Harold Wilson, Prime Minister in 1964-70 and again in 1974-6, held out the promise of technology and of ‘the Britain that is going to be forged in the white heat of this revolution.’ A balance of payment crisis, leading to devaluation in 1967, frustrated the fulfulment of his promises; Britain’s economic difficulties were underlined by nearly four years of the most stringent exchange controls. Meanwhile, foreign affairs were dominated by the issue of Rhodesia, in which Wilson took a personal initiative in diplomacy with Ian Smith but failed to make any progress. He lost the 1970 election, but returned to power in February in74 without an overall majority; a second election in that year gave him a slender majority. He then surprised the nation, early in 1976, by the sudden announcement of his resignation.
PAUL ROUTLEDGE is a political correspondent for the Daily Mirror who earlier in his career reported on the Wilson administration. His books include biographies of Arthur Scargill, Betty Boothroyd, Airey Neave and Peter Mandelson.