Did Harold Wilson quit over sex smear paranoia? Prime Minister feared he’d be a target for foreign spies ahead of shock resignation, archive reveals

Prime Minister Harold Wilson feared he was about to become a victim of a sex smear campaign by foreign spies during his final days at No10, secret files revealed yesterday.

They show he became increasingly paranoid that South African agents were plotting to discredit leading British politicians who spoke out against apartheid.

His concerns grew in the days before he shocked the nation by resigning without any real explanation in 1976, just two years after he had been returned to power.

Secret files released by the National Archives at Kew, west London, reveal how the former prime minister’s near obsession with the public downfall of Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe led to his paranoia – although neurologist Dr Peter Garrard has claimed that Wilson may also have shown signs of undiagnosed Alzheimer’s disease before he quit.

Thorpe was targeted by male model Norman Scott, who claimed to have been his lover in the early Sixties when homosexual acts were illegal.

In 1975, after a failed attempt on Scott’s life, newspapers reported that Thorpe had paid him hush money from Liberal Party coffers and had arranged to have him murdered.

Despite evidence to the contrary, Wilson was convinced that the South African Intelligence Service (SAIS) was behind the homosexual smears against Thorpe.