Testing the book’s central argument, this chapter examines the positions
taken by individual MPs, the two major parties, the British press, and
public opinion over the twenty-five year period. Analysis is also provided
on the effects on individual members of the political elite in the light of
European events. There are a number of trajectories related to this chapter
which can be found in Appendix 6. These individual trajectories show the
various and often changing positions of MPs over the period 1959–84, and
whether they supported leave or remain in the 1975 referendum. In respect of
the press, the trajectories cover the twelve leading British newspapers and
journals and their positions on EEC membership. The trajectories on public
opinion clearly demonstrate, for example, how opinion shifted from being
anti-membership to strongly pro-membership leading up to Wilson’s decision
to hold a referendum in 1975.
The Washington summit was useful to Lyndon B. Johnson mainly because it allowed him to impress upon the British the need for them to retain their traditional 'great power' role and also to allow him to bring the multilateral force (MLF) to a conclusion. Harold Wilson accepted the American view that Britain should preserve its current position in defence, telling the Cabinet on 11 December that 'the most encouraging fact about the conference was America's emphasis on Britain's world wide role'. Johnson not only wanted Wilson to maintain Britain's defence commitments, but to extend them into South Vietnam. After Wilson's visit to Washington, most observers, including the President, anticipated that he would face a serious challenge in explaining what he had agreed to in Washington to the House of Commons in the foreign affairs debate scheduled for 16-17 December.
From January to April 1965 the character of the Harold Wilson-Lyndon B. Johnson relationship traversed the spectrum from discord to cordiality. Discord erupted over the Vietnam War when Wilson telephoned Washington in the early hours of 11 February to suggest to Johnson an urgent visit to the White House. Wilson agreed to the US initiative, even though the visit might have caused a political storm in Britain had it become public knowledge - it would appear that the United States was dictating British economic measures. Wilson noted that unlike the December summit and the telephone conversation in February, Johnson did not make 'any suggestion of our committing troops to Vietnam nor even any reference to police, medical teams, or teams to handle the flow of refugees'. On 10 April, Patrick Dean advised that to help strengthen the Anglo-American relationship, Britain should provide more support for the United States in Vietnam.