Harold Wilson 'cooked up' claims of a coup involving Lord Mountbatten

Harold Wilson ‘cooked up’ claims of a coup to replace him with Lord Mountbatten, documents show

  • Harold Wilson cooked up claims that a coup was planned to replace him as PM
  • Lord Mountbatten met with journalists in an alleged bid to depose the Labour leader, but documents show this may not have been the case
  • Newspaper boss Cecil King said the move was a bid to get him fired after The Daily Mirror ceased to support Wilson

Harold Wilson cooked up claims that a coup was planned to replace him as Prime Minister with the Queen’s cousin Lord Mountbatten, newly revealed documents allege.

Lord Mountbatten met top journalists in 1968 in an alleged bid to depose the Labour leader – a storyline which was featured in Netflix hit The Crown. Documents show that newspaper boss Cecil King claimed Mr Wilson got him sacked after one of his papers turned against him.

A 1981 letter from Mr King, former chairman of IPC which owned the Daily Mirror, said: ‘I have recently been accused in some newspapers of planning a coup – perhaps military, perhaps not – to overthrow this Government in 1968…’

British Labour politician Harold Wilson (1916 – 1995) talking at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, 1969.  Harold Wilson cooked up claims that a coup was planned to replace him as Prime Minister with the Queen’s cousin Lord Mountbatten, newly revealed documents allege

He wrote: ‘It now occurs to me that Wilson, disturbed that the Mirror had cooled towards him, decided to remove me. So perhaps he told my colleagues in the strictest secrecy that he had evidence that I was planning a coup.’

Mr King also claimed that in 1971 Wilson’s successor as PM, the Conservative Ted Heath, told him ‘he knew Wilson had played a part in my removal but that, so far, he had not discovered what part.’

Reports that a possible coup was discussed between Lord Mountbatten, Mr King, and Lord Cudlipp at a meeting in Mountbatten’s Belgravia home in May 1968 – to which Mr Zuckerman was also invited – first appeared in Lord Cudlipp’s book Walking on the Water in 1976.

Mr Wilson reportedly said he knew nothing of the coup until that same year.

Andrew Lownie, who devoted a chapter of his biography of Mountbatten to the coup, was last night sceptical of what Mr King said in the letter, saying he had not come across any evidence that Mr Wilson knew about the coup until long after 1968.

Mr Lownie said he considered Mr King’s claims in the letter as ‘all post hoc ergo propter hoc’ – a term used to describe a fallacious argument based on the assumption that because an event occurred first, it must have caused this later event. He also said he believes Mr King ‘was knifed as Mountbatten and Cudlipp tried to save their own skins.’

Lord Mountbatten, pictured, met top journalists in 1968 in an alleged bid to depose the Labour leader – a storyline which was featured in Netflix hit The Crown. Newspaper boss Cecil King then claimed Mr Wilson got him sacked after one of his papers turned against him

There were further reports of the coup in 1981 after Mr King released an entry from his diary about the 1968 meeting saying Lord Mountbatten had said the Queen ‘was desperately worried’ over what was happening in the country, which at the time was on the brink of civil disorder because of growing social upheaval, industrial unrest and economic decline.

Labour MP Ted Leadbitter called on Mrs Thatcher to launch an investigation into whether there had been a plan to overthrow the government or not.

In a draft reply to Mr Leadbitter included in the files, Mrs Thatcher said there was no need for a public inquiry into the alleged coup.

‘The three surviving participants have all given their accounts of what is supposed to have passed at the meeting in question, and I have seen nothing in these accounts or anywhere else to suggest that there was anything that came even remotely near to being a serious conspiracy to undermine or overthrow Parliamentary democracy,’ it said.

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