Harold Wilson


Using previously restricted materials, Nicklaus Thomas-Symonds examines one of the most influential and successful politicians of the late 20th century, exploring Wilson’s rise to power via Clement Attlee’s post-war government, his relationship to Nye Bevan, whom he eventually replaced in the Shadow Cabinet, the close workings of his own inner circle, and the issues surrounding the first European Referendum. His biography considers previously overlooked aspects of Wilson’s life, such as the mysterious circumstances of his voluntary resignation and legacy in social reform. The book will offer a timely consideration of the advancement of social justice issues under Wilson’s government: homosexuality was decriminalised, abortion legalised and capital punishment abolished.

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Harold Wilson is the only post-war leader of any party to serve as Britain’s Prime Minister on two separate occasions. In total he won four General Elections, spending nearly eight years in Downing Street. Half a century later, he is still unbeaten, Labour’s greatest ever election winner. How did he do it – and at what cost?

Critics then and now have painted him as an opportunistic political calculator, even as a Soviet secret agent. In this powerful new portrait, drawing on previously unavailable sources and first-hand parliamentary insight, acclaimed biographer Nick Thomas-Symonds reveals a more complex figure. Wilson was a new kind of politician but, in his own way, this media-savvy harbinger of modernity was also a deeply traditional man, whose actions often suggest nothing less than a spiritual mission.

In an intriguing paradox, Wilson, influenced by the distinctively democratic faith of his Yorkshire boyhood, united a fractured Labour Party, ushering in the cultural and social changes of the ‘swinging sixties’. His was the government to decriminalise homosexuality, legalise abortion and abolish capital punishment. With a brilliant mind, sure-footed political moves and a feel for public opinion, he was a survivor who over and over again emerged from desperate crises – even, perhaps, conspiracies – to lead his party to victory. It is time at last to learn his secrets.

Additional information

Weight 0.4 kg
Dimensions 19.6 × 12.6 × 3.6 cm