After the hurly—and indecision—of the British general elections, Labour Party leader Harold Wilson went to his country farm in Great Missenden to romp with his dog Paddy and relax. The holiday didn’t last. The following day Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath resigned for want of a parliamentary majority, and the Queen summoned Wilson back to London to head up a new government.
Wilson is no stranger to 10 Downing Street, where he spent six years as Prime Minister during the 1960s. But this time he has the added burden of heading a government he cannot fully control: his party commands only 301 of the 635 seats in the House of Commons. So he must make deals for the other 17 seats necessary to govern. A successful minority government of this sort has not existed in Great Britain for 45 years.
Wilson’s most natural ally is Jeremy Thorpe, who heads the small but statistically significant Liberal Party, which won 14 seats. The Labourites and Liberals share some goals, such as stronger price controls, but disagree on some significant issues too—the Common Market, for one, which the Liberals favor and Wilson in particular disapproves of. More immediate to Wilson’s survival is a quick solution to Britain’s crushing labor problems. Unless striking coal miners can be coaxed back into the pits, Wilson may soon find himself back in Great Missenden preparing for new elections.