Harold Wilson (1916-1995) served in the Attlee government from 1945 to 1951, became leader of the Labour Party in 1963, and was Prime Minister from 1964 to 1970 and 1974 to 1976, fighting five general elections as party leader, and winning four times, although only once (in 1966) with a good majority.
In 1964, after 13 years of Conservative Government, Labour clearly believed a modernizing agenda could improve economic performance. The introduction of the ‘National Plan’, published in 1965, was certainly the high-point of planning in Britain. The implementation of the Plan, however, became impossible as the difficulty of defending the pound came more and more to dominate policymaking.
Perhaps they should have devalued immediately on coming to Office, and blamed the Conservatives. But having not done that, they found it harder and harder. Wilson in particular came to see the defence of the pound as essential – politically essential, one suspects. But in 1967 it became unavoidable. Anyway, here he is, afterwards, explaining the position on TV.
After this speech, Wilson was forever famous for the expression ‘the pound in your pocket’, and the idea that the international value of the currency and its domestic value were – apparently – determined in different domains.
From the BBC Archive on Facebook. The original interview, by David Holmes was on 16 March 1976, the day of Wilson’s resignation, five days after his 60th birthday.