23 October 2018   |  Last Updated 18-06-2015 12:35

      Thursday 16, October 2014

      BLOG: The legacy of Harold Wilson 50 years on

      TO be considered a successful prime minister of the United Kingdom, one must prosper in a wide range of national matters, during their tenure at 10 Downing Street, in order to ensure their name is remembered for the right reasons in the history of British politics.


      Overseeing a sustained period of economic growth or presiding over a time of low unemployment will usually suffice in placing the head of the government in the glorified limelight, due to their respective nationwide significance.


      Although having said that, strong policy making can in itself frequently do the trick also, and this is the main reason as to why Labour’s Harold Wilson is, 50 years on to this day, still recognised as being one of Britain’s best ever PM’s.


      Here is a slideshow of Britain’s top 10 prime ministers, according to the 2010 University of Leeds survey of post-WW2 PMs.

      Following the first of his four General Election victories on 16th October 1964, Wilson gradually picked up a reputation for being a politician of the people and someone who prided himself on being in touch with the times.


      This was mainly due to the fact that he possessed a welcoming nature to social reform as he oversaw policies which included; the abolition of the death penalty, and theatre censorship, the legalisation of abortion, and divorce, and the creation of The Open University – all of which were accepted with open arms by the new-found ‘free-loving’ public of the swinging sixties.


      Wilson’s achievements in this area of politics were greatly recognised by his right honourable peers of the time and the same respect remains today by modern politicians, most notably George Howarth, Labour’s current MP for Knowsley, who is extremely ‘proud to have inherited’ what is effectively the Huddersfield-born politician’s former constituency of Huyton.


      “Harold was a highly regarded local MP,” Mr Howarth said.


      “All these years later, I am regularly told by constituents, stories about how Harold helped their families with problems they experienced. 


      “In addition to this, I firmly believe that Harold was a leader and Prime Minister who, in difficult economic times, made enormous efforts to defend and promote social justice.


      “Those of us who knew him, are proud of his achievements and we are confident that he will be treated more favourably by history than he was by the contemporary media.”

      Listen to a full assessment of Wilson below, in an interview with Professor John Callaghan, who teaches Politics and Contemporary History at the University of Salford


      Many sections of society will, of course, be extremely proud of Wilson’s successes also, as he did, after all, oversee several breakthrough policies. But one section in particular stands out further satisfied from the rest.


      This is obviously referring to the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community, who are still to this day heavily indebted to Wilson following the amendments which were made to the Sexual Offences Act in 1967 under his first government, whereby homosexuality was legalised.


      The former Labour leader doesn’t deserve all of the credit for this historical development however, that is at least according to Andrew Gilliver, Community Involvement Manager at the Lesbian & Gay Foundation, who inferred that the 1967 Act itself was inevitably always going to come along at some point.


      “Many people worked for over a decade to make the legalisation of homosexuality a reality,” Mr Gilliver said.


      “The Wolfenden Committee had recommended in 1957 that sexual offences between consenting adults, of whatever sex, be decriminalised but earlier government’s didn’t or couldn’t make it happen, and that’s why it wasn’t until 1967 that there was a legal landmark in gay history.


      “In the Wilson government, at the time, it was Roy Jenkins who encouraged the Labour MP for Pontypool, Leo Abse, who was also a gay rights campaigner, to introduce a 10-minute rule bill for homosexual law reform, and then persuaded the Cabinet to give it parliamentary time. So while Wilson deserves credit for Roy Jenkins' appointment as Home Secretary, what is often forgotten is that the 1967 Act itself was a long time in the making.”


      There is no denying the fact that this act was a ground-breaking moment for the LGBT community, as it lay the foundations to a brighter future for those affected.


      Following several improvements to the act since, this community no longer fears the risk of prosecution for expressing affection in public and for that Matt Langhorn, an openly gay 21-year-old from Blackpool, said: “It is important for everyone, young and old, to remember just how much of a cornerstone Harold Wilson's efforts were in striving for gender, ethnic and LGBT equality.


      “Wilson's efforts towards equality played no small part in today's LGBT greater amount of equality and thanks to his exceptional hard work, advances have been made to make LGBT people safer and more equal with more rights now than ever before - especially since April with legalisation of equal marriage in the UK.”


      So as you can see, Wilson’s legacy still plays a great role in today’s modern society as people still admire and hugely benefit from the former PM’s achievements. When Wilson first entered number 10 half a century ago, I think it’s safe to say that this was one of Britain’s finest hours as this man would later shape Britain’s social future for the better and with that leave behind, indeed, a strong legacy which will always be remembered.


      Go through Wilson's political career with this timeline below>>>

      By Liam McCallion

      (Twitter: @LiamMcCallion23)