Harold Wilson

21 Mar

Everyone it seems will be going a bit wild for Harold Wilson this year. 100 years just passed since his birth, 40 years will soon pass since his “mysterious’ resignation and the EU Referendum puts Wilsons 1975 affair on everyones list of things to quote.  Harold Wilson will always hold a special part in my affections. Growing up he seemed like a mythical creature, a Labour party leader who won elections, 4 of them no doubt. A leader who was funny ( not as funny or witty as I imagined when I later looked into it but compared to the 80s ), a Leader who walked away from it all and may or may not have been spied on by his own state. Wilson got me interested in politics, what it is,what it could be and how crushingly depressing it can be.

You have to realise that growing up in the 80s as someone with something resembling left wing tendencies, watching the spy catcher affair unfold, just made me want to understand who this Harold Wilson guy was. I have to say my initial readings probably came through the lens of Tony Benn who on balance would be classed as a lesser fan. And spy catcher ? I boiled that down to two possibilities. Firstly the secret state were bonkers or secondly Wilson was a danger. The two I admit some years later could have been possible at the same time. I also admit there are more questions than answers with the Wilson plot. Personally I see the secret state has having had the same sort of emotional tizzy that the right wing press has been having ever since. That they ran these “black ops’ against him because the more mundane truth was hardly frightening. I also struggled to understand why anyone would like HP sauce. Was this Harold or Harold the image? Some rumours suggest he didn’t really smoke a pipe as much as he portrayed, joe Haines suggests otherwise. He understood image before spin doctors.

When I finally read an objective book about Wilson I also found more questions than answers. What was his relationship with Marcia about ? Why did he resign when he did ? What was his mental deterioration really like ? Was he really a right wing boy scout trapped in a slightly leftish political party. By this time I had left the political spectrum somewhat and found Wilson still as fascinating as ever. Pimlots biography(it was this I bought at University and read straight through in a cold January in Birmingham)  points to plots and semi scandals, mishandling and more poignantly missed chances. The failure to make Labour the party of Government. Was Wilson to blame ? Hardly. For all the professed advantages of any other rival they were all stuck in a factional war that led to the SDP.

I am sad enough to own a copy of “Final Term” an awful book but one I never fear from looking at. Unlike Gordon Browns “Beyond the Crash”- a fearful book which is awful to look at. A book with 13 appendices.The first lists the Governments achievements in the 74-78 term, its quite impressive when you read through. Theres no grand theme and certainly no revolution, but basic stuff that made peoples lives just a bit easier. Thats quite an epitaph.



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