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9 Seiten, Note: 1,7
II. Successes of Harold Wilson's policies
III. Failures of Harold Wilson's policies
On 15 October 1964 after 13 years in opposition, Labour was elected the leading party in Britain once again. Although the majority of seats was one of the smallest in British history, the first years of Harold Wilson's premiership showed some promising political developments and relative economic progress. However, hopes for a change in the nation's economical position were soon disappointed as the government appeared unable to expand its early success and rather deteriorated the economical position of Britain compared to its rivals.
This essay examines the reasons for both the successes and the failures of Harold Wilson's policies. It therefore concentrates on the Labour government's economic and foreign policies and their development during Wilson's premiership.
At the elections in 1964 the electorate, albeit only marginally, voted in favour of a Labour campaign promising "A New Britain" in which the "decline of the 13 wasted years" of Conservative policies could be reversed by concentrating on scientific and technological progress and modernising the machinery of the government and the economy. But more than the party's manifesto, its charismatic political leader secured the election victory for Labour. Coming from a lower middle class family and having already presented himself as a most successful leader of the opposition, the elected candidate Harold Wilson, at 48 the youngest Prime Minister of the century so far, raised high expectations.
Indeed, Wilson's government had a tremendous start and impressed the country with its dynamism and wealth of ideas. With economic issues being the most urgent problem facing Britain Labour set up a National Economic Plan that, in the words of James Callaghan, Wilson's Chancellor of the Exchequer, should function as "a framework for industrial development and production, whose object would be to increase exports and replace imports." Therefore, "the whole plan would be constructed on the potential capacity of each separate industry for production and export", with the result that "[e]very industry would be able to see where it fitted into the national economy and would be able to make long-term plans more safely than hitherto in the expectation of steady industrial growth throughout the rest of the economy." To draw up the National Plan the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) was established, which should counter Treasury power. In creating the DEA, Labour followed the example of the Conservatives, who had already established two agencies for national economic planning in 1962.
Although the continuity with the Conservative policies in economic affairs was obvious, the Wilson premiership adopted a more interventionist approach to the economy and showed an increased readiness to experiment with economic planning. In the foreground of Labour's economic policies stood the idea of "indicative planning", which "involved the government consulting with employers and workers to compile a series of target growth rates for the coming period" and thus create stability by giving the different industries the opportunity to know what the government hoped to achieve. In this context in order to coordinate the industry's technological modernisation a Ministry of Technology was created in 1964 and in 1966 the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation was formed to encourage mergers between middle-size companies to make them more competitive. In addition to that there was an attempt to make the other Departments more efficient and productive.
The government's effort had its success. The National Plan, largely based on copying the successful French experience of indicative planning, indicated that the British growth rate could be raised to the level of 3.5 per cent over nine years and thus to enable the social and economic life to be transformed. Although these estimations were overoptimistic, the growth rates between 1964 and 1970 averaged 2.7 per cent per annum. In the first two years of Wilson's premiership the rate of unemployment was slightly lower than the 1.5 per cent at the end of the Conservative government and exports between 1963 and 1970 increased by 40 per cent. Labour managed to improve Britain's balance of payments position impressively by turning the inherited Conservative record deficit of 800 million pounds into a comfortable surplus in 1970. The industry benefited largely from the enormous boost the government gave to technical education and, in addition, the technical modernisation improved the British infrastructure. For the British society the Labour government brought measurably more social equality and certain achievements in the field of personal freedom. As a consequence of its successful start, the Labour government won an easy victory in the 1966 elections.
 cf. B. Porter, Britannia’s Burden. The Political Evolution of Modern Britain 1851-1990 (London and New York: Routledge, 1994), p. 309.
 D. Leonard, A Century of Premiers. Salisbury to Blair (Hampshire and New York: Macmillan, 2005), p. 252.
 B. Porter, Britannia’s Burden, p. 310.
 R. Middleton, The British Economy since 1945. Engaging with the Debate (Hampshire: Macmillan: 1998), p. 83.
 P. Howlett, "The 'Golden Age', 1955-1973"20th Century Britain. Economic, Social and Cultural Change. Ed. P. Johnson (London: Longman, 1994), p. 329.
 cf. B. Porter, Britannia’s Burden, p. 309f.
 D. Leonard, A Century of Premiers, p. 253.
 B. Porter, Britannia’s Burden, p. 309.
 P. Howlett, "The 'Golden Age', 1955-1973", p. 325.
 ibid., p. 326.
 B. Porter, Britannia’s Burden, p. 312f.
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