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Special Edition: Harold Wilson’s ‘white heat’ speech fifty years on

To mark the 50th anniversary of Harold Wilson’s iconic ‘white heat’ speech, the Centre for British Politics held a conference this summer at the People’s History Museum in Manchester. Ahead of the conference we ran a series of blog posts on Ballots & Bullets.

In ‘White heat and low politics‘, Steven Fielding provides the context for Wilson’s speech, which was delivering to a Labour party that was trying to reach out to intermediate voters and distance itself from its image as the party for workers and manual labourers.

In the next post in the series, ‘Communicating the white heat of technology‘, Andrew Crines looks at the rhetorical devices Wilson used to convey his message of ‘science for socialism’ and how these devices aimed to create a sense of hope.

In ‘Wilson, Benn and Blair and the narrative of technological change‘, Matthew Francis looks at how Wilson’s narrative of ‘scientific revolution and technological change’ was later adopted by Tony Benn and Tony Blair. All three portrayed technology as a distinct historic force that Britain had no choice but to adapt to.

In the final post in the series, ‘Harold Wilson and the difficulties of democratic planning‘, Henry Irving looks at Wilson’s democratic approach to economic planning and Labour’s failed attempts to engage the public with economic policy – a lesson, Irving argues, government today can learn from.

Following the conference, it was featured in an article in the Telegraph, ‘Ed Miliband needs a blast of Wilson’s white heat‘.

More recently, the Guardian’s Political Science blog ran a series of posts on Wilson’s ‘white heat’ speech, and, the People’s History Museum hosted a re-enactment of the speech, with an actor playing the part of Harold Wilson. You can watch the re-enactment, along with an introduction from Steven Fielding, here:


Published inBritish PoliticsWhite Heat


  1. Great piece and reconstruction of Wilson’s speech.

    The interesting thing about this important speech is how dense of detail the argument is as opposed to modern politicians who all have to run on high octane rhetorical flourishes….

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