In 1967, Harold Wilson appointed Shirley Williams minister of state for education. In that capacity she visited Southampton University, which enjoyed a reputation for leftwing radicalism. She was greeted by a large crowd of vociferous students, and the vice-chancellor was anxious to usher her into the building where their discussion would take place.
But she simply sat down on the steps and engaged the students in an informal exchange along the lines of “Well, this is my idea of socialism”. It was a civilised and relaxed form of politics that seems unimaginable today.
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