Harold Wilson

Harold Wilson ben pimlott cover 1756648Harold Wilson, born 100 years ago today, was the reason my Dad joined the Labour Party, excited that our Leader was so much more brilliant that the Tory leaders.
A trade unionist and locomotive engineer, it turned out that one of my Dad’s work colleagues was to work for Harold Wilson at no. 10.
The first Labour Party leaflet I remember simply had a portrait of Harold Wilson on the front.
My first campaign was in 1974, taking poll numbers.
Strong memories.  Special memories.
(Including of our valley’s new primary school built in 1968.)
I saw him speak in the nearby marginal seat of The Wrekin in 1979, but by then, the magic had gone (I assume it was his illness; his resignation as PM in 1976 was such a shock).
Then there was a disappointment that I still hold, that was expressed in the development of an Alternative Economic Strategy.
Yes, he brought a number of sectors into public ownership (but by then as rescue packages), but wonder if such a brilliant economics student couldn’t have read the signs better concerning the problems to come with the start of globalisation and the growth of the financial sectors that Tony Benn and others were starting to describe and express concern about.
But, much in the vein of the opinion expressed today, when Mary Wilson walked onto the stage of the 1995 Labour Party conference, 5 months after her husband had died, I shared that enormous emotional wave of affection for him.
Much like Attlee, I imagine, he commanded a cabinet full of talent, strong characters and huge differences of opinion, in a way that so exposes the disagreements amongst senior Labour party members of the last 36 hours as puny and pathetic.
I read the biography by Ben Pimlott soon after it was published and happened to mention it whilst walking at the head of a protest march in Nottingham to Tony Benn. He was very interested to know what I thought and I made the mistake of saying how the biography had shown his life so fashioned by his early life and circumstances.
People have been kind to Harold Wilson today, and I’m simply reminded that Labour’s Prime Ministers have got more right than they’ve got wrong.  There is much to celebrate from his time in office.

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