Wilson, Harold

James Harold Wilson

b. 11 Mar 1916, Cowlersley, Huddersfield, Yorkshire
d. 24 May 1995, London [1]

Title: Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury [2]
Term: 16 Oct 1964 - 19 Jun 1970
Chronology: 16 Oct 1964, invited to form an Administration and accepted the offer to hold the post of Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury, audience of the Queen, Buckingham Palace, London [3][4]
17 Oct 1964, took the oath of office as First Lord of the Treasury before the Queen in Council, Buckingham Palace, London [5]
19 Jun 1970, tendered resignation as Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury (accepted), audience of the Queen, Buckingham Palace, London [6]
Term: 4 Mar 1974 - 5 Apr 1976
Chronology: 4 Mar 1974, invited to form an Administration and accepted the offer to hold the post of Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury, audience of the Queen, Buckingham Palace [7][8]
5 Mar 1974, took the oath of office as First Lord of the Treasury before the Queen in Council, Buckingham Palace, London [9]
5 Apr 1976, tendered resignation as Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury (accepted), audience of the Queen, Buckingham Palace, London [10]
Names/titles: Sir James Harold Wilson (from 23 Apr 1976, Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter) [11]; Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, of Kirklees in the County of West Yorkshire (from 16 Sep 1983, life peerage) [12]
Biography:

Son of an industrial chemist; attended Royds Hall Secondary School, Huddersfield, and Wirral Grammar School for Boys, Bebington; studied modern history, philosophy, politics and economics at Jesus College, Oxford (1934-1937), graduating with a bachelor's degree (First Class); pursued an academic and teaching career at Oxford (1937-1939); volunteered for military service during World War II, but was instead moved into the Civil Service; worked as statistician and economist for the coal industry; served as Director of Economics and Statistics, Ministry of Fuel and Power (1943-1944); was elected Labour Member of Parliament in 1945 (MP for Ormskirk, 1945-1950, MP for Huyton 1950-1983); was approved as Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Works (4 Aug 1945 - 5 Mar 1947) in the government of Clement Attlee; briefly held the office of Parliamentary Secretary, Board of Trade (Secretary for Overseas Trade) (5 Mar 1947 - 7 Oct 1947); sworn in as a member of the U.K. Privy Council (14 Oct 1947); was appointed President of the Board of Trade (14 Oct 1947 - 28 Apr 1951); was a member of the Shadow Cabinet in opposition; elected Leader of the Labour Party (14 Feb 1963 - 5 Apr 1976) having defeated George Brown; with the victory of the Labour Party in the General Election (15 Oct 1964: Labour 317, Conservative and associates 304, Liberal 9), he was appointed Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury (16 Oct 1964 - 19 Jun 1970); sought to introduce a scientific and technological revolution in the country; promoted greater cooperation between the Labour Party and the trade unions; the General Election in 1966 (31 Mar 1966: Labour 363, Conservatives and associates 253, Liberal 12, others 2) resulted in a greatly increased parliamentary majority for the Labour Party; despite harsh economic sanctions, he failed to resolve the conflict caused by the proclamation of independence of Rhodesia (1965); secured all-party support for sending British troops to Northern Ireland (Downing Street Declaration, 19 Aug 1969); resigned after the victory of the Conservative Party in the 1970 General Election; was official Leader of the Opposition from 1970 to 1974; returned to power after the 1974 General Election (28 Feb 1974: Labour 301, Conservative 296, Liberal 14, Ulster Unionist 7, Scottish National Party 7, others 10) resulted in a lack of parliamentary majority; was appointed Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury (4 Mar 1974 - 5 Apr 1976); after the second General Election of the year (10 Oct 1974: Labour 319, Conservative 276, Liberal 13, Scottish National Party 11, Ulster Unionists 10, Plaid Cymru 3, others 3), he was able to form a government with a narrow overall majority in Parliament; held a referendum (5 Jun 1975) which confirmed U.K. membership of the European Communities; unsuccessfully tried to mediate between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots following the invasion of Cyprus by Turkey; on 16 Mar 1976 made the unexpected announcement on his upcoming resignation, citing among other reasons the need to give his successor time to develop fresh policies for the next election. Biography source: [13]


[1] The Times, No. 65,276 Thursday May 25 1995, p. 1.
[2] In accordance with The Minister for the Civil Service Order 1968 (SI 1968/1656), the Prime Minister is also Minister for the Civil Service (effective 1 Nov 1968).
[3] The Times, No. 56,145, Late London Edition, Saturday October 17 1964, p. 10: "Court Circular - BUCKINGHAM PALACE, Oct. 16 <...> The Queen subsequently received in audience the Right Hon. Harold Wilson and requested him to form a new Administration. The Right Hon. Harold Wilson accepted Her Majesty's offer and kissed hands upon his appointment as Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury."
[4] Appointment as Lord Commissioner of the Treasury by Letters Patent under the Great Seal dated 17 Oct 1964, announced by the Crown Office 17 Oct 1964, and gazetted 23 Oct 1964 (The London Gazette, No. 43470, Friday, 23rd October 1964, p. 9013).
[5] The Times, No. 56,146, Royal Edition, Monday October 19 1964, p. 14: "Court Circular - BUCKINGHAM PALACE, Oct. 17 <...> Her Majesty held a Council at 4.30 o'clock this afternoon. <...> The Right Hon. Harold Wilson was sworn First Lord of the Treasury."
[6] The Times, No. 57,897, Saturday June 20 1970, p. 12: "Court Circular WINDSOR CASTLE, June 19 <...> The Right Hon. Harold Wilson had an audience of Her Majesty this evening at Buckingham Palace and tendered his resignation as Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury, which The Queen was graciously pleased to accept."
[7] The Times, No. 59,030, Tuesday March 5 1974, p. 16: "Court Circular BUCKINGHAM PALACE March 4: <...> The Queen subsequently received in audience the Right Hon Harold Wilson and requested him to form a new Administration. The Right Hon Harold Wilson accepted Her Majesty's offer and kissed hands upon his appointment as Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury."
[8] Appointment as Lord Commissioner of the Treasury by Letters Patent under the Great Seal dated 5 Mar 1974, announced by the Crown Office 5 Mar 1974, and gazetted 8 Mar 1974 (The London Gazette, No. 46230, Friday, 8th March 1974, p. 3091).
[9] The Times, No. 59,031, Wednesday March 6 1974, p. 14: "Court Circular BUCKINGHAM PALACE March 5: <...> The Queen held a Council at 4 o'clock this afternoon. <...> The Right Hon Harold Wilson was sworn First Lord of the Treasury."
[10] The Times, No. 59,672, Tuesday April 6 1976, p. 18: "Court Circular WINDSOR CASTLE April 5: The Right Hon Harold Wilson, MP had an audience of The Queen at Buckingham Palace this evening and tendered his resignation as Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury which Her Majesty was graciously pleased to accept."
[11] The London Gazette, No. 46885, Tuesday, 27th April 1976, p. 6047.
[12] The London Gazette, No. 49485, Wednesday, 21st September 1983, p. 12361.
[13] "Wilson: The Authorised Life of Lord Wilson of Rievaulx", by Philip Ziegler (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1993).
Image: contemporary photograph.
Last updated on: 26 Jun 2009 04:22:13