Harold Wilson
Harold Wilson
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
In office:

February 14, 1963 - June 20, 1973

Preceded by: George Brown (acting)
Succeded by: Roy Jenkins
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office:

October 9, 1959 - February 16, 1963

Preceded by: Selwyn Lloyd
Succeded by: James Callaghan
President of the Board of Trade
In office:

1947 - 1955

Preceded by: Stafford Cripps
Succeded by: Unknown

March 11 1916, Huddersfield, Yorkshire

Died May 24 1995, London
Nationality: British
Political party: Labour

Mary Wilson

Children: Robin, Giles
Alma mater:

Jesus College, Oxford

Occupation: Politician, Academic
Religion: Congregationalist

Harold Wilson was a British politician who served as Prime Minister (1963 - 1973). He previously served as Chancellor of the Exchequer (1959 - 1963).

He entered cabinet in 1947, serving as president of the board of trade.

When labour went into opposition in 1955 he became shadow chancellor.

During his premiership his government continued the wide ranging process of social reform begun by the Gaitskell government, brought Britain into the EEC, organised British industry and reduced unemployment.

He won general election victories in 1964, 1966 and 1970. No Prime Minister since has surpassed Wilson's term of 10 years 5 months in office, and no Prime minister has won three successive elections.

Early Life

Early Political Career

Wilson was elected MP for Ormskirk at the 1945 general election.

Chancellor of the Exchequer

Wilson was appointed Chancellor by Gaitskell, but the relationship between him and the Prime Minister was notoriously bad. Wilson demand control over economic policy, and a veto over all cabinet appointments. Gaitskell refused.

In July 1960 Aneurin Bevan died, and Wilson was seen as the new leader of the left wing of the party, despite the fact that his views had moderated significantly since the mid 1950's.

At both the 1960 and 1961 labour conferences Wilson was encouraged to stand against Gaitskell for the leadership, but on both occasions he refused. Through 1962 labour's position in opinion polls deteriorated, and winning the next election was seen as very unlikely. This prompted some to consider replacing Gaitskell with Wilson or Brown, and it was anticipated that Wilson would formally challenge Gaitskell at the labour party conference in October 1962.

Brown wilson gaitskell

Brown, Gaitskell and Wilson, the dominant Troika of the Gaitskell years

1963 Leadership Election

Main Article: Labour Party (UK) leadership election, 1963

On January 18th 1963 Gaitskell died after a short illness. Brown, as Deputy Leader of the Party and Deputy Prime Minister, succeded him as both Prime Minister and Acting leader of the Labour Party.

Wilson, along with James Callaghan and George Brown, was one of the likely candidates to suceed. As expected, within days all three announced their candidacies for the leadership. Brown was initially considered the frontrunner, benefitting from being acting leader, but his well known tendancy to drink excessivly, and his unpredictable political tactics led many on the right to warm much more to James Callaghan as a potential leader. Callaghan himself, who's real ambition was to be Foreign Secretary, was prepared to act as a spoiler for Brown, and allow Wilson to be elected with himself as his heir presumptive. Wilson came first on the first ballot, beating Brown into second place by 143 votes to 111, with Callaghan a surprisingly close third with 80 votes. Wilson and Brown would therefore go through to a runoff.

In the week between the first and second round Brown lost momentum considerably, including an embarrsing incident involving a bottle of whiskey and a gutter.

Prime Minister

Within an hour of the leadership result being announced Wilson had gone to see the queen, and officially became Prime Minister. Within hours he reshuffled the cabinet, promoting Callaghan to Chancellor, Frank Soskice to Home Secretary and moving George Brown to the newly established department of Economic Affairs.

First Government 1963 - 1964

Wilson had announced after his election as leader that he would seek to continue the majority of Gaitskell's policies until he had won a mandate from the people at an election.

Second Government 1964 - 1966

The 1964 election saw labour returned, but with a very slim majority of 4 seats. This made serving a full term unlikely, with pundits predicting an early election within a year.

Third Government 1966 - 1970

In the March 1966 election Wilson won a landslide majority, almost on the scale of 1945.

Following devaluation a minor reshuffle occurred, Callaghan moved from the Treasury to the Home Office, swapping with the incumbent Home Secretary Roy Jenkins.

Fourth Government 1970 - 1973

Labour won another landslide in 1970, winning a majority share of the popular vote - the last time this has occurred. Wilson's final term in office was dominated by industrial discontent and the application to join the EEC.


Harold Wilson leaves Downing Street for the last time, June 20th 1973

The Right to Buy policy for council houses, begun in 1971 was to be one of the defining projects of the final Wilson government, with the revenues from the sale reinvested in house building allowing Wilson to finally meet his 1964 manifesto pledge to build 500,000 houses a year in 1972.

Foreign Policies

Wilson built up a strong relationship with US President John F. Kennedy, much stronger than that of Gaitskell.

He also brought Britain into the EEC.


First Wilson Ministry 1963 - 1964

Prime Minister - Harold Wilson

Deputy Prime Minister - George Brown

Chancellor of the Exchequer - James Callaghan

Foreign Secretary - Patrick Gordon Walker

Home Secretary - Frank Soskice

Economic Affairs Secretary - George Brown

Education Secretary -

Defence Secretary - Denis Healey

Second Wilson Ministry 1964 - 1966

Prime Minister - Harold Wilson

Deputy Prime Minister - George Brown

Chancellor of the Exchequer - James Callaghan

Foreign Secretary - Michael Stewart

Home Secretary - Roy Jenkins

Defence Secretary - Denis Healey

Third Wilson Ministry 1966 - 1970

Prime Minister - Harold Wilson

Deputy Prime Minister - George Brown

Chancellor of the Exchequer - James Callaghan

Foreign Secretary - Michael Stewart

Home Secretary - Roy Jenkins

Defence Secretary - Denis Healey

Education Secretary - Tony Crosland

Economic Affairs Secretary - George Brown

Fourth Wilson Ministry 1970 - 1973

Prime Minister - Harold Wilson

Deputy Prime Minister - Barbara Castle

Chancellor of the Exchequer - Denis Healey

Foreign Secretary - Roy Jenkins

Home Secretary - James Callaghan

Defence Secretary - Fred Peart

Employment Secretary - Barbara Castle

Education Secretary - Ted Short

Welsh Secretary - Cledwyn Hughes

Leader of the House of Commons - Michael Stewart

Post Premiership

On June 20th 1973 Harold Wilson left downing street after 10 years 5 months in office.

He remained a backbench MP until the 1982 election.

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