Courtesy Reuters

British Defense Policy Under Labor

Mr. Harold Wilson has been leader of the Labor Party for nearly a year; in 1964 he may well become Britain's first Socialist Prime Minister in 13 years. Around his aims and methods, and in particular his expressed belief in the possibility of a new society created by technological as much as by political change, have gathered much speculation and comment. However, he is by nature cautious, anxious to nourish growing party aspirations rather than initiate controversial debate, and therefore unlikely to be hasty in making innovations in either domestic or foreign policies. It is the latter which will be considered here.

About foreign policy Mr. Wilson speaks publicly in acceptable generalities; in private he is more specific, but a consistent thread of intention, should he become Prime Minister, is hard to discern. More than most, he has pondered the ten-year strife which rent the Labor Party from 1951 to 1961. He has put a guard upon his tongue. The 1962 annual conference was notable for a virtual absence of debate about foreign affairs and defense, and Herr Willy Brandt's appearance early in the proceedings was symbolic rather than significant.

The initial 18 months of Labor in office will be mainly a bridgehead. Of more interest are the objectives Mr. Wilson wishes to achieve and the arguments he may use to justify them once the initial period is over and the first major ministerial reshuffles are made. They are already made on paper. Mr. Wilson will be occupied at first with neither measures nor men, but with machinery. As a wartime civil servant and former political head of one of Whitehall's largest departments-the Board of Trade-he regards economic administration as the necessary precursor of more radical change. Whether or not he intends to reorganize the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defense, effectively supplanting them with an enlarged Cabinet office staffed from outside the civil service and operating a modern apparatus of policy-making, remains a matter of carefully concealed doubt.

Because some of the home ministries are to

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