Mary Wilson, Harold's wife died this week aged 102. She along with many Labour politicians Barbara Castle, Peter Shore, Wedgie Benn opposed our entry into the EEC as it would enslave future Governments and the UK to a dirigiste Napoleonic model in perpetuity. How right she was but then as now the Goldman Sachs money driven view prevailed over a weak Europhile PM, E Heath
Wilson was the cleverest PM in my lifetime. Faced with a divided party and elected on the promise of an in out referendum he kept out of the referendum campaign and left it up to rabid Europhiles, Woy and Shirley. As we had only been in the EEC although his was a minority government in Feb 1974 he won the General Election in Nov 1975 and held the promised referendum in 1975 which embedded us in the EU for the next 40 years. Like Blair he was involved with Gadaffi and almost died in a boating accident in Scilly involving like Jeremy Thorpe a dog.
Labour was then as now split on the EEC and he came up with a brilliant solution
In the subsequent referendum campaign, rather than the normal British tradition of "collective responsibility, under which the government takes a policy position which all cabinet members are required to support publicly, members of the Government were free to present their views on either side of the question. The electorate voted on 5 June 1975 to continue membership, by a substantial majority
Mrs May please note.
Mary Wilson was immortalised in Private|Eye's Mrs Wilson's diary, still a riveting read.
Also Wilson's political sec Marcia Falkender and Press sec Joe Haines made a lasting although uncredited contribution to British political life as political advisers to Yes Minister still the best description of how government works in the UK. Sir Humphrey is the stuff of legend and Mrs May is clearly Jim Hacker in a skirt