Harold Wilson, Huddersfield’s Famous Son

Harold Wilson in Documentary & Newsreel YouTube clips

Harold Wilson became an Oxford don at the age of 21, was appointed as Parliamentary Secretary by Clement Attlee as soon as he entered Parliament, served as the youngest member of a British Cabinet in the 20th century, and is best remembered for his years as British Prime Minister 1963-1970 and 1974-76.

Not surprisingly, many documentary, newsreel, and TV broadcast clips found on YouTube record his journey through political life.

Politics In The Wilson Blood

Harold Wilson was born on 11th March 1916. He was born in the family home at Warneford Road, Huddersfield, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England.

James Herbert Wilson (1882–1971), Harold’s father, was an industrial chemist with a great interest in politics. He not only supported the Liberal Party, but was an active member and was the deputy election agent for Winston Churchill in 1908.

Ethel (née Seddon) Wilson (1882–1957), Harold’s mother, was a school teacher. When she married, she gave up her profession, in accordance with the normalities of the day.

Harold Sneddon, Harold’s uncle, moved to Western Australia in 1901. He became a leader in local politics.

In 1924, when Harold was 8 years old, a trip to London included a visit to the doorstep of Number 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the Prime Minister. A photograph records this event.

Two years later, the Wilsons took a family trip to Australia. He was fascinated by his uncle’s life in politics. “I am going to be Prime Minister” he reportedly told his mother on the way home.

Where did Harold Wilson go to school?

Harold initially attended the Royds Hall Grammar School in Huddersfield, having won a scholarship. In December 1930 his father suddenly became unemployed during a global economic downturn. It took two years and relocation of the family to Spital in Cheshire to secure work, meaning Harold moved to Sixth Form at the Wirral Grammar School for Boys.

He clearly thrived in his new school, becoming Head Boy and winning a place at Jesus College, Oxford to read Modern History. He took up his university place in 1934 with the assistance of a county grant, and graduated with a first class degree and series of academic awards.

The Young Oxford Don (1937-1939)

In 1937, Harold Wilson was just 21 years old when he became a lecturer in Economic History at New College and a research fellow at University College, making him one of the youngest Oxford dons of the century. 

On New Year’s Day 1940, in the chapel of Mansfield College, Oxford, Harold Wilson  married Mary Baldwin. They went on to have two sons, Robin and Giles, and the family features in many of the films and newsreels made during Harold’s political life.

War In The Civil Service (1939-1945)

Although Wilson volunteered for military service early in the Second World War, he was appointed to the civil service. He worked as a research assistant, statistician and economist on trade and coal matters, before becoming Director of Economics and Statistics at the Ministry of Fuel and Power in 1943–44 for which he received an OBE.

He became a Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society in 1943.

Wilson Becomes MP For Ormskirk (1945)

In 1945, the MP for Ormskirk moved allegiance from National Labour to Independent. Labour selected Wilson as candidate for the seat in the upcoming General Election. The law required he left the civil service, so he performed academic duties before winning the seat during the landslide victory which swept Labour and Clement Attlee to power.

Immediately, Clement Attlee appointed him Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works, despite his lack of Parliamentary experience. But he rose to the challenge, and two years later Wilson became Secretary for Overseas Trade. Duties included official trips to the Soviet Union to negotiate supply contracts.

Wilson Becomes Youngest Cabinet Minister (1947)

On 29 September 1947, 31 year old Harold Wilson was appointed President of the Board of Trade. He was the youngest member of a British Cabinet in the 20th century. With World War II having ended two years previously, he was keen to abolish some of the wartime rationing schemes.

Wilson was also the driving force behind the Statistics of Trade Act 1947.

Videos of Wilson 1947-1949

⏯ Watch: Wilson At Home In Richmond (1947)

Harold Wilson Interview On Fabric Rationing (1947)

This British Pathé footage which was unissued or unused, shows an interview with Harold Wilson. 

At the age of 31 he was already the President of the Board of Trade, and was Britain’s youngest cabinet minister since 1782. 

British Pathé: Harold Wilson (1947)

Questions include his opinion of the long skirts promoted in the New Look fashion movement, at a time when Britain was still subject to fabric rationing.

His wife and young son also appear.

Harold Wilson Speaks On Clothing (1948)

This unissued or unused material from British Pathé records Harold Wilson, President of the Board of Trade, speaking on clothing rationing in the post-war Britain of 1948.

British Pathé: Harold Wilson Speaks On Clothing (1948)

He’s shown on the roof of the Board of Trade building in London, taking up position for the interview, and walking shots.

Clothing ration changes were being made, reducing the points required for a number of items.

Harold Wilson Ends Clothing Coupons (1949)

When British Pathé recorded this announcement by Harold Wilson in London in 1949, he was President of the Board of Trade.

Clothes rationing had been in place for 8 years, and the scheme was now being ended. 

British Pathé: Harold Wilson Ends Clothing Coupons (1949)

Wilson On The End Of Clothes Rationing (1949)

The British Pathé archive team think these could be Selected Originals from late 1940s material.

President of the Board of Trade, Harold Wilson, resplendent with moustache and pipe, announces the scrapping of clothes rationing.

Uploaded to YouTube on 13 Apr 2014 by British Pathé: Harold Wilson (1949).

Wilson Becomes MP For Huyton (1950)

Although Wilson was only narrowly elected to the Huyton seat in 1950, he served the constituency near Liverpool until 1983. 

Resignation (1951)

In 1951, the government looked for ways to fund the Korean War, and introduced the first patient charges – for spectacles and dental care – in the recently created National Health Service (NHS). Aneurin Bevan, John Freeman and Harold Wilson, all part of a left leaning group within the Labour Party, resigned from the government in protest.

⏯ Watch: Bevan & Wilson Resign Over NHS Charges (1951)

Opposition & Shadow Cabinet (1952-63)

The following year, Winston Churchill and the Conservatives were back in power. Eventually Wilson found himself in the Shadow Cabinet, first to replace Bevan and then in 1955 as Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer under Hugh Gaitskell.

Between 1959 and 1963, he was Chairman of the House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee. 

In July 1960s, Nye Bevan died, and Wilson positioned himself as a replacement leader for the left leaning side of the Labour party. He unsuccessfully challenged Gaitskell’s leadership in November 1960; moved to Shadow Foreign Secretary in 1961; then lost his challenge for the deputy leadership to George Brown in 1962.

Videos of Wilson 1963

⏯ Watch: Harold Wilson Meets Khrushchev In Moscow (1963)

⏯ Watch: Douglas-Home & Wilson: On Kennedy (1963)

Leader of the Opposition (1963-64)

In January 1963, Gaitskell died, and Wilson won his bid for the leadership against George Brown and James Callaghan.

“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”.

Harold Wilson, Labour Party Annual Conference 1963

Wilson Reaction To Hugh Gaitskell’s Death (1963)

Harold Wilson leaves a plane, then attends a Press Conference.

He talks about the death of Hugh Gaitskell.

WILSON REACTION – SOUND: Uploaded to YouTube on 21 Jul 2015 by British Movietone

Hugh Todd Naylor Gaitskell CBE was born on 9 April 1906, and died on 18 January 1963.

He served as Leader of the Labour Party from 1955 until his death in 1963.

Leader of the Opposition – Interview (1964)

Watch the British Leader of the Opposition Harold Wilson being interviewed on 1 March 1964.

Uploaded to YouTube on 24 July 2015 by AP Archive: CAN134 HAROLD WILSON INTERVIEW

Interview With Leader Of The Opposition (1964)

 CAN134 HAROLD WILSON INTERVIEW: Uploaded to YouTube on 24 July 2015 by AP Archive.

An interview with Leader of the Opposition, Harold Wilson, on 1 Mar 1964.

Prime Minister (1964)

The ministerial sex scandal of the Profuma affair severely damaged the Conservatives in the 1964 General Election, but even so Labour only won by a majority of four seats!

Harold Wilson, at the age of 48, was now the youngest British Prime Minister for 70 years.

Videos of Wilson 1964 & 1965

Harold Wilson Becomes Prime Minister (1964)

Whatever the circumstances surrounding the appointment of a British Prime Minister, it requires a formal meeting with the reigning monarch.

So on 16 October 1964, the day after the Labour Party won the General Election, Harold Wilson and his wife, Mrs Mary Wilson, met Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in London.

Posted to YouTube on 13 April 2014 by British Pathé: Harold Wilson Goes To Palace (1964)

.

The cameras were not allowed inside the palace, so the press had to make do with filming the arrival and departure of Mr & Mrs Wilson.

Crowds of people also appear, having come to watch this event.

Wilson: The New British Prime Minister (1964)

This British Pathé film (from about 26 October 1964) shows the new British Prime Minister Harold Wilson seated at his desk in London.

British Pathé: Harold Wilson In Office (1964)

.

Busy working with books and answering the phone, Mr Wilson still finds time to smoke his pipe.

Reaction: Wilson’s Plan To Boost Economy (1964)

This is a newsreel from 26 Oct 1964.

It shows Labour Party members, and also footage in shops, reacting to Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s plan to boost the UK economy.

CAN 414 PRIME MINISTER HAROLD WILSON ANNOUNCES PLANS TO BOOST UK ECONOMY: Uploaded to YouTube on 10 Feb 2019 by AP Archive

.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer James Callaghan, Cabinet Minister George Brown, Frank Cousins Chairman of the Transport and General Workers’ Committee and  Ray Gunter Chair of the National Labour Party Executive Committee also appear.

⏯ Watch: Wilson: Lancaster University Honorary Degree (1964)

⏯ Watch: Johnson Welcomes Wilson At White House (1964)

⏯ Watch: Wilson Family Christmas On Scilly Isles (1964)

⏯ Watch: Wilson Meets Khrushchev In Moscow (1964)

Wilson Presents Awards To The Beatles (1964)

On the 19th March 1964, Harold Wilson presented awards to members of the pop group, The Beatles.

Beatles are Presented Awards from Harold Wilson – 3/19/64: Uploaded to YouTube on 25 February 2017 by The Beatles and provided to YouTube by The Orchard Enterprises

.

This is an audio record of the event.

Wilson: Compilation Of Events (1948 – 1964)

This film brings together footage from a number of key events in Harold Wilson’s life, from the 1948 end of clothes rationing, to his 1964 official visit to the United States of America.

Uploaded to YouTube on 21 Jul 2015 by British Movietone: COMPILATION ON MR. HAROLD WILSON – LEADER OF THE LABOUR PARTY – SOUND

.

1948: Harold Wilson, as President of the Board of Trade, signs the Anglo-American Films agreement with Eric Johnston, who was President of America’s Motion Picture Association.

1949: Harold Wilson, as President of the Board of Trade, announces the end of the clothes Rationing.

1949: Harold Wilson, as one of three young ministers convened to advise Prime Minister Attlee on financial matters, attends the London Conference of Commonwealth Finance Ministers. Includes a discussion about the ‘Dollar Gap’ with Mr. Abbott of Canada in the garden of NO. 10. Downing Street.

1951:  To meet the financial demands imposed by the Korean War, National Health Service (NHS) medical charges are to be introduced. Mr. Aneurin Bevan, then Minister of Health, resigns, along with Major John Freeman MP, and Harold Wilson.

1962: The Labour Party Conference at Brighton includes Hugh Gaitskell, whose death in January 1963 was to bring the name of Harold Wilson into the headlines as a possible Labour Leader, and the Deputy Leader, Mr. George Brown, contender for the leadership.

1963: Harold Wilson is elected Leader of the Labour Party which also makes him Leader of the Opposition. Here he gives a speech.

1964: Harold Wilson visited the U.S.

Harold Wilson And Family At No. 10 (1965)

This Unissued and unused material from British Pathé was recorded at 10 Downing Street, London, on 26th March 1965.

British Pathé: Harold Wilson And Family Pose For Press At No. 10 AKA Harold Wilson + Family (1965)

.

The British Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, poses for photographers with his wife Mary, two sons and his cat. 

⏯ Watch: The Wilson Family On The Scilly Isles (1965)

⏯ Watch: Heath And Wilson’s Very Different Holidays (1965)

Commonwealth Meeting In London (1965)

In 1965, London hosted a Conference of the Commonwealth nations, to discuss the Vietnam War.

Commonwealth In Conference (1965): Uploaded to YouTube on 13 Apr 2014 by British Pathé.

This footage opens at the Houses of Parliament, with flags flying.

Then we see Marlborough House on Pall Mall in London, which is the international headquarters of the Commonwealth Secretariat and Commonwealth Foundation.

The following dignitaries are seen arriving, in the conference room, or in the garden:

Harold Wilson, the British Prime Minister;

Spyros Achilleos Kyprianou (born 28 October 1932, died 12 March 2002), served as the second President of Cyprus from 1977 to 1988;

Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj ibni Almarhum Sultan Abdul Hamid Halim Shah, DMN, DK, DUK, AC, CH (born 8 February 1903 died 6 December 1990), chief minister of the Federation of Malaya, the first prime minister of an independent Malaya and the prime minister of Malaysia;

Lal Bahadur Shastri (born 2 October 1904, died – possibly murdered – in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on 11 January 1966), prime minister of India (1964–66)

Joseph Zuzarte Murumbi (born 18 June 1911, died 22 June 1990), Kenya’s second Vice President in 1966;

Giorgio Borg Olivier, GCPO KSS, (born 5 July 1911, died 29 October 1980), twice served as Prime Minister of Malta (1950–55 and 1962–71);

Mr. Bottomley (Mr Arthur Bottomley, British politician, born February 7, 1907, died November 3, 1995)?;

Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, KT, AK, CH, QC, FAA, FRS (born 20 December 1894, died 15 May 1978), twice served as Prime Minister of Australia (1939 to 1941 and again from 1949 to 1966);

Sir Albert Michael Margai (born 10 October 1910, died 18 December 1980), was the second prime minister of Sierra Leone;

Muhammad Ayub Khan (born 14 May 1907, died 19 April 1974), Pakistani army general and the second President of Pakistan;

Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, KBE PC,  (born December 1912, died 15 January 1966), the first Prime Minister of Nigeria;

Julius Kambarage Nyerere (born 13 April 1922, died 14 October 1999), the first prime minister of independent Tanganyika (1961) and later became the first president of the new state of Tanzania;

Kenneth David Kaunda (born 28 April 1924), served as the first President of Zambia from 1964 to 1991;

Holyoake (?);

The Hon. Eric Eustace Williams TC CH, (born 25 September 1911, died 29 March 1981), the first Prime Minister of the twin-island republic of Trinidad and Tobago;

Kwame Nkrumah PC, (born 21 September 1909, died 27 April 1972), the first Prime Minister and President of Ghana;

Apollo Milton Obote, (born 28 December 1925, died 10 October 2005), led Uganda to independence from Britain in 1962;

Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, (born 15 February 1898, died 25 November 1997), Prime Minister and later President of Malawi from 1964–1994;

Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara GCMG, (born 16 May 1924, died 27 August 2019), Prime Minister of the Gambia from 1962 to 1970, then the first President of the Gambia;

Lester Bowles Pearson PC OM CC OBE, (born 23 April 1897, died 27 December 1972), Prime Minister of Canada from 1963 to 1968;

Sir Donald Burns Sangster ON GCVO, (born 26 October 1911, died 1 April 1967), second Prime Minister of Jamaica;

Ministers wives and some pressmen also appear.

Wilson: Ian Smith At 10 Downing Street (1965)

On 7 October 1965, Ian Smith, Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia, was officially received at 10 Downing Street by British Prime Minister Harold Wilson. He was in London for talks about the future of Rhodesia.

Wilson And Ian Smith At No 10 (1965); Uploaded to YouTube on 13 April 2014 by British Pathé

Ian Smith arrived in a Rolls Royce, while a crowd waved. Mr Wilson greets him at the front door of Number 10. 

But there are also demonstrators holding ‘UDI is Treason’ and ‘Majority Vote in Rhodesia’ placards.

Coming out from number 10, Ian Smith is accompanied by Arthur Bottomley, the British Commonwealth Secretary, and the press want interviews.

Wilson Back In London: Rhodesian Situation (1965)

This is unissued and unused material of Harold Wilson returning to London Airport after a meeting with the Queen to discuss the Rhodesian situation. It was filmed on or around the 15th October 1965.

Harold Wilson Back In London (1965): Uploaded to YouTube on 13 Apr 2014 by British Pathé

He arrives in a Royal Air Force (RAF) Transport Command Comet, and climbs into the back seat of the official car, where he smokes his pipe.

⏯ Watch: Wilson Meets Kenyatta In Kenya (1965)

⏯ Watch: Wilson With De Gaulle & Pompidou In Paris (1965)

⏯ Watch: Harold Wilson Visits Berlin Wall (1965)

⏯ Watch: Harold Wilson’s State Visit To Rhodesia (1965)

Increased Majority As Prime Minister (1966)

Edward Heath became leader of the Conservative Party in 1965, the same year as Labour’s majority reduced to just one single seat. So when Wilson called a General Election in March 1966, it was a gamble. However, the Labour majority increased significantly to 96 seats.

Videos of Wilson 1966

⏯ Watch: First Chancellor Of Bradford University (1966)

⏯ Watch: Fans Mob Wilson: Keep Cavern Club Open (1966)

Dr Ludwig Erhard Visits Wilson At No 10 (1966)

This is unissued and unused British Pathé material from No 10 Downing Street, London, probably on or around 30th May 1966.

The West German Chancellor Dr Ludwig Erhard and Prime Minister Harold Wilson are joined by Foreign Ministers Michael Stewart and Gerhard Schroeder in the drawing room at Number 10 Downing Street.

 Erhard Visits Wilson (1966): Uploaded to YouTube on 13 April 2014 by British Pathé

.

A policeman stands outside the famous door of No. 10.

The door starts to open, and there’s a small crowd on the pavement opposite No 10.

The Federal German flag is seen on one of the cars.

⏯ Watch: Wilson Visits The White House (1966)

⏯ Watch: TUC Conference In Blackpool (1966)

⏯ Watch: Wilson In Moscow (1966)

⏯ Watch: Wilson Meets Soviet Leaders (1966)

⏯ Watch: Moscow Visit During Sterling Crisis (1966)


⏯ Watch: Harold Wilson Visits Aberfan (1966)


⏯ Watch: Meeting President Jomo Kenyatta In Kenya (1966)


⏯ Watch: Harold Wilson: Rhodesia ‘Situation’ (1966)


⏯ Watch: Wilson In South Africa (1966)


⏯ Watch: Rhodesian John Jordan In London (1967)


⏯ Watch: Common Market Meeting In Rome (1967)


⏯ Watch: Common Market Talks In France (1967)


⏯ Watch: Harold Wilson Visits De Gaulle In France (1967)


⏯ Watch: EEC Talks In The Netherlands (1967)


⏯ Watch: Common Market Talks In Bonn (1967)


⏯ Watch: Wilson’s Vietnam Negotiations with USSR (1967)
⏯ Watch: The State Opening Of Parliament (1960s)
⏯ Watch: Prime Minister Harold Wilson In Moscow (1968)
⏯ Watch: Harold Wilson In Moscow Talks (1968)
⏯ Watch: Wilson Attends Marriage Of His Son Robin (1968)
⏯ Watch: President Nixon Visits England (1969)
⏯ Watch: Niger President Diori In London (1969)
⏯ Watch: Wilson Meets Erlander In Stockholm (1969)
⏯ Watch: Wilson And Heath Walk Up Steps (1969)
⏯ Watch: Israeli Leader Meir At 10 Downing Street (1969)
⏯ Watch: Harold Wilson Arrives In Canada (1970)

Wilson’s Conference Speech (1969)

SYND 30 9 69 WILSON CONFERENCE SPEECH: Uploaded to YouTube on 21 Jul 2015 by AP Archive

.

In a speech made on 30 Sep 1969, the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, attacked the Conservative opposition party, in particular their “Phoney aunt sally” tactics.

Return To Opposition (1970-1974)

Signs of improvement in the economy and poll predictions suggesting a strong 12% lead for Labour made the outcome of the 1970 General Election surprising, when Ted Heath and the Conservatives won power. Furthermore, the election saw Labour’s vote share fall to its lowest since 1935, and several prominent Labour figures lost their seats, including the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, George Brown.

Wilson was president of the Royal Statistical Society in 1972–73.

In 1973, Harold Wilson fell into the sea as he tried to board a motorboat from a dinghy during a holiday on the Isles of Scilly. Unable to get into the boat and affected by the cold water, he was apparently in great peril. Luckily, passers-by came to his rescue.

Wilson Videos 1970 – 1973

⏯ Watch: Harold Wilson Starts Election Campaign (1970)
⏯ Watch: Election Campaign Interview With Dimbleby (1970)
⏯ Watch: Wilson Election Campaigning In Merseyside (1970)
⏯ Watch: Royal Farewell Dinner At 10 Downing Street (1970)
⏯ Watch: Harold Wilson: Number 10 Downing Street (1970)
⏯ Watch: Protest At Bradford University (1971)

⏯ Watch: Notre Dame Service For Charles De Gaulle (1970)

Harold Wilson Interviewed at a Pipe Exhibition in 1971

This is unissued and unused footage of the Leader of the Opposition, Harold Wilson, attending the first ever Pipe Exhibition in London.

Uploaded to YouTube on 13 Apr 2014 by British Pathé: Harold Wilson At Pipe Exhibition (1970-1974)

⏯ Watch: Wilson’s Speech On Rhodesia Stance (1972)
⏯ Watch: Wilson’s Labour Party Conference Speech (1972)
⏯ Watch: Manny Shinwell: Pipeman Of The Year (1972)
⏯ Watch: Wilson Speaks About Belfast Bombs (1972)
⏯ Watch: Wilson On Ulster And Gun Licences (1972)
⏯ Watch: Wilson On The Northern Ireland Situation (1972)
⏯ Watch: Wilson Talks About Beating The Crisis (1973)

Turmoil For Ted Heath (1970-1974)

Like many other western countries, Britain struggled with the economic conditions of the 1970s. 

The 1944 Bretton Woods Agreement – whereby countries promised that their central banks would maintain fixed exchange rates between their currencies and the dollar, replacing the gold standard with the U.S. dollar as the global currency – came to an end, following President Nixon’s announcement of his New Economic Policy (“Nixon shock”) on August 15, 1971.

Then the  oil crisis began in October 1973. Members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries proclaimed an oil embargo, targeted at nations perceived as supporting Israel during the Yom Kippur War. In Britain, this led to a shortage of power for vehicles, homes and workplaces, and inflation quickly became a problem.

Combined with a confrontation with the coal miners, Britain had to ration electricity, and imposed the Three-Day Week at midnight on 31 December 1973. Hospitals, supermarkets and newspaper printing presses and other essential services were exempt, but everyone else was plunged into darkness after their allotted hours. Even television companies ceased broadcasting at 10.30 pm. The Three-Day Week restrictions ended on 7 March 1974, the same month the oil crisis ceased.

Snap Election 1974

In the meantime, on 28 February 1974, Ted Heath called a snap election. 

With modern British homes and workplaces denied access to electricity for more than half the week for more than two months, the Conservatives somewhat surprisingly won more votes than any other party. 

But because of the distribution of those votes, they won fewer seats than Labour and became a hung Parliament. Ted Heath was unable to persuade the Liberals to form a coalition.

Wilson 1974 Election Videos

⏯ Watch: Wilson Speech On Looming Election (1974)
⏯ Watch: Wilson & Heath Electioneering In Wales (1974)
⏯ Watch: Heath & Wilson Election Campaigning (1974)
⏯ Watch: Harold Wilson Interview: Common Market (1974)
⏯ Watch: Opposition Leader Wilson On Price Rises (1974)
⏯ Watch: Heath And Wilson Vote In General Election (1974)
⏯ Watch: Wilson Back – Averting Hung Parliament (1974)
⏯ Watch: Wilson’s Cabinet Leaves Meeting (1974)
⏯ Watch: Wilson Visits Northern Ireland (1974)
⏯ Watch: Wilson’s Election Campaign Speech (1974)

Harold Wilson: Banking Profits Interview (1974)

In this ThamesTv interview first broadcast on 20 February 1974, Llew Gardener asks Harold Wilson about high banking profits. They seemed unacceptable during a time of national hardship.

Harold Wilson – Labour – Thames Television

Prime Minister Again (1974-1976)

It was into this tumultuous period that Harold Wilson returned to number 10 Downing Street as Prime Minister of a minority Labour Government on 4 March 1974. 

Another General Election on 10 October 1974 saw him remain at the helm with a three seat majority.

Wilson Videos Post Election 1974

⏯ Watch: Portuguese Leader Soares Meets Wilson (1974)
⏯ Watch: Dr Henry Kissinger At No 10 Downing Street (1974)
⏯ Watch: Wilson And Callaghan In Paris For Talks (1974)
⏯ Watch: Wilson Addresses TUC (1974)
⏯ Watch: PM Harold Wilson Visits Leith, Edinburgh (1974)
⏯ Watch: Harold Wilson Arrives At 10 Downing Street (1974)
⏯ Watch: Harold Wilson’s Address To The Nation (1974)
⏯ Watch: Wilson Meets D’Estaing In Paris (1974)
⏯ Watch: Wilson Speaks About UK Joining The EEC (1974)

EC/EEC Referendum (1975)

In its February 1974 manifesto, Labour pledged to renegotiate the terms of British accession to the European Community (EC), and to hold a Referendum on whether Britain should stay in on the new terms.

The United Kingdom European Communities membership referendum was also known variously as the Referendum on the European Community (Common Market), the Common Market referendum, and the EEC membership referendum.

The referendum, held on 5th June 1975, resulted in a near two-to-one majority in favour of Britain remaining in the EC/EEC.

Wilson Videos 1975

⏯ Watch: Wilson With Gerald Ford At The White House (1975)
⏯ Watch: Wilson Meets Brezhnev in Moscow (1975)
⏯ Watch: Wilson Speaks On Soviet TV During Trip (1975)
⏯ Watch: Wilson Speech About May General Election (1975)
⏯ Watch: Doomed Britain: Wilson Press Conference (1975)
⏯ Watch: Wilson Interview On State Of The UK (1975)
⏯ Watch: Wilson Interview About EEC (1975)
⏯ Watch: EEC Referendum (1975)
⏯ Watch: Wilson’s Speech About Inflation (1975)
⏯ Watch: Wilson On Measures To Combat Inflation (1975)
⏯ Watch: Wilson Speaks On Anti-Inflation Plans On TV (1975)
⏯ Watch: EEC Summit: North Sea Oil (1975)

Why did Harold Wilson resign in 1976?

On 16 March 1976, Harold Wilson announced his resignation as Prime Minister. He left 10 Downing Street on 5 April 1976).

Why did Wilson resign in 1976? He claimed physical and mental exhaustion, and a longstanding plan to retire at 60. To cope with the stress, he’d started drinking brandy during the day. Wilson also suffered symptoms which were later diagnosed as colon cancer, and possibly recognised the first stages of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. 

Wilson’s Resignation In 1976 Videos


⏯ Watch: Wilson Hosts Monarch For Farewell Dinner (1976)
⏯ Watch: Wilson Moves Out Of 10 Downing Street (1976)
⏯ Watch: Iconic Images of Prime Minister Harold Wilson

After 31 years in parliament, with thirteen of them as Leader of the Labour Party, and eight as Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Harold Wilson resigns.

Posted to YouTube on 21 Jul 2015 by British Movietone: WILSON RESIGNS – COLOUR

Surprisingly jolly and upbeat music!

Wilson Resigns – 1976

Wilson Resigns – 1976 | Movietone Moments | 16 Mar 18: Uploaded to YouTube on 16 Mar 2018 by British Movietone

In 1976, the British Prime Minister Harold Wilson suddenly resigned.  Here is Movietone’s report on the event.  

After thirteen years as Leader of the Labour Party, eight of them as Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Harold Wilson resigns. He appears in Downing Street, and then at a press conference. 

Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s Shock Resignation (1976)

Uploaded to YouTube on 23 Jul 2015 by AP Archive: SYND 16 3 76 WILSON PRESS CONFERENCE RESIGNATION

British Prime Minister Harold Wilson suddenly resigned on 16 Mar 1976.  The surprise announcement shocked even members of his own Labour Party

Mr Wilson said that he felt it was time someone else had a chance to govern Britain.

Who was the prime minister after Wilson?

Harold Wilson resigned as Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party in 1976 and was replaced by James Callaghan, who defeated five other candidates. Callaghan became the only Prime Minister to have held all three leading Cabinet positions—Chancellor of the Exchequer, Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary—prior to becoming Prime Minister.

Friday Night, Saturday Morning (1976)

In addition to hosting a pilot episode of an interview/chat show programmes, Wilson hosted two editions of the BBC chat show Friday Night, Saturday Morning. Unfortunately, he didn’t show aptitude as a presenter.

However, he made two comedic appearances on the Morecambe and Wise Show, at Christmas 1978 and again in 1980. Also, in 1968 he played himself as Prime Minister in an Anglia Television drama, Inside Story.

Wilson Hosts Friday Night, Saturday Morning (1979)

Saturday 16 February 2013 was the 50th anniversary of Wilson’s election as Leader of the Labour Party. BBC Parliament devoted its Saturday evening to a series of programmes about Harold Wilson.

This part contains half of Wilson’s brief career as a chat show host. 

Harold Wilson Night part 4: Uploaded to YouTube on 29 May 2017 by David Boothroyd

In October 1979 Wilson was invited to host two editions of ‘Friday Night, Saturday Morning’. The series was broadcast live from the Greenwood Theatre, a part of Guy’s Hospital

Transmitted on 12 and 19 October, Wilson’s sympathetic biographer Ben Pimlott notes “he was not judged a success”. This is the second of the programmes. 

Wilson’s guests are Robin Day, Winston Spencer-Churchill (born 10 October 1940, died 2 March 2010, journalist turned Conservative politician and grandson of the famous Prime Minister), Mike Yarwood, and his wife Mary Wilson.

Backbenches In Parliament (1976 – 1983)

Wilson could have received the peerage customarily offered to retired Prime Ministers, and moved immediately to the House of Lords. But he wished to continue his work as an MP, so he received a Knight of the Garter and continued to represent his constituency in the House of Commons until 1983.

⏯ Watch: Zambian President: Wilson On Rhodesia (1978)

Harold Wilson In The House Of Lords (1983)

The constituency of Huyton was dissolved under 1983 boundary changes, so Wilson lost his seat in the House of Commons. Therefore he accepted a life peerage and transferred to the House of Lords as Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, a title chosen as a nod to his native Yorkshire.

Wilson’s final speech in the House of Lords in 1986 was to comments as an elder brother of Trinity House  during a debate on marine pilotage, (manoeuvring ships through dangerous or congested waters).

Harold Wilson attended the House of Lords for the final time on 27, April 1994. It was just over a year before his death.

Where And When did Harold Wilson die?

Harold Wilson died peacefully in his sleep around midnight on 24 May 1995, in London. He was 79 years old and suffering from both colon cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. His memorial service, attended by royalty and notable politicians including several Prime Ministers, took place at Westminster Abbey on 13 July 1995.

Where is Harold Wilson buried?

On 6 June 1995, Harold Wilson was buried at St Mary’s Old Church on St Mary’s Island, part of the Isles of Scilly. Harold and his wife Mary had spent many holidays in the area, first staying in B&B accommodation and then in their small bungalow.

His epitaph is Tempus Imperator Rerum, which means Time the Commander of Things.

Footage Analysing Wilson & His Political Career

Lady Falkender Interview (1984)

ThamesTv first broadcast this interview on 16 April 1984. 

Marcia Williams CBE was made a Labour peer and became Lady Falkender because of her work as political secretary and also head of the political office for British Prime Minister Harold Wilson in the 1960’s.

Lady Falkender interview | Labour Party | Harold Wilson | Talking Personally | 1984

Here she is interviewed by Judith Chalmers, OBE.


⏯ Watch: Excerpts Of Harold Wilson’s Political Life
⏯ Watch: Harold Wilson’s Centenary In Huddersfield (2016)

Channel 4 Secret History On Wilson (1996)

Discover more about the final days of Harold Wilson’s premiership in this episode of the popular Secret History TV series.

Secret History: Harold Wilson – The Final Days: Uploaded to YouTube on 23 Nov 2016 by David Boothroyd

Channel 4’s ‘Secret History’ series investigates the sudden resignation of Harold Wilson, and claims of involvement of various intelligence agencies with Wilson’s political life.

Made by 3BM Television and broadcast 15th August 1996. 

Preceded by a contemporary trailer for ‘The Politician’s Wife’.

BBC TV: Plot Against Wilson (2006)

Discover some of the challenges Harold Wilson faced in this documentary from 2006.

The Plot Against Harold Wilson, BBC 2006: Uploaded to YouTube on 18 Aug 2018 by Political Encyclopedia.

BBC Wilson Night, Part 1 (2013)

Commemorating the 50th anniversary of Harold Wilson’s appointment as Leader of the Labour Party, in 2013 the BBC ran a series of programmes about the former Prime Minister’s life and legacy.

Harold Wilson Night part 1: Uploaded to YouTube on 29 May 2017 by David Boothroyd

On Saturday 16 February 2013, BBC Parliament devoted its Saturday evening to a series of programmes about Harold Wilson. It was the 50th anniversary of Wilson’s election as Leader of the Labour Party.

Included in this first part:

• Harold Wilson Night with Peter Snow. Peter Snow presents archive programmes and a discussion on the first TV prime minister.

• 5:10 Gallery: Labour Party Leader – Harold Wilson. Robert McKenzie interviews Harold Wilson after his election as Labour leader. Original tx 14.2.63.

• 19:08 Panorama. ‘The Road to Downing Street’ by John Morgan. A profile of Harold Wilson and Alec Douglas-Home on the election trail. Original tx 19.10.64.

• 48:53 Robin Wilson Interview. Duncan Smith meets Robin Wilson who recalls his life as the eldest son of Harold Wilson.

(A thirty second trail for ‘Chivalry and Betrayal: The Hundred Years War’ shown at 57:29 has been removed as the BBC claim copyright)

• 58:30 Election File 1966. Extracts from the BBC’s election night coverage from 1966, presented by Cliff Michelmore. Copyright music (‘We can work it out’ by the Beatles) removed from 1:03:55 – 1:04:16)

• 1:10:51 Prime Ministerial Broadcast – Devaluation of the Pound. Harold Wilson’s ministerial broadcast. Original tx 19.11.67.

Marking 50 years since Harold Wilson was elected as Leader of the Labour Party, in 2013 the BBC broadcast a number of programmes looking at his life and legacy.

In 2013, marking 50 years since Harold Wilson was elected as Leader of the Labour Party, the BBC broadcast a number of programmes about his life and legacy.

BBC Wilson Night, Part 2 (2013)

Harold Wilson Night part 2: Uploaded to YouTube on 29 May 2017 by David Boothroyd

On Saturday 16 February 2013, BBC Parliament devoted its Saturday evening to a series of programmes about Harold Wilson – on the 50th anniversary of Wilson’s election as Leader of the Labour Party.

Included in this second part:

• Election File 1970. A whistle-stop tour of the 1970 general election. Copyright music (‘Voodoo Chile’ by Jimi Hendrix) removed from 2:29 – 3:28 and replaced by another piece of music. If you recognise it, let me know, because no-one knows what it is.

• 9:10 24 Hours: Yesterday’s Men. Documentary looking at Wilson’s shadow cabinet in their first year of opposition. Original tx 16.6.71.

• 52:23 The Making of Yesterday’s Men. Interview with Angela Pope (producer) and David Dimbleby (presenter) of the documentary.

• 1:02:55 1975 European Referendum. Extract from the referendum results programme, featuring David Dimbleby. Original tx 6.6.75.

BBC Wilson Night, Part 3 (2013)

Harold Wilson Night part 3: Uploaded to YouTube on 29 May 2017 by David Boothroyd

On Saturday 16 February 2013, BBC Parliament devoted its Saturday evening to a series of programmes about Harold Wilson – on the 50th anniversary of Wilson’s election as Leader of the Labour Party.

In this third part:

• Conference ’75. Harold Wilson’s last speech in the ‘Parliamentary Report’ to the Labour Party Conference. Original tx 30.9.75.

• 31:02 Harold Wilson’s Resignation Interview. David Holmes interviews Harold Wilson following his shock resignation. Original tx 16.3.76.

• 45:00 David Holmes Interview. David Holmes looks back on his time as BBC political editor during the Wilson years.

• 53:08 Wilson’s World. Peter Snow debates Harold Wilson with Baroness Williams, Lord Donoughue and Lord Hurd.

Alan Johnson’s lecture in 2016 looked back at the legacy of British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, who he saw as a reluctant European in his dealings with the EEC.

Alan Johnson On The Legacy Of Wilson (2016)

Labour MP Alan Johnson on the legacy of Harold Wilson: Uploaded to YouTube on 15 Mar 2016 by Uni of Huddersfield Research News

Harold Wilson’s Centenary Day at the University of Huddersfield closed with the 2016 edition of the annual Harold Wilson Lecture.

It was given by the leading contemporary Labour politician Alan Johnson MP, a former Home Secretary who is also a critically-acclaimed author.  

His lecture was entitled Harold Wilson – The Reluctant European.  In this video he talks about the legacy of Harold Wilson.

What did the Queen think of Wilson?

Queen Elizabeth II has worked with many British Prime Ministers over the years. What did she think of Harold Wilson back in the 1960s and 1970s?

At Her Majesty’s Service: The Queen’s favourite (and least favourite) Prime Ministers: Uploaded to YouTube on 30 Sep 2013 by The Royal Family Channel

This report by Louise Hulland examines Queen Elizabeth II’s relationship with the key Prime Ministers with whom she has worked over many decades.