The nerve-wracking wait endured by Harold Wilson and his colleagues ended at 2.47 p.m. on 16 October, the day after polling, when they knew Labour had won Brecon and Radnor, their 315th seat, and thus a majority in the Commons. The first sign of the transfer of power was the arrival of two detectives at Transport House (the Labour HQ) to act as personal bodyguards to the new Prime Minister.1 Later, Wilson’s family and assistants satin a room at Buckingham Palace talking about horses to Palace officials, while he saw the Queen. Among them was Marcia Williams, Wilson’s private and political secretary, who wrote later: ‘It struck me at the time as an ironic beginning to the white-hot technological revolution and the Government that was to mastermind it.’2 Richard Crossman was no less negatively impressed when he and his fellow ministers had to spend their precious time being taught how to walk backwards, for when they were to be formally appointed by the Queen.3 Meanwhile, sterling plummeted. James Callaghan, who had been appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, felt it was the start of a great adventure as he sat with Wilson and George Brown, on 17 October. They decided there and then not to devalue the pound.4 It was a difficult choice to take. They faced a financial crisis not of their own making. Devaluation should have stimulated exports but increased the cost of many imports.
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- Harold Wilson at the Helm, 1964–70
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