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The 1968 Coup against Harold Wilson

uk 75

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This subject crops up from time to time. When I was at school
I remember a great cartoon strip in an edition of "Paris Match"
from 1967 or later which covered this British coup.

Anyone out there with a collection of "Paris Match" or a
University Library know more? Could have been later, 1969 to
1974. Memory fades.

UK 75
 

Michel Van

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i try to discuse that here
http://www.alternatehistory.com/discussion/showthread.php?t=124479

for those who not understand in short:

in 1968 there were rumors that primeminister Harold Wilson (Labour) was a KGB Agent
(MI5 had received information that the Labour Party had been infiltrate by the KGB)
So Wat If MI5 give this information to military so they can make a Coup d'etat.
and get rid Labour leaders and trade unionists ?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Wilson_conspiracy_theories
 

Rosdivan

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Why would they have needed to do a coup? Queen Elizabeth II could have simply dismissed him.
 

Michel Van

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Rosdivan said:
Why would they have needed to do a coup? Queen Elizabeth II could have simply dismissed him.

no, primeminister Harold Wilson was elected legally
and her royal Majesty respect the Democratic system

the extrem right Military on other hand had on finish bussines with Labour party
like the political chaos the Labour party causes like TRS-2, ELDO etc..
they Military consider there for Labour (and trade unionists) as dangerours communists.
 

Rosdivan

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Michel Van said:
Rosdivan said:
Why would they have needed to do a coup? Queen Elizabeth II could have simply dismissed him.

no, primeminister Harold Wilson was elected legally
and her royal Majesty respect the Democratic system

the extrem right Military on other hand had on finish bussines with Labour party
like the political chaos the Labour party causes like TRS-2, ELDO etc..
they Military consider there for Labour (and trade unionists) as dangerours communists.

Right, but while her majesty respects the system, if the military or MI5 came to her saying "You know that PM guy? He's mildly traitorish and we'd be much obliged if you'd exercise your right to dismiss him," that not only would she do so, but that all sides would consider that the preferential solution.
 

Skybolt

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Yes, the Queen has that kind of power. Actually she could even choose someone not elected as Prime Minister. That's why someone (Labourists and expecially Liberal-Democrats, want a written constitution: you never know ;) ).
 

alertken

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Wilson was neither a KGB agent-in-place (he bought WE177A/B, Polaris, Chevaline), nor incompetent - neither his first CDS (the Admiral), nor his second (FM Hull), nor third (ex-CAS Elworthy) saw a place for TSR-2 in the assigned budget for the defined Tasks. Nor was Callaghan, who one writer chose to traduce in a throwaway reference to his KGB "minders": he initiated RN Trident (1979, as C3). With these dredged nonsenses you tarnish Cabinet Ministers, General Officers...any scintilla of evidence and the Opposition of the day would have been there, brisk as ferrets up drainpipe. Anything unearthed yet, after 18 years' access to USSR archives? Peter White, Spycatcher, invented a rant to shift product. No coup, no (meaningful) plot, no traitor in No.10.
 

JFC Fuller

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There were certainly discussions within aging former elements of the Intelligence services who discussed his, probably with serving members whom they had served with initially. However these would likely have been of the same genre of agents who had to be cleansed in the early 60s (virtually on American orders) due to what is best described as sheer idiocy...........people forget (possibly deliberately) the sorry state of British Intelligence in the 1950s.........thus it is very difficult to take such suggestions seriously. Secondly, the prospect of serious support from the Armed Forces is simply not realistic. The british military has always had and retains a severe dislike of meddling in internal affairs (Peterloo Massacre anyone?) and would see little if any gain from embarking upon such a ludicrous adventure.

Realistically speaking (used very loosely) such an event could only have occurred with the support (and likely direction) of the Americans and the prospect of that is essentially non-existant, to have to orchestrate a coup in the UK would effectively be admitting that Western europe had been lost to the communists. Also remember that 1968 is hurtling towards detente and the US has its own worries elsewhere.

The Queen may have incredible theoretical power, but she is by convention passive in parliamentary affairs and well aware that her absolute power was constrained by one of her predecessors having his head removed by Parliament- probably not a situation she would want to move towards.

In reality, the coup 'plot' was likely little more than chatter from a few less than spectacular spies in a gentlemens club in London with no backing from anyone serious whilst Wilson's own paranoia was probably more a symptom of the incredible stress he was under as a consequence of the dire economic situation. The key point that will be missed on this forum (and many others) is the link between that situation and the reductions in peer comparative military capability and strategy that are so often talked about here.

It is not strange that the UK lost so much of its power after World War 2, rather it is strange that it came out of two global total wars in just 30 years in such a strong condition!

In regards to UK security: the greatest trick the British establishment ever pulled was to convince America, a former colony who by rights should despise it, not only to supply Britains defence at great expense to itself, but also to treat the country as a near equal in the process...........truly a masterpiece of foreign policy.
 

alertken

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SLL: your last para is so true. 1945-50 Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin is interred in the Abbey under the epitaph Statesman: he was the father of NATO, whose purpose was to keep the Americans In, the Russians Out and the Germans Down. FDR, then Truman intended to bring the boys home within 2 years of VE Day. The core of NATO - all for one, one for all - is historical anathema to US - entanglement in foreign wars; that entanglement, and extracting $-gazillions in Marshall Aid, 1947-50 and under MDAP/MSP/MWDP, 1949-63, were sublime achievements, central to UK's recovery from the 20th.Century European Civil War. Helping US in (most of) its recent Expeditions is no more than our duty. Wilson's great achievement was to sustain that relationship despite declining LBJ's desire that UK stand with Oz, Phil, et al in Vietnam - even a band of bagpipers would do. That was not inspired from his "Moscow handlers", disappointed that UK had less Vietnam strife than did, say, France.

Wilson-the-stooge was singularly counter-productive for his "paymasters", which is why this conspiracy is piffle. A much, much better one involves US Security Advisor, Polish Zbig, who has claimed that First Afghanistan - the Sovs' one from 1979 - was deliberately fomented by (him), with the successful objective of eroding the stature of Military and Party in USSR, to the point of revulsion and rejection by the governed, who saw neither guns nor butter.
 

Rickshaw

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Skybolt said:
Yes, the Queen has that kind of power. Actually she could even choose someone not elected as Prime Minister. That's why someone (Labourists and expecially Liberal-Democrats, want a written constitution: you never know ;) ).

If the PM held the majority of seats in the lower house and the respect of the house, they could have the Queen deposed. Remember, Parliament in Sovereign, the Monarch is not. One Monarch lost his head, another two were given their throne and a third lost his because of the Parliament reinforcing that (political) point. If it could be presented in that light, then Betty would be out of Buck House before her feet touched the ground. It would be a question of the military obeying their political masters or the (reducing) influence of the Monarch. T'would make an interesting constitutional crisis.
 

alertken

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Her first UK PM was Churchill; by the time Wilson was in No.10 she had, as Head of >30 States, dealt with some scores of PMs, some Statesmen, many not. The UK one has tea with her most Tuesdays. Only once has any report of that event been published - 2 lines in Wilson's Memoirs. The sense of what he wrote was that on his first Tuesday in No.10, busy, his Sec said "its time for tea" and gave him a briefing book of As to Qs he might be asked. In the car he had better things to do, so went in cold. He implied that he did that once only and learnt his lesson. The Monarch Consents. She also Advises. Ways are found to dispose of Ministers that are not conducting her business correctly. See her dismissal of Oz PM Gough Whitlam on a Supply (money) matter.
 

starviking

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rickshaw said:
If the PM held the majority of seats in the lower house and the respect of the house, they could have the Queen deposed. Remember, Parliament in Sovereign, the Monarch is not. One Monarch lost his head, another two were given their throne and a third lost his because of the Parliament reinforcing that (political) point. If it could be presented in that light, then Betty would be out of Buck House before her feet touched the ground. It would be a question of the military obeying their political masters or the (reducing) influence of the Monarch. T'would make an interesting constitutional crisis.

I think these days it's taken as read that the Sovereign would only dismiss the PM and trigger an election if said PM had lost the faith of the People completely. Now if the PM's party stood behind him solidly it would make for quite a fractious few decades in politics in the UK.
 

starviking

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alertken said:
Her first UK PM was Churchill; by the time Wilson was in No.10 she had, as Head of >30 States, dealt with some scores of PMs, some Statesmen, many not. The UK one has tea with her most Tuesdays. Only once has any report of that event been published - 2 lines in Wilson's Memoirs. The sense of what he wrote was that on his first Tuesday in No.10, busy, his Sec said "its time for tea" and gave him a briefing book of As to Qs he might be asked. In the car he had better things to do, so went in cold. He implied that he did that once only and learnt his lesson. The Monarch Consents. She also Advises. Ways are found to dispose of Ministers that are not conducting her business correctly. See her dismissal of Oz PM Gough Whitlam on a Supply (money) matter.

Wasn't it the Australian Governor General who made that move? IIRC it was not what HM wanted.
 

alertken

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GG knows the mind of the Monarch. As told to me at the time, he had her fetched from her horse in to a Balmoral phone, told her "PM can't deliver Supply" (so Commonwealth employees can't be paid - i.e Armed Forces, Defence of the Realm), she said: "well, you know what to do", and trotted back to the horse.
 

Rickshaw

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starviking said:
alertken said:
Her first UK PM was Churchill; by the time Wilson was in No.10 she had, as Head of >30 States, dealt with some scores of PMs, some Statesmen, many not. The UK one has tea with her most Tuesdays. Only once has any report of that event been published - 2 lines in Wilson's Memoirs. The sense of what he wrote was that on his first Tuesday in No.10, busy, his Sec said "its time for tea" and gave him a briefing book of As to Qs he might be asked. In the car he had better things to do, so went in cold. He implied that he did that once only and learnt his lesson. The Monarch Consents. She also Advises. Ways are found to dispose of Ministers that are not conducting her business correctly. See her dismissal of Oz PM Gough Whitlam on a Supply (money) matter.

Wasn't it the Australian Governor General who made that move? IIRC it was not what HM wanted.

Indeed. The Queen had nothing to with it. It was Sir John Kerr who dismissed Gough Whitlam. Whitlam once joked that it was a case of "who got on the phone first, to Buck House." Kerr took him at his word and the Leader of the Opposition created a Supply crisis in the upper house. While there is no direct evidence that the two conspired, there is some circumstantial evidence that Kerr was advised by the Chief Justice who just happened to be an ex-Liberal Party Minister (the Liberal Party was in opposition at this point) and who likely favoured the dismissal of the then Labor Party PM, Whitlam. It was all a great muddle and in the end the people decided to not elect Whitlam. The repercussions are today still felt in Oz politics.
 

Rickshaw

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alertken said:
GG knows the mind of the Monarch. As told to me at the time, he had her fetched from her horse in to a Balmoral phone, told her "PM can't deliver Supply" (so Commonwealth employees can't be paid - i.e Armed Forces, Defence of the Realm), she said: "well, you know what to do", and trotted back to the horse.

Interesting. This does not concur with the known public accounts of the event. Kerr used his reserve powers and only consulted with the Monarch post ipso facto.
 

JohnR

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sealordlawrence said:
The Queen may have incredible theoretical power, but she is by convention passive in parliamentary affairs and well aware that her absolute power was constrained by one of her predecessors having his head removed by Parliament- probably not a situation she would want to move towards.

More significant; if less dramatic, was the Glorious Revolution of 1688 when James II was deposed, this was the beginning of the creation of the modern Constitutional Monarchy were the Monarch Rules by the will of Parliament and not as an absolute Monarch.
 

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