Harold Wilson

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Wilson, Harold

(James Harold Wilson, Baron Wilson of Rievaulx), 1916–95, British statesman. A graduate of Oxford, he became an economics lecturer there (1937) and a fellow of University College (1938). Wilson entered Parliament (1945) as a Labour member, and as president of the Board of Trade (1947–51) he ended many of the wartime controls on industry. In 1951 he resigned with Aneurin BevanBevan, Aneurin
, 1897–1960, British political leader. A coal miner and trade unionist, he served (1929–60) in Parliament as a member of the Labour party. As minister of health (1945–51) he administered and developed the National Health Service instituted by the
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, opposing the introduction of changes within the National Health Service. He thus became a spokesman for the left-wing of the Labour partyLabour party,
British political party, one of the two dominant parties in Great Britain since World War I. Origins

The Labour party was founded in 1900 after several generations of preparatory trade union politics made possible by the Reform Bills of 1867 and 1884,
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, later opposing party leader Hugh GaitskellGaitskell, Hugh Todd Naylor
, 1906–63, British statesman. Educated at Oxford, he taught economics at the Univ. of London. During World War II he was a civil servant in the new ministry of economic warfare (1940–42) and in the Board of Trade (1942–45).
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's stand against unilateral nuclear disarmament.

After Gaitskell's death (1963), Wilson won the leadership of the party and became prime minister in 1964. At first his government had only a four-seat majority in Parliament, but it was reelected with a large majority in 1966. The Labour government under Wilson sought to offset Britain's diminishing role outside Europe by increasing its role in Europe, and in 1967 it reapplied for membership in the European Community (EC). Wilson also tried unsuccessfully to reach a settlement with the white supremacist regime in Rhodesia (now ZimbabweZimbabwe
, formerly Rhodesia,
officially Republic of Zimbabwe, republic (2005 est. pop. 12,747,000), 150,803 sq mi (390,580 sq km), S central Africa. It is bordered on the north by Zambia, on the northeast and east by Mozambique, on the south by South Africa, and on
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), which unilaterally declared itself independent of Britain in 1965. Domestically, Wilson imposed strict controls on wages and prices, raised taxes, and devalued (1967) the pound to end the growing economic crisis. By the spring of 1970 the economy seemed to be recovering, and Wilson scheduled a June election, which resulted in an unexpected defeat for the Labour party.

In opposition, Wilson led his party to reverse its stand on entry into the EC, but a significant minority voted with the Conservative government in favor of entry. Another divisive issue arose with the party's espousal (1973) of wide-scale nationalization. Nonetheless, in the general election of Feb., 1974, held at a time of severe economic crisis, Labour was returned to power, and Wilson again became prime minister.

Despite the fact that he headed a minority government (and was therefore very vulnerable to defeat in Parliament), Wilson announced his intention of implementing the controversial policies of renegotiation of the terms of Britain's membership in the EC and nationalization. His government faced continuing economic difficulties as well as a deterioration of the situation in Northern Ireland (which required the reimposition of direct British rule). It was also obliged to mediate between Greece and Turkey in the tense crisis created by the overthrow of Archbishop Makarios IIIMakarios III
, 1913–77, Orthodox Eastern archbishop and Cypriot statesman, first president of Cyprus (1960–77). Born Michael Mouskos, Makarios was elected bishop of Kition in 1948 and archbishop of Cyprus in 1950.
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 in Cyprus and the subsequent Turkish invasion of that island in July, 1974. Wilson called another election in Oct., 1974, and secured a narrow majority in Parliament. In 1975 he called and won an unprecedented referendum on Britain's membership in the EC, largely silencing left-wing Labour critics who favored withdrawal. Wilson unexpectedly resigned in 1976 and was knighted later the same year. The longest serving Labour prime minister, he retained his seat in Commons until he was created a life peer in 1983.

Bibliography

See Wilson's Personal Record (1971), Final Term: The Labour Government 1974–1976 (1979), and Memoirs: The Making of a Prime Minister, 1916–64, (1986). See also biographies by A. Howard (1965) and E. Kay (1967).

Wilson, Harold

 

Born Mar. 11, 1916, in Huddersfield, Yorkshire. Statesman and politician of Great Britain.

After graduating from Oxford University, Wilson taught economics there. He joined the Labour Party in 1937. He held a number of responsible positions in government from 1940 to 1944. In 1945 he became a member of Parliament. He was minister of trade in C. Attlee’s Labour government from 1947 to 1951. He joined the executive committee of the Labour Party in 1952, and he became party leader in February 1963 after the death of H. Gaitskell. He holds centrist views in the Labour Party, although he was affiliated with its left wing during the initial period of his political activity. He was prime minister from 1964 to 1970 and was elected prime minister again in 1974. Wilson is the author of a number of works and studies on economic problems.

REFERENCES

Kay, E. Pragmatic Premier. London [1967].
Foot, M. The Politics of Harold Wilson. London [1968].