Harold Wilson’s Governments 1964 -66
· ‘swinging sixties’
· This is true for many, mostly the affluent middle class and young, those in the South or parts of northern cities, but for many, the 1960s were a time of worsening economic issues and even more lost confidence.
· Although Wilson managed to get himself linked to all the new movements, it should be understood that of all the new enterprises coming out of Britain, hardly any were started by government initiatives
· The rest were down to individual brilliance and hard work.
The 1964 election; Why did Labour win?
· Alec Douglas - Home was not a distinguished parliamentarian and he continuously came off worse in debates and Prime Ministers Questions with the Labour leader Harold Wilson
· Wilson began to pull away in the opinion polls, a lead confirmed by the 1964 election. Labour won 317 seats (44.1% of the vote) to 309 for the Conservatives (43.6%). The Liberals won 9 seats, giving Labour a tiny majority of only 4.
There are a number of reasons for the Labour victory:
- Labour appeared younger, more vigorous and more in touch with the changes taking place in British society. In contrast the Conservatives seemed old and stuffy and out of touch with British people.
- Wilson tapped into the current mood by talking of the need to tap into the ‘white heat of the technical revolution’. Thus labour was able to present itself as the party of progress.
- The Conservatives, and the public, were tired after 13 years of rule.
- The scandals of the early 1960s had undermined the Conservative’s authority and integrity.
- The selection of Alec Douglas – Home damaged the Conservative’s attempts to portray themselves as modern.
- Unemployment reached over 800 000 in 1963, undermining Macmillan’s claim that Britons had ‘Never had it so good’.
- The failure to join the EEC showed how isolated Britain was.
- The Conservatives took the brunt of the new satirists ire.
- Wilson ran a much better campaign.
· Many of the reasons for the victory are more to do with Conservative problems rather than Labour being impressive.
· Harold Wilson was from a lower middle class family.-fantastic student at Oxford, gaining some of the highest marks ever awarded.
· He had common tastes in food, drink and culture and easily came across as ‘a man of the people’
· All agreed that he was a very nice man and he was polite to all, from his drivers to the Queen, with whom he got on famously
· He was a pragmatic politician, not bound by theory, ideology or principles, but this sometimes made him appear to be rather an opportunist.
The Problems facing the new Government.
· Britain was changing from an industry dominated by heavy industry to one which finance and services were expanding (industrial to post industrial industries.)