12 July, 2008

Harold Wilson

James Harold Wilson, Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, KG, OBE, FRS, PC was one of the most prominent British politicians of the later 20th century. He emerged as Prime Minister after more general elections than any other 20th century premier. He contested 5 general elections and won 4 of them, winning in 1964, 1966, February 1974 and October 1974. He is the most recent British Prime Minister to serve non-consecutive terms.

Harold Wilson first served as Prime Minister in the 1960s, during a period of low unemployment and relative economic prosperity. His second term in office occurred during the 1970s, 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. Although originating from the left wing of the Labour Party, Wilson's brand of socialism placed emphasis on promoting social justice, allied to the technocratic aim of taking better advantage of rapid scientific progress, rather than on the left's traditional goal of promoting wider public ownership of industry. While he did not challenge the Party constitution's stated dedication to nationalisation head-on, he took little action to pursue it either, suggesting that he may have viewed some of the old ideas of the Left as being of limited relevance. Wilson managed a number of difficult political issues with considerable tactical skill, but his ambition of substantially improving Britain's long-term economic performance remained largely unfulfilled.

Wilson died of colon cancer in May 1995, at the age of 79.

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