased levels of aid to housing associations, and extended the role of the Housing Corporation. The Rent Act of 1974extended security of tenure to tenants of furnished properties and allowed access to rent tribunals. The Community Land Act (1975) allowed for the taking into public control of development land, while the Child Benefits Act introduced an extra payment for lone parents.

Circular 4/74 (1974) renewed pressure for moves towards comprehensive education (progress of which had stalled under the Heath Government), while the industrial relations legislation passed under Edward Heath
Edward Heath
Sir Edward Richard George "Ted" Heath, KG, MBE, PC was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and as Leader of the Conservative Party ....

 was repealed. The Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974 set up a Health and Safety Commission and Executive and set up a legal framework for health and safety at work. The Employment Protection Act of 1975 set up the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Services (ACAS) to arbitrate in industrial disputes, enlarged the rights of employees and trade unions, extended the redundancy payments scheme, and provided redress against unfair dismissal. The legislation also provided for paid maternity leave and outlawed dismissal for pregnancy. The Social Security Act of 1975 introduced a maternity allowance fund, while the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 set up an Equal Opportunities Commission and outlawed gender discrimination (both indirect and direct).

Northern Ireland

In the late 1960s, Wilson's earlier government had witnessed the outbreak of The Troubles
The Troubles
The Troubles was a period of ethno-political conflict in Northern Ireland which spilled over at various times into England, the Republic of Ireland, and mainland Europe. The duration of the Troubles is conventionally dated from the late 1960s and considered by many to have ended with the Belfast...

 in Northern Ireland. In response to a request from the Stormont government, the government agreed to deploy the British Army
Operation Banner
Operation Banner was the operational name for the British Armed Forces' operation in Northern Ireland from August 1969 to July 2007. It was initially deployed at the request of the Unionist government of Northern Ireland to support the Royal Ulster Constabulary . After the 1998 Belfast Agreement,...

 in an effort to maintain the peace.

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 welcomed, in principle, by the Heath government at the time but never put into effect.

In May 1974, when back in office as leader of a minority government, Wilson condemned the Unionist-controlled Ulster Workers' Strike as a "sectarian
Sectarianism
Sectarianism, according to one definition, is bigotry, discrimination or hatred arising from attaching importance to perceived differences between subdivisions within a group, such as between different denominations of a religion, class, regional or factions of a political movement.The ideological...

 strike", which was "being done for sectarian purposes having no relation to this century but only to the seventeenth century". He, however, refused to pressure a reluctant British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 to face down the loyalist
Ulster loyalism
Ulster loyalism is an ideology that is opposed to a united Ireland. It can mean either support for upholding Northern Ireland's status as a constituent part of the United Kingdom , support for Northern Ireland independence, or support for loyalist paramilitaries...

 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
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

 executive.

On 11 September 2008, BBC Radio Four's Document programme claimed to have unearthed a secret plan – codenamed Doomsday – which proposed to cut all 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 Taoiseach
Taoiseach
The Taoiseach is the head of government or prime minister of Ireland. The Taoiseach is appointed by the President upon the nomination of Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas , and must, in order to remain in office, retain the support of a majority in the Dáil.The current Taoiseach is...

 Garret FitzGerald
Garret FitzGerald
Garret FitzGerald was an Irish politician who was twice Taoiseach of Ireland, serving in office from July 1981 to February 1982 and again from December 1982 to March 1987. FitzGerald was elected to Seanad Éireann in 1965 and was subsequently elected to Dáil Éireann as a Fine Gael TD in 1969. He...

 who admitted the 12,000-strong Irish army would be unable to deal with the ensuring civil war.

In 1975 Wilson secretly offered Libya's Muammar Gaddafi
Muammar Gaddafi
Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar Gaddafi or "September 1942" 20 October 2011), commonly known as Muammar Gaddafi or Colonel Gaddafi, was the official ruler of the Libyan Arab Republic from 1969 to 1977 and then the "Brother Leader" of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya from 1977 to 2011.He seized power in a...

 £14 million (£500 million in 2009 values) to stop arming the IRA, but Gaddafi demanded a far greater sum of money. This offer did not become publicly known until 2009.

Resignation

On 16 March 1976, Wilson surprised the nation by announcing 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. Beyond this, by 1976 he might already have been aware of the first stages of early-onset Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease also known in medical literature as Alzheimer disease is the most common form of dementia. There is no cure for the disease, which worsens as it progresses, and eventually leads to death...

, which was to cause both his formerly excellent memory and his powers of concentration to fail dramatically.

Queen Elizabeth II
Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
Elizabeth II is the constitutional monarch of 16 sovereign states known as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize,...

 came to dine at 10 Downing Street to mark his resignation, an honour she has bestowed on only one other Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

.

Wilson's Prime Minister's Resignation Honours
1976 Prime Minister's Resignation Honours
The 1976 Prime Minister's Resignation Honours were announced on 27 May 1976 to mark the resignation of Prime Minister Harold Wilson. The list of honours became known satirically as the "Lavender List".-Controversy:...

 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 Marcia Williams
Marcia Falkender, Baroness Falkender
Marcia Matilda Falkender, Baroness Falkender CBE , formerly Marcia Williams , is a British Labour politician, being first the private secretary for, and then the political secretary and head of political office to, Harold Wilson.-Background and early career:Born Marcia Field, Falkender was educated...

 on lavender notepaper (it became known as the "Lavender List"). Roy Jenkins
Roy Jenkins
Roy Harris Jenkins, Baron Jenkins of Hillhead OM, PC was a British politician.The son of a Welsh coal miner who later became a union official and Labour MP, Roy Jenkins served with distinction in World War II. Elected to Parliament as a Labour member in 1948, he served in several major posts in...

 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
Joseph Kagan, Baron Kagan
Joseph Kagan, Baron Kagan was a British industrialist and the founder of Kagan Textiles, of Elland, which made raincoats from the waterproof Gannex fabric he had invented. Gannex raincoats were most famously worn by Harold Wilson...

, the inventor of Gannex, who was eventually imprisoned for fraud, and Sir Eric Miller
Eric Miller (businessman)
Sir Eric Merton Miller was a British businessman who committed suicide while under investigation for fraud.-Early life:...

, who later committed suicide while under police investigation for corruption.

Six candidates stood in the first ballot to replace him, in order of votes they were: Michael Foot
Michael Foot
Michael Mackintosh Foot, FRSL, PC was a British Labour Party politician, journalist and author, who was a Member of Parliament from 1945 to 1955 and from 1960 until 1992...

, James Callaghan
James Callaghan
Leonard James Callaghan, Baron Callaghan of Cardiff, KG, PC , was a British Labour politician, who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1976 to 1979 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1976 to 1980...

, Roy Jenkins
Roy Jenkins
Roy Harris Jenkins, Baron Jenkins of Hillhead OM, PC was a British politician.The son of a Welsh coal miner who later became a union official and Labour MP, Roy Jenkins served with distinction in World War II. Elected to Parliament as a Labour member in 1948, he served in several major posts in...

, Tony Benn
Tony Benn
Anthony Neil Wedgwood "Tony" Benn, PC is a British Labour Party politician and a former MP and Cabinet Minister.His successful campaign to renounce his hereditary peerage was instrumental in the creation of the Peerage Act 1963...

, Denis Healey
Denis Healey
Denis Winston Healey, Baron Healey CH, MBE, PC is a British Labour politician, who served as Secretary of State for Defence from 1964 to 1970 and Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1974 to 1979.-Early life:...

 and Anthony Crosland
Anthony Crosland
Charles Anthony Raven Crosland , otherwise Tony Crosland or C.A.R. Crosland, was a British Labour Party politician and author. He served as Member of Parliament for South Gloucestershire and later for Great Grimsby...

. 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 remained prime minister until May 1979, when Labour lost the general election
United Kingdom general election, 1979
The United Kingdom general election of 1979 was held on 3 May 1979 to elect 635 members to the British House of Commons. The Conservative Party, led by Margaret Thatcher ousted the incumbent Labour government of James Callaghan with a parliamentary majority of 43 seats...

 to the Conservatives and Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

 became Britain's first female prime minister.

As Wilson wished to remain an MP after leaving office, he was not immediately given the peerage
Peerage
The Peerage is a legal system of largely hereditary titles in the United Kingdom, which constitute the ranks of British nobility and is part of the British honours system...

 customarily offered to retired Prime Ministers, but instead was created a Knight of the Garter
Order of the Garter
The Most Noble Order of the Garter, founded in 1348, is the highest order of chivalry, or knighthood, existing in England. The order is dedicated to the image and arms of St...

. On leaving the House of Commons
British House of Commons
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which also comprises the Sovereign and the House of Lords . Both Commons and Lords meet in the Palace of Westminster. The Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 650 members , who are known as Members...

 after the 1983 general election
United Kingdom general election, 1983
The 1983 United Kingdom general election was held on 9 June 1983. It gave the Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher the most decisive election victory since that of Labour in 1945...

 he was created Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, after Rievaulx Abbey
Rievaulx Abbey
Rievaulx Abbey is a former Cistercian abbey headed by the Abbot of Rievaulx. It is located in Rievaulx , near Helmsley in North Yorkshire, England.It was one of the wealthiest abbeys in England and was dissolved by Henry VIII of England in 1538...

, in the north of his native Yorkshire.

There is evidence that Wilson was bullied out of office by 'the establishment
The Establishment
The Establishment is a term used to refer to a visible dominant group or elite that holds power or authority in a nation. The term suggests a closed social group which selects its own members...

', security services and military, who are believed to have circulated slurs that he Wilson working as an agent for the Soviet Union's KGB. Several books suggest and document evidence for this including The Pencourt File by Barrie Penrose and Roger Courtiour, Smear!: Wilson and the Secret State by Stephen Dorril and Robin Ramsey and The Wilson Plot: How the Spycatchers and Their American Allies Tried to Overthrow the British Government by David Leigh. To mark the thirtieth anniversary of Wilson's resignation in 2006 documentaries and docudramas which examine this interpretation of events were transmitted on Channel 4 and BBC TV.

Last years and death

Shortly after resigning as Prime Minister Wilson was signed by David Frost
David Frost
Sir David Frost is a British broadcaster.David Frost may also refer to:*David Frost , South African golfer*David Frost , classical record producer*David Frost *Dave Frost, baseball pitcher...

 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
Friday Night, Saturday Morning
Friday Night, Saturday Morning was a television chat show with a revolving guest host. It ran on BBC2 from 28 September 1979 to 2 April 1982, broadcast live from the Greenwood Theatre, a part of Guy's Hospital...

. He famously floundered in the role, and in 2000, Channel 4 chose it as one of the 100 Moments of TV Hell. Wilson also coined the name of charity War on Want
War on Want
War on Want is an anti-poverty charity based in London, England. It seeks to highlight the needs of poverty-stricken areas around the world and lobbies governments and international agencies to tackle problems as well as raising public awareness of the concerns of developing nations while...



A life-long Gilbert and Sullivan
Gilbert and Sullivan
Gilbert and Sullivan refers to the Victorian-era theatrical partnership of the librettist W. S. Gilbert and the composer Arthur Sullivan . The two men collaborated on fourteen comic operas between 1871 and 1896, of which H.M.S...

 fan, in 1975, Wilson joined the Board of Trustees of the D'Oyly Carte Trust
D'Oyly Carte Opera Company
The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company was a professional light opera company that staged Gilbert and Sullivan's Savoy operas. The company performed nearly year-round in the UK and sometimes toured in Europe, North America and elsewhere, from the 1870s until it closed in 1982. It was revived in 1988 and...

 at the invitation of Sir Hugh Wontner
Hugh Wontner
Sir Hugh Walter Kingwell Wontner GBE, CVO, was an English hotelier and politician. He was managing director of the Savoy hotel group from 1941 to 1979 and its chairman from 1948 to 1984, continuing as president until his death. He was also chairman of the Savoy Theatre from 1948 until his death...

, who was then the Lord Mayor of London
Lord Mayor of London
The Right Honourable Lord Mayor of London is the legal title for the Mayor of the City of London Corporation. The Lord Mayor of London is to be distinguished from the Mayor of London; the former is an officer only of the City of London, while the Mayor of London is the Mayor of Greater London and...

. At Christmas 1978, Wilson appeared on the Morecambe and Wise
Morecambe and Wise
Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise, usually referred to as Morecambe and Wise, or Eric and Ernie, were a British comic double act, working in variety, radio, film and most successfully in television. Their partnership lasted from 1941 until Morecambe's death in 1984...

 Christmas Special. Eric Morecambe
Eric Morecambe
John Eric Bartholomew OBE , known by his stage name Eric Morecambe, was an English comedian who together with Ernie Wise formed the award-winning double act Morecambe and Wise. The partnership lasted from 1941 until Morecambe's death of a heart attack in 1984...

's habit of appearing not to recognise the guest stars was repaid by Wilson, who referred to him throughout as 'Morry-camby' (the mis-pronunciation of Morecambe's name made by Ed Sullivan
Ed Sullivan
Edward Vincent "Ed" Sullivan was an American entertainment writer and television host, best known as the presenter of the TV variety show The Ed Sullivan Show. The show was broadcast from 1948 to 1971 , which made it one of the longest-running variety shows in U.S...

 when the pair appeared on his famous American television show).

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
Trinity House
The Corporation of Trinity House of Deptford Strond is the official General Lighthouse Authority for England, Wales and other British territorial waters...

; in the same year, he played himself as Prime Minister in an Anglia Television
Anglia Television
Anglia Television is the ITV franchise holder for the East Anglia franchise region. Although Anglia Television takes its name from East Anglia, its transmission coverage extends beyond the generally accepted boundaries of that region. The station is based at Anglia House in Norwich, with regional...

 drama, "Inside Story".

Not long after Wilson's retirement, his mental deterioration from Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease also known in medical literature as Alzheimer disease is the most common form of dementia. There is no cure for the disease, which worsens as it progresses, and eventually leads to death...

 began to be apparent, and he did not appear in public after 1988 when he unveiled the Clement Attlee
Clement Attlee
Clement Richard Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee, KG, OM, CH, PC, FRS was a British Labour politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1945 to 1951, and as the Leader of the Labour Party from 1935 to 1955...

 statue at Limehouse
Limehouse
Limehouse is a place in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It is on the northern bank of the River Thames opposite Rotherhithe and between Ratcliff to the west and Millwall to the east....

 Library on 30 November of that year.

He 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. Wilson died from colon cancer
Colorectal cancer
Colorectal cancer, commonly known as bowel cancer, is a cancer caused by uncontrolled cell growth , in the colon, rectum, or vermiform appendix. Colorectal cancer is clinically distinct from anal cancer, which affects the anus....

 and Alzheimer's Disease
Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease also known in medical literature as Alzheimer disease is the most common form of dementia. There is no cure for the disease, which worsens as it progresses, and eventually leads to death...

 in May 1995, aged 79. His memorial service was held in Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

 on 13 July 1995. It was attended by Prince Charles, former Prime Ministers Edward Heath
Edward Heath
Sir Edward Richard George "Ted" Heath, KG, MBE, PC was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and as Leader of the Conservative Party ....

, James Callaghan
James Callaghan
Leonard James Callaghan, Baron Callaghan of Cardiff, KG, PC , was a British Labour politician, who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1976 to 1979 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1976 to 1980...

 and Baroness Thatcher, then Prime Minister John Major
John Major
Sir John Major, is a British Conservative politician, who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1990–1997...

 and future Prime Minister Tony Blair
Tony Blair
Anthony Charles Lynton Blair is a former British Labour Party politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2 May 1997 to 27 June 2007. He was the Member of Parliament for Sedgefield from 1983 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007...

. Wilson was buried at St. Mary's Old Church, St. Mary's
St. Mary's Old Church, St. Mary's
St Mary's Old Church, St Mary's is a parish church in the Church of England located in Old Town on St Mary's, Isles of Scilly, Cornwall, United Kingdom.-History:...

 on the Isles of Scilly
Isles of Scilly
The Isles of Scilly form an archipelago off the southwestern tip of the Cornish peninsula of Great Britain. The islands have had a unitary authority council since 1890, and are separate from the Cornwall unitary authority, but some services are combined with Cornwall and the islands are still part...

 on 6 June. His epitaph is (Time the Commander of All 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 who had preceded him. Features of this portrayal included his working man's Gannex
Gannex
Gannex is a waterproof fabric invented in 1951 by Joseph Kagan, a British industrialist and the founder of Kagan Textiles, of Elland, which made raincoats...

 raincoat, his pipe (the British Pipesmokers' Council voted him Pipe Smoker of the Year
Pipe Smoker of the Year
Pipe Smoker of the Year was an award given out annually by the British Pipesmokers' Council, to honour a famous pipe-smoking individual. The award was discontinued in 2004 because its organisers feared it fell foul of laws banning all advertising and promotion of tobacco.-Pipe Smokers 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 relish HP Sauce
HP Sauce
HP Sauce is a popular brown sauce originally produced by HP Foods in the UK, now produced by H.J. Heinz in the Netherlands.It is the best-known brand of brown sauce in the United Kingdom and Canada as well as the best selling, with 71% of the UK market....

, and his support for his home town's football team, Huddersfield. He spoke with a studied working class Yorkshire accent
Yorkshire dialect and accent
The Yorkshire dialect refers to the varieties of English used in the Northern England historic county of Yorkshire. Those varieties are often referred to as Broad Yorkshire or Tyke. The dialect has roots in older languages such as Old English and Old Norse; it should not be confused with modern slang...

, although this was not part of his background, as his father had spoken "upper class" English. Eschewing continental holidays, he returned every summer with his family to the Isles of Scilly
Isles of Scilly
The Isles of Scilly form an archipelago off the southwestern tip of the Cornish peninsula of Great Britain. The islands have had a unitary authority council since 1890, and are separate from the Cornwall unitary authority, but some services are combined with Cornwall and the islands are still part...

. 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....". These characteristics were exaggerated in Private Eye's satirical column "Mrs Wilson's Diary
Prime Minister parodies (Private Eye)
Prime Minister parodies are a long-running feature of the British satirical magazine Private Eye, which have been included in the majority of issues since the magazine's inception...

".

Wilson exhibited his populist touch in June 1965 when he had The Beatles
The Beatles
The Beatles were an English rock band, active throughout the 1960s and one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Formed in Liverpool, by 1962 the group consisted of John Lennon , Paul McCartney , George Harrison and Ringo Starr...

 honoured with the award of MBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

 (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
United Kingdom general election, 1966
The 1966 United Kingdom general election on 31 March 1966 was called by sitting Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Wilson's decision to call an election turned on the fact that his government, elected a mere 17 months previously in 1964 had an unworkably small majority of only 4 MPs...

 (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 in George Harrison
George Harrison
George Harrison, MBE was an English musician, guitarist, singer-songwriter, actor and film producer who achieved international fame as lead guitarist of The Beatles. Often referred to as "the quiet Beatle", Harrison became over time an admirer of Indian mysticism, and introduced it to the other...

's song "Taxman
Taxman
"Taxman" is a song written by George Harrison released as the opening track on The Beatles' 1966 album Revolver. Its lyrics attack the high levels of progressive tax taken by the British Labour government of Harold Wilson.-Composition:...

", the opener to 1966's Revolver
Revolver (album)
Revolver is the seventh studio album by the English rock group The Beatles, released on 5 August 1966 on the Parlophone label and produced by George Martin. Many of the tracks on Revolver are marked by an electric guitar-rock sound, in contrast with their previous LP, the folk rock inspired Rubber...

—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
The Move, from Birmingham, England, were one of the leading British rock bands of the 1960s. They scored nine Top 20 UK singles in five years, but were among the most popular British bands not to find any success in the United States....

 for libel after the band's manager Tony Secunda
Tony Secunda
Anthony Michael "Tony" Secunda was a British manager of rock groups in the 1960s and 1970s, including The Moody Blues, Procol Harum, The Move, and T...

 published a promotional postcard for the single "Flowers In The Rain", featuring a caricature depicting Wilson in bed with his female assistant, Marcia Williams
Marcia Falkender, Baroness Falkender
Marcia Matilda Falkender, Baroness Falkender CBE , formerly Marcia Williams , is a British Labour politician, being first the private secretary for, and then the political secretary and head of political office to, Harold Wilson.-Background and early career:Born Marcia Field, Falkender was educated...

 (later Baroness Falkender). 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
Roy Adrian Wood is an English singer-songwriter and musician. He was particularly successful in the 1960s and 1970s as member and co-founder of the bands The Move, Electric Light Orchestra, and Wizzard. As a songwriter, he contributed a number of hits to the repertoire of these bands.-Career: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
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 leader Edward Heath
Edward Heath
Sir Edward Richard George "Ted" Heath, KG, MBE, PC was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and as Leader of the Conservative Party ....

, developed at a policy retreat held at the Selsdon
Selsdon
Selsdon is an area located in the southern suburbs of the London Borough of Croydon. The suburb was developed during the inter-war period during the 1920s and 1930s, and is remarkable for its many Art Deco houses...

 Park Hotel in early 1970. This phrase, intended to evoke the 'primitive throwback' qualities of anthropological discoveries such as Piltdown Man
Piltdown Man
The Piltdown Man was a hoax in which bone fragments were presented as the fossilised remains of a previously unknown early human. These fragments consisted of parts of a skull and jawbone, said to have been collected in 1912 from a gravel pit at Piltdown, East Sussex, England...

 and Swanscombe Man
Homo erectus
Homo erectus is an extinct species of hominid that lived from the end of the Pliocene epoch to the later Pleistocene, about . The species originated in Africa and spread as far as India, China and Java. There is still disagreement on the subject of the classification, ancestry, and progeny of H...

, was part of a British political tradition of referring to political trends by suffixing 'man'. Another famous quote is "A week is a long time in politics": this signifies that political fortunes can change extremely rapidly. Other memorable phrases attributed to Wilson include "the white heat of the [technological] revolution." 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 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
Winter of Discontent
The "Winter of Discontent" is an expression, popularised by the British media, referring to the winter of 1978–79 in the United Kingdom, during which there were widespread strikes by local authority trade unions demanding larger pay rises for their members, because the Labour government of...

), 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
Neil Kinnock
Neil Gordon Kinnock, Baron Kinnock is a Welsh politician belonging to the Labour Party. He served as a Member of Parliament from 1970 until 1995 and as Labour Leader and Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition from 1983 until 1992 - his leadership of the party during nearly nine years making him...

, John Smith
John Smith (UK politician)
John Smith was a British Labour Party politician who served as Leader of the Labour Party from July 1992 until his sudden death from a heart attack in May 1994...

 and – electorally, most conclusively – Tony Blair.

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
Indicative planning
Indicative planning is a form of central economic planning implemented by a state in an effort to solve the problem of imperfect information in economies and thus increase economic performance...

" 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
Institute of Economic Affairs
The Institute of Economic Affairs , founded in 1955, styles itself the UK's pre-eminent free-market think-tank. Its mission is to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social...

), 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 as Sir Keith Joseph
Keith Joseph
Keith St John Joseph, Baron Joseph, Bt, CH, PC , was a British barrister and politician. A member of the Conservative Party, he served in the Cabinet under three Prime Ministers , and is widely regarded to have been the "power behind the throne" in the creation of what came to be known as...

, had helped to make a radical market programme politically feasible for Thatcher (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.

MI5 plots?

In 1963, Soviet defector Anatoliy Golitsyn
Anatoliy Golitsyn
Anatoliy Mikhaylovich Golitsyn CBE is a Soviet KGB defector and author of two books about the long-term deception strategy of the KGB leadership. He was born in Piryatin, Ukrainian SSR...

 is said to have secretly claimed that Wilson was a KGB
KGB
The KGB was the commonly used acronym for the . It was the national security agency of the Soviet Union from 1954 until 1991, and was the premier internal security, intelligence, and secret police organization during that time.The State Security Agency of the Republic of Belarus currently uses the...

 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
James Jesus Angleton
James Jesus Angleton was chief of the Central Intelligence Agency's counterintelligence staff from 1954 to 1975...

, the Deputy Director of Counter-Intelligence
Counter-intelligence
Counterintelligence or counter-intelligence refers to efforts made by intelligence organizations to prevent hostile or enemy intelligence organizations from successfully gathering and collecting intelligence against them. National intelligence programs, and, by extension, the overall defenses of...

 at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

 (CIA)) and factional strife broke out between the two groups. The book Spycatcher
Spycatcher
Spycatcher: The Candid Autobiography of a Senior Intelligence Officer , is a book written by Peter Wright, former MI5 officer and Assistant Director, and co-author Paul Greengrass. It was published first in Australia...

 (an exposé of MI5
MI5
The Security Service, commonly known as MI5 , is the United Kingdom's internal counter-intelligence and security agency and is part of its core intelligence machinery alongside the Secret Intelligence Service focused on foreign threats, Government Communications Headquarters and the Defence...

) alleged that 30 MI5 agents then collaborated in an attempt to undermine Wilson. The author Peter Wright
Peter Wright
Peter Maurice Wright was an English scientist and former MI5 counterintelligence officer, noted for writing the controversial book Spycatcher, which became an international bestseller with sales of over two million copies...

 (a former member of MI5) later claimed that his ghostwriter
Ghostwriter
A ghostwriter is a professional writer who is paid to write books, articles, stories, reports, or other texts that are officially credited to another person. Celebrities, executives, and political leaders often hire ghostwriters to draft or edit autobiographies, magazine articles, or other written...

 had written 30 when he had meant 3.

Several other voices beyond Wright have raised claims of "dirty tricks" on the part of elements within the intelligence services against Wilson while he was in office. In March 1987, James Miller, a former MI5 agent, claimed that MI5 had encouraged the Ulster Workers' Council general strike in 1974 in order to destabilise Wilson's Government. See also: Walter Walker and David Stirling
David Stirling
Colonel Sir Archibald David Stirling, DSO, DFC, OBE was a Scottish laird, mountaineer, World War II British Army officer, and the founder of the Special Air Service.-Life before the war:...

. In July 1987, Labour MP Ken Livingstone
Ken Livingstone
Kenneth Robert "Ken" Livingstone is an English politician who is currently a member of the centrist to centre-left Labour Party...

 used his maiden speech
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...

 to raise the 1975 allegations of a former Army Press officer in Northern Ireland, Colin Wallace
Colin Wallace
John Colin Wallace is a former British soldier and psychological warfare operative who was one of the members of the 'Clockwork Orange' project, which is alleged to have been an attempt to smear a number of British politicians in the early 1970s.-Early life:...

, who also alleged a plot to destabilise Wilson. Chris Mullin
Chris Mullin (politician)
Christopher John Mullin is a British Labour Party politician and diarist who was the Member of Parliament for Sunderland South from 1987 to 2010...

, MP, speaking on 23 November 1988, argued that sources other than Peter Wright supported claims of a long-standing attempt by the intelligence services (MI5) to undermine Wilson's government.

A BBC programme The Plot Against Harold Wilson, broadcast in 2006, reported that, in tapes recorded soon after his resignation on health grounds, Wilson stated that for eight months of his premiership he didn't "feel he knew what was going on, fully, in security". Wilson alleged two plots, in the late 1960s and mid 1970s respectively. He said that plans had been hatched to install Lord Mountbatten, Prince Charles's uncle and mentor, as interim Prime Minister (see also Other conspiracy theories, below). He also claimed that ex-military leaders had been building up private armies in anticipation of "wholesale domestic liquidation".

In the documentary some of Wilson's allegations received partial confirmation in interviews with ex-intelligence officers and others, who reported that, on two occasions during Wilson's terms in office, they had talked about a possible coup to take over the government.

On a separate track, elements within MI5 had also, the BBC programme reported, spread "black propaganda" that Wilson and Williams were Soviet agents, and that Wilson was an IRA sympathiser, apparently with the intention of helping the Conservatives win the 1974 election.

In 2009, Defence of the Realm, the authorised history of MI5 by Christopher Andrew, 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 bugging of 10 Downing Street
10 Downing Street
10 Downing Street, colloquially known in the United Kingdom as "Number 10", is the headquarters of Her Majesty's Government and the official residence and office of the First Lord of the Treasury, who is now always the Prime Minister....

 had been 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 bugs 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 requirements (in the chapter on The Wilson Plot) is, I believe, hard to justify" giving credence to these new allegations.

Other conspiracy theories

Richard Hough
Richard Hough
Richard Alexander Hough was a British author and historian specializing in maritime history.-Personal life:Hough married the author Charlotte Woodyadd, who he had met when they were pupils at Frensham Heights School, and they had five children including the author Deborah Moggach.-Literary...

, in his 1980 biography of Mountbatten, indicates that Mountbatten was approached during the 1960s in connection with a scheme to install an "emergency government" in place of Wilson's administration. The approach was made by Cecil Harmsworth King
Cecil Harmsworth King
Cecil Harmsworth King was owner of Mirror Group Newspapers, and later a director at the Bank of England .He came on his father's side from a Protestant Irish family, and was brought up in Ireland...

, the chairman of the International Publishing Corporation
IPC Media
IPC Media , a wholly owned subsidiary of Time Inc., is a consumer magazine and digital publisher in the United Kingdom, with a large portfolio selling over 350 million copies each year.- Origins :...

 (IPC), which published the Daily Mirror newspaper. Hough bases his account on conversations with the Mirrors long-time editor Hugh Cudlipp
Hugh Cudlipp
Hubert "Hugh" Kinsman Cudlipp, Baron Cudlipp, OBE , was a Welsh journalist and newspaper editor noted for his work on the Daily Mirror in the 1950s and 60s.- Life and career :...

, supplemented by the recollections of the scientist Solly Zuckerman
Solly Zuckerman
Solly Zuckerman, Baron Zuckerman, OM, KCB, FRS was a British public servant, zoologist, and scientific advisor who is best remembered as an advisor to the Allies on bombing strategy in World War II, for his work to advance the cause of nuclear non-proliferation, and for his role in bringing...

 and of Mountbatten’s valet, William Evans. Cudlipp arranged for Mountbatten to meet King on 8 May 1968. King had long yearned to play a more central political role, and had personal grudges against Wilson (including Wilson's refusal to propose King for the hereditary earldom that King coveted). He had already failed in an earlier attempt to replace Wilson with James Callaghan
James Callaghan
Leonard James Callaghan, Baron Callaghan of Cardiff, KG, PC , was a British Labour politician, who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1976 to 1979 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1976 to 1980...

. With Britain's continuing economic difficulties and industrial strife in the 1960s, King convinced himself that Wilson's government was heading towards collapse. He thought that Mountbatten, as a Royal and a former Chief of the Defence Staff
Chief of the Defence Staff
The Chief of the Defence Staff can refer to:*Chief of the Defence Force *Chief of the Defence Staff *Chief of the Defence Staff *Chief of the Defence Staff...

, would command public support as leader of a non-democratic "emergency" government. Mountbatten insisted that his friend, Zuckerman, be present (Zuckerman says that he was urged to attend by Mountbatten’s son-in-law, Lord Brabourne
John Knatchbull, 7th Baron Brabourne
John Ulick Knatchbull, 7th Baron Brabourne, CBE , professionally known as John Brabourne, was a British peer, television producer and Academy-award nominated film producer....

, who worried King would lead Mountbatten astray). King asked Mountbatten if he would be willing to head an emergency government. Zuckerman said the idea was treason and Mountbatten in turn rebuffed King. He does not appear to have reported the approach to Downing Street
Downing Street
Downing Street in London, England has for over two hundred years housed the official residences of two of the most senior British cabinet ministers: the First Lord of the Treasury, an office now synonymous with that of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and the Second Lord of the Treasury, an...

.

The question of how serious a threat to democracy may have existed during these years continues to be contentious—a key point at issue being who of any consequence would have been ready to move beyond grumbling about the government (or spreading rumours) to actively taking unconstitutional action. Cecil King himself was an inveterate schemer but an inept actor on the political stage. Perhaps significantly, when King penned a strongly worded editorial against Wilson for the Daily Mirror two days after his abortive meeting with Mountbatten, the unanimous reaction of IPC's directors was to fire him with immediate effect from his position as Chairman. King's resignation was considered a serious enough matter for the BBC to have senior journalist William Hardcastle announce it in a news flash. More fundamentally, Denis Healey
Denis Healey
Denis Winston Healey, Baron Healey CH, MBE, PC is a British Labour politician, who served as Secretary of State for Defence from 1964 to 1970 and Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1974 to 1979.-Early life:...

, who served for six years as Wilson's Secretary of State for Defence
Secretary of State for Defence
The Secretary of State for Defence, popularly known as the Defence Secretary, is the senior Government of the United Kingdom minister in charge of the Ministry of Defence, chairing the Defence Council. It is a Cabinet position...

, has argued that actively serving senior British military officers would not have been prepared to overthrow a constitutionally-elected government.

By the time of his resignation, Wilson's own perceptions of any threat may very well have been exacerbated by the onset of Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease also known in medical literature as Alzheimer disease is the most common form of dementia. There is no cure for the disease, which worsens as it progresses, and eventually leads to death...

; his inherent tendency to chariness was undoubtedly stoked by some in his inner circle, including Marcia Williams
Marcia Falkender, Baroness Falkender
Marcia Matilda Falkender, Baroness Falkender CBE , formerly Marcia Williams , is a British Labour politician, being first the private secretary for, and then the political secretary and head of political office to, Harold Wilson.-Background and early career:Born Marcia Field, Falkender was educated...

. He reportedly shared with a surprised George H. W. Bush
George H. W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 41st President of the United States . He had previously served as the 43rd Vice President of the United States , a congressman, an ambassador, and Director of Central Intelligence.Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, to...

, at the time the Director of the CIA, his fear that some of the portraits in 10 Downing Street (specifically including Gladstone's portrait in the Cabinet Room) concealed listening devices being used to bug his discussions. Files released on 1 June 2005 show that Wilson was concerned that, while on the Isles of Scilly
Isles of Scilly
The Isles of Scilly form an archipelago off the southwestern tip of the Cornish peninsula of Great Britain. The islands have had a unitary authority council since 1890, and are separate from the Cornwall unitary authority, but some services are combined with Cornwall and the islands are still part...

, he was being monitored by Russian ships disguised as trawlers. MI5
MI5
The Security Service, commonly known as MI5 , is the United Kingdom's internal counter-intelligence and security agency and is part of its core intelligence machinery alongside the Secret Intelligence Service focused on foreign threats, Government Communications Headquarters and the Defence...

 found no evidence of this, but told him not to use a walkie-talkie
Walkie-talkie
A walkie-talkie is a hand-held, portable, two-way radio transceiver. Its development during the Second World War has been variously credited to Donald L. Hings, radio engineer Alfred J. Gross, and engineering teams at Motorola...

.

Wilson's Government took strong action against the controversial, self-styled "Church" of Scientology
Scientology
Scientology is a body of beliefs and related practices created by science fiction and fantasy author L. Ron Hubbard , starting in 1952, as a successor to his earlier self-help system, Dianetics...

 in 1967, banning foreign Scientologists from entering the UK, a prohibition which remained in force until 1980. In response, L. Ron Hubbard
L. Ron Hubbard
Lafayette Ronald Hubbard , better known as L. Ron Hubbard , was an American pulp fiction author and religious leader who founded the Church of Scientology...

, Scientology's founder, accused Wilson of being in cahoots with Soviet Russia and an international conspiracy of psychiatrists
Psychiatry
Psychiatry is the medical specialty devoted to the study and treatment of mental disorders. These mental disorders include various affective, behavioural, cognitive and perceptual abnormalities...

 and financiers. Wilson's Minister of Health, Kenneth Robinson
Kenneth Robinson
Sir Kenneth Robinson PC was a British Labour politician who served as Minister of Health in Harold Wilson's first government, from 1964 to 1968, when the position was merged into the new title of Secretary of State for Social Services.-Early life:The son of Dr Clarence Robinson and a nurse, Ethel...

, subsequently won a libel suit against the Scientologists and Hubbard.

Honours

  • 12 June 1968 Wilson was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society 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.
  • Wilson was an Honorary Fellow of Columbia Pacific University
    Columbia Pacific University
    Columbia Pacific University was an unaccredited nontraditional distance learning school in California. It was founded in 1978 by Richard Crews, a Harvard-trained psychiatrist, and Lester Carr, a former president of Lewis University, and operated with state approval...

    . The former British Prime Minister also delivered a speech at a CPU graduation ceremony

Statues and other tributes

Two statues of Harold Wilson stand in prominent places. The first, unveiled by then Prime Minister Tony Blair
Tony Blair
Anthony Charles Lynton Blair is a former British Labour Party politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2 May 1997 to 27 June 2007. He was the Member of Parliament for Sedgefield from 1983 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007...

 stands outside Huddersfield railway station
Huddersfield railway station
Huddersfield railway station serves the town of Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, England.The station is managed by First TransPennine Express who provide trains between the North East, North and East Yorkshire, and Leeds to the east and Manchester Piccadilly and North West.It is also served by local...

 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 Lord Wilson in walking pose at the start of his first term as Prime Minister. His wife Mary requested that the eight-foot tall monument did not show Wilson holding his famous pipe as she feared it would make the representation a caricature.

In September 2006, Blair unveiled a second bronze statue of Wilson in his former constituency of Huyton
Huyton
Huyton is a suburb of Liverpool within the Metropolitan Borough of Knowsley, with some parts belonging to the borough of Liverpool in Merseyside, England. It is part of the Liverpool Urban Area and has close associations with its neighbour, Roby, having both formerly been part of the Huyton with...

, near Liverpool
Liverpool
Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, England, along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. It was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880...

. The statue was by Liverpool sculptor, Tom Murphy, and Blair paid tribute to Wilson's legacy at the event, including the Open University
Open University
The Open University is a distance learning and research university founded by Royal Charter in the United Kingdom...

. 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
- History :The village was in the parish of St Michael named after the church built there. It was created in 1878 as an extension of the town of Tipton in the county of Staffordshire, England...

, West Midlands, was named Wilson Drive in honour of Wilson. Along with neighbouring new development Callaghan drive (named after James Callaghan), 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.

Titles from birth to death

  • Harold Wilson, Esq (11 March 1916 – 1 January 1945)
  • Harold Wilson, Esq, OBE (1 January 1945 – 26 July 1945)
  • Harold Wilson, Esq, OBE, MP (26 July 1945 – 29 September 1947)
  • The Right Honourable Harold Wilson, OBE, MP (29 September 1947 – 6 December 1969)
  • The Right Honourable Harold Wilson, OBE, FRS, MP (6 December 1969 – 23 April 1976)
  • The Right Honourable Sir Harold Wilson, KG, OBE, FRS, MP (23 April 1976 – 9 June 1983)
  • The Right Honourable Sir Harold Wilson, KG, OBE, FRS (9 June – 16 September 1983)
  • The Right Honourable The Lord Wilson of Rievaulx, KG, OBE, FRS, PC (16 September 1983 – 24 May 1995)

Television

  • In the Fawlty Towers
    Fawlty Towers
    Fawlty Towers is a British sitcom produced by BBC Television and first broadcast on BBC2 in 1975. Twelve television program episodes were produced . The show was written by John Cleese and his then wife Connie Booth, both of whom played major characters...

     episode "The Germans", Basil blames his fire extinguisher exploding in his face on "...bloody Wilson"
  • The Lavender List
    The Lavender List
    The Lavender List is a docudrama broadcast on BBC Four in March 2006 about the events that led to the drafting of the "Lavender List", the satirical name for Harold Wilson's 1976 Prime Minister's Resignation Honours.-The List:...

     (2006), played by Kenneth Cranham
    Kenneth Cranham
    Kenneth Cranham is a film, television and stage actor. He starred in the title role in the popular 1980s comedy drama Shine on Harvey Moon. He also appeared in Layer Cake, Gangster No. 1, Rome, Oliver! and many other films. He is probably best known to horror genre fans as the deranged Dr...

     – a BBC Four
    BBC Four
    BBC Four is a British television network operated by the British Broadcasting Corporation and available to digital television viewers on Freeview, IPTV, satellite and cable....

     fictionalised account by Francis Wheen
    Francis Wheen
    Francis James Baird Wheen is a British journalist, writer and broadcaster.-Early life and education:Wheen was born into an army family and educated at two independent schools: Copthorne Preparatory School near Crawley, West Sussex and Harrow School in north west London.-Life and career:Running...

     of the Wilson Government of 1974–76, with Gina McKee
    Gina McKee
    Georgina "Gina" McKee is an English actor known for her television roles in Our Friends in the North , The Lost Prince and The Forsyte Saga ; and her portrayal of Bella in the film Notting Hill ....

     as Marcia Williams and Celia Imrie
    Celia Imrie
    Celia Diana Savile Imrie is an English actress. In a career starting in the early 1970s, Imrie has played Marianne Bellshade in Bergerac, Philippa Moorcroft in Dinnerladies, Miss Babs in Acorn Antiques, Diana Neal in After You've Gone and Gloria Millington in Kingdom...

     as Wilson's wife. The play concentrated on Wilson and Williams' relationship and her conflict with the Downing Street Press Secretary Joe Haines.
  • The Plot Against Harold Wilson (2006), played by James Bolam
    James Bolam
    James Christopher Bolam, MBE is a British actor, best known for his roles as Jack Ford in When the Boat Comes In, Trevor Chaplin in The Beiderbecke Trilogy, Terry Collier in The Likely Lads and its sequel Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?, Roy Figgis in Only When I Laugh, Dr Arthur Gilder in...

     – aired on BBC Two on Thursday 16 March. The drama detailed previously unseen evidence that rogue elements of MI5 and the British military plotted to take down the Labour Government, believing Wilson to be a Soviet spy.
  • Longford
    Longford
    Longford is the county town of County Longford in Ireland. It has a population of 7,622 according to the 2006 census. Approximately one third of the county's population resides in the town. Longford town is also the biggest town in the county...

     (2006), played by Robert Pugh
    Robert Pugh
    Robert Pugh is a Welsh film and television actor.Pugh was born in Cilfynydd and graduated from Rose Bruford College in 1976. In 2007, he co-starred alongside Genevieve O'Reilly and Geraldine James in ITV1 drama The Time of Your Life, where he played a parent whose 36-year-old daughter was...

     – Channel 4
    Channel 4
    Channel 4 is a British public-service television broadcaster which began working on 2 November 1982. Although largely commercially self-funded, it is ultimately publicly owned; originally a subsidiary of the Independent Broadcasting Authority , the station is now owned and operated by the Channel...

     drama on the life of Lord Longford. In one scene, Wilson was seen dismissing Longford from his cabinet in 1968, in part because of the adverse publicity the latter was receiving for his public campaign to support the Moors Murderer
    Moors murders
    The Moors murders were carried out by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley between July 1963 and October 1965, in and around what is now Greater Manchester, England. The victims were five children aged between 10 and 17—Pauline Reade, John Kilbride, Keith Bennett, Lesley Ann Downey and Edward Evans—at least...

     Myra Hindley.

Film

  • The Boat That Rocked
    The Boat That Rocked
    The Boat That Rocked is a 2009 British comedy film written and directed by Richard Curtis, with pirate radio in the United Kingdom during the 1960s as its setting. The film has an ensemble cast featuring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans, Nick Frost, and Kenneth Branagh...

     (2009), played by Stephen Moore
    Stephen Moore (actor)
    Stephen Moore is an English actor, known for his work on British television since the 1980s. He is known for his appearances in Rock Follies and other TV series such as The Last Place on Earth, the children's series The Queen's Nose and the drama Mersey Beat and the British TV comedy series Solo,...

     (character not actually addressed or credited by name, only as 'Prime Minister')
  • Made in Dagenham
    Made in Dagenham
    Made in Dagenham is a 2010 British film directed by Nigel Cole. The film stars Sally Hawkins, Miranda Richardson, Rosamund Pike and Jaime Winstone. It dramatises the Ford sewing machinists strike of 1968 that aimed for equal pay for women...

     (2010), played by John Sessions
    John Sessions
    John Gibb Marshall , better known by the stage name John Sessions, is a Scottish actor and comedian. He is known for comedy improvisation in television shows such as Whose Line Is It Anyway?; as a panellist on QI; and as a character actor in numerous films, both in the UK and in Hollywood.-Early...


Other

  • A viking
    Viking
    The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...

     in the Asterix
    Asterix
    Asterix or The Adventures of Asterix is a series of French comic books written by René Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo . The series first appeared in French in the magazine Pilote on October 29, 1959...

     story Asterix and the Great Crossing
    Asterix and the Great Crossing
    Asterix and the Great Crossing is the twenty-second volume of the Asterix comic book series, by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo .-Plot summary:...

     (1975) is named Haraldwilssen, and shares his physical features

Ancestry



External links


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