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Harold Wilson's Pipe

1070 of 1172 nominations


Harold Wilson's Pipe

Is this an icon?


Harold Wilson's Pipe

In 1974, when Wilson was entering his third term as Labour Prime Minister, Ruskin Spear painted a famous portrait of the man and his pipe. He was rarely seen without it. Wilson’s pipe summed up his image as a bluff, no-nonsense northerner, an approachable man of the people despite his fiercely academic background. After all, Wilson was the Prime Minister who awarded the Beatles MBEs and appeared on the Morecombe and Wise show!

But smoking a pipe also creates a haze of smoke around you and some would say that his genial image was a deliberate screen to hide the truth. Wilson’s policies, and his complete U-turns on those policies, were the subject of much criticism at the time and since. His abrupt resignation from politics in 1976 was a mystery that he never explained, and he left his party and his country disconsolate and in economic disrepair. 1976 was also the year he was named “Pipeman of the Decade” by the British Pipesmokers’ Council. So is Wilson’s pipe an icon of an old-fashioned avuncular English northern bloke, or an icon of a pragmatic politician?

Image: TopFoto.co.uk


Your comments

Its the image thing, avuncular, wise, reserved but it wouldn't do nowdays. A lot has changed.

iannis carras

Wilson's pipe was a prop,to make hime appear a 'man of the people' - in private he smoiked cigars. Also, his statue outside Huddersfield Railway Statiion show him sans pipe !
Stephen O'Loughlin

It's a fake, isn't it? Didn't he really smoke cigars, but thought a pipe projected a better image for a Labour PM? That's what I heard, anyway.
Ms J Howard

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I think the National Gallery is part of the heritage of England