I was two years old when Harold Wilson first became Prime Minister, and 13 when he left office. But I do remember him. I remember telling my parents in one of the 1974 election why they should vote for him. Even then I was a Eurosceptic and held it against Ted Heath that he had taken us into the Common Market. Wilson was in many ways the first Prime Minister of the age of spin. His press officer, Joe Haines, was a tabloid journalist and was really the first Downing Street Communications Director to use the dark arts of spin to any great extent. And he had a willing accomplice in Harold Wilson. His biggest affectation was the use of his pipe to burnish his man of the people credentials. He apparently never used it when off camera. For inverse snobbery reasons he seemed embarrassed by his past as an Oxford Don. Wilson will never go down in history as a great Prime Minister, and in a league table would feature somewhere in the middle. His greatest achievement was probably holding the Labour Party together and managing the big personalities and egos around his cabinet table. But he failed to tackle the country’s economic challenges, largely because he was unable to tame the unions.
Anyway, the point of this post is to alert you to a veritable orgy of Harold Wilson memories which will be shown on BBC Parliament this evening from 6pm. Be sure and set your Sky Plus. Unbelievably the BBC Parliament website makes no mention of if, but here’s the schedule…
6.00 Peter Snow introduces the evening
6.05 Interview following election as leader 1963
6.15 Panorma: Profile of Harold Wilson and Alec Douglas-Home on the election trail from 19 October 1964.
6.45 Interview with Wilson’s son Robin
7.00 1966 General Election
7.10 The Pound in Your Pocket Broadcast
7.20 1970 General Election
7.30 Yesterday’s Men
8.10 The Making of Yesterday’s Men
8.25 1975 Referendum
8.35 1975 Party Conference speech
9.05 Resignation interview
9.20 David Holmes interview, the then BBC Political Editor
9.30 Panel discussion on Wilson chaired by Peter Snow
10.00 Friday Night, Saturday morning talk show presented by Wilson
I’d love BBC Parliament to do much more of this sort of thing. Political geeks deserve a bit of TV pampering once in a while!