Harold Wilson:


Born On The: 11th March 1916.
Died On The: 24th May1995.
Occupation(s): Politician.

Zodiac: Born under the Star Sign PiscesPiscesWhat Star Sign are You?

Achievement(s): Prime Minister (Labour Party) Twice: 1st time from 1964 to 1970 & 2nd time from 1974 to 1976.
He was awarded the following honours: The Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, KG, OBE, FRS, FS & PC.


James Harold Wilson was a Labour MP and Leader of the Labour Party; he was twice British Prime Minister, winning four general elections, including a minority government after the February 1974 General Election resulted in a hung parliament; he led the country from 1964 to 1970 during a period of low unemployment and relative economic prosperity, and then again from 1974 to 1976, 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.

His first period in office was notable for substantial legal changes in a number of social areas, including the liberalisation of censorship, divorce, the 1967 Sexual Offences Act which decriminalised homosexual practices above the age of consent and the 1967 Abortion Act, which legalised abortion under certain conditions, as well as the abolition of capital punishment, due in part to the initiatives of backbench MPs who had the support of Roy Jenkins during his time as Home Secretary.

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, in which he resisted US pressure to involve Britain and send British troops, but his government is also remembered for the deteriorating relations with trade unions and the devaluation of the pound in 1967.

At age 8, Wilson had his photo taken stood outside of 10 Downing Street, the Prime Ministerís residence and 40 years later, in 1964, he became Prime Minister himself and fulfilled a dream he had believed in for four decades See photo!

Wilson attended the sixth form at the Wirral Grammar School for Boys, where he became Head Boy; he did well at school and he obtained an exhibition, which when topped up by a county grant enabled him to study Modern History at Jesus College, Oxford from 1934; whilst at Oxford he was moderately active in politics as a member of the Liberal Party but was later influenced by G. D. H. Cole 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; 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 at New College from 1937 and a Research Fellow at University College.

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, 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 for his services; he was to remain passionately interested in statistics and as President of the Board of Trade, he was the driving force behind the Statistics of Trade Act 1947, which is still the authority governing most economic statistics in Great Britain; he was instrumental as Prime Minister in appointing Claus Moser as head of the Central Statistical Office and was president of the Royal Statistical Society in 1972–73.

As the war drew to an end, he searched for a seat to fight at the impending general election; he was selected for Ormskirk, then held by Stephen King-Hall; he 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 in Economics at University College between his resignation and his election to the House of Commons; he also used this time to write A New Deal for Coal which used his wartime experience to argue for nationalisation of the coal mines on the grounds of the improved efficiency he predicted would ensue.

In the 1945 general election, Wilson won his seat in the Labour landslide; to his surprise, he was immediately appointed to the government as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works; two years later, he became Secretary for Overseas Trade, in which capacity he made several official trips to the Soviet Union to negotiate supply contracts.

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 near Liverpool.

Wilson was becoming known as a left-winger and joined Aneurin Bevan and John Freeman in resigning from the government in April 1951 in protest at the introduction of National Health Service (NHS) medical charges to meet the financial demands imposed by the Korean War; 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 in 1954 that put Wilson back on the front bench .

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" 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's 1964 election campaign was aided by the Profumo Affair, a 1963 ministerial sex scandal that had mortally wounded the Conservative government of Harold Macmillan and was to taint his successor Sir Alec Douglas-Home, even though Home had not been involved in the scandal; Labour won the 1964 general election with a narrow majority of four seats and Wilson became Prime Minister.

Wilson gained his chance to be re-elected as Prime Minister when Edward Heath came into conflict with the trade unions over his attempts to impose a prices and incomes policy and his attempts to legislate against unofficial strikes led to industrial disputes; in 1973 a miners' work-to-rule led to regular power cuts and the imposition of a three day week, so when Heath called a general election in 1974 on the issue of "who rules", he failed to get a majority and Wilson and the Labour Party were returned to power.

In 1975 Wilson decided to hold a referendum on membership of the European Economic Community and he allowed his Cabinet to support both the Yes and No campaigns, which led to a bitter split in the party; then the government had trouble with the economy again and faced with the prospect of having to get a loan from the International Monetary Fund, Wilson came under increasing attack from all sections of the Labour Party; at this time he was also suffering from the early signs of Alzheimer's Disease and in 1976 decided to resign from office and was replaced by James Callaghan.

Wilson was knighted in 1976 and became Lord Wilson and the Baron of Rievaulx in 1983.

Go back.