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Flashcards in The Conservatives in Office 1951-1964 Deck (26)
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Who were the key individuals of the Tory government 1951-1964?

• Winston Churchill. Prime Minister 1951-55. Wartime PM and ‘saviour of his country’ (AJP Taylor) but in 1951 was 77 years old, tired, forgetful and uninterested in the detail of domestic affairs. Progressive, left of centre ‘One Nation’ Conservative.
• Anthony Eden. Foreign Secretary 1951-55. Prime Minster 1955-57. Educated Eton and Oxford and awarded the MC in the 1914-18 war. Churchill’s heir apparent since the 40s. Liberal minded, intelligent, popular with the wider public – but a suspect temperament. Sometimes a ditherer and compulsive meddler in departmental affairs. The knives were out for Eden even before the Suez fiasco.
• Harold Macmillan. Minister of Housing, 1951-55. Foreign Secretary 1955: Chancellor of the Exchequer 1955-57; Prime Minister 1957-63. Educated Eton and Oxford and married to daughter of the Duke of Devonshire. Outwardly a genial, imperturbable populist and showman or ‘actor manager’ (Enoch Powell), but in practise an ambitious calculating, hardworking professional politician. Like Churchill a ‘One Nation’ Conservative.
• Sir Alec Douglas Hume. Served under Eden and Macmillan as Commonwealth Secretary and Foreign Secretary. Surprise choice to succeed Macmillan in 1963. Prime Minister 1963-64. A hereditary peer and old fashioned grouse moor Tory, universally acknowledged to be decent and well intentioned, but a foreign affairs specialist, a former appeaser and intellectual lightweight who was out of his depth in domestic, especially economic matters. Derided in the tabloid press as ‘cretin’ and ‘halfwit’ instinctively to the right of Churchill and Macmillan in domestic policy.
• R.A. (‘Rab’) Butler. Chancellor of the Exchequer 1951-55, Home Secretary 1955-62, Deputy Prime Minister 1962-63, Foreign secretary 1963-64. The Conservatives ‘nearly man’, losing leadership contests to Macmillan 1957 and Douglas Hume 1963. Immensely capable left of centre Conservative and architect of the 1944 Education Act, but lacked killer instinct and the popular touch.


Explain the New PM and his government

• Churchill aware of Labour’s popularity and widespread support for its reforms, anxious to start a liberal conservative government that would work in the same policy areas, did not wish to return to the party-political bitterness of the 30s
• He would be a consensus prime minister, accepting the welfare state, the need for a massive house building programme, TU conciliation and a large nationalised segment of the economy
• He appointed liberal Tories to leading positions, even trying to get Liberal leader Clement Davies to join his cabinet
• Churchill had already had a heart attack and a stroke, and would have another stroke in 1953, his health was at time questionable but had superb ministers, Eden his deputy and Foreign Secretary, Austen Butler as Chancellor, Macmillan as Housing minister, Macleod, Maudling, Heath and Powell rising the ranks


Explain the consensus between the Conservatives and Labour, and the unions

• Most obvious area was in industrial relations with TUs, Churchill didn’t want to be seen as a union basher, no attempt to restore the Trade Disputes Act 1927, Tories went further, didn’t use troops to suppress strikes as Atlee did
• But British disease showing, low productivity growth, poor industrial relations and wage demands above economic growth leading to inflation, powerful TUs resisted innovation, pursuit of full employment and peace with the TUs was inflationary
• Welfare state remained safe in Tory hands, Macleod wanted funding to modernise hospitals but housing was prioritised, even became ‘paired’ with Bevan
• Conservatives determined to outperform Labour, 1950 Conference pledged to build 300,000 houses a year, Macmillan performed well building over 318,000 houses 1952-53 by reducing Bevan’s high standards partly, relaxed Labour’s controls on private house building and land use
• Despite the noises made in the 1950 and 51 GE’s about the dangers of nationalisation, no real attempts to roll it back were made, Iron and Steel eventually denationalised in 1953 and Road Haulage returned to private hands, however these two passed out of state control they were replaced by something of more importance, the Atomic Energy Authority in 1954


Briefly outline the approach to education

• Continuity the dominant theme, even true in the area of neglect, education, policy remained largely the same revolving around the Butler’s 1944 Act
• Both parties ignored the intention to create a tripartite system, education tended to get side lined by housing, health and defence


Examine Butler's treasury 1951-55

• Butler perhaps the most important consensual politician, ‘Butskellism’ – Economist, Butler inherited Britain’s BoP problem, Korean war had heightened commodity prices and US exports had fallen resulting in a dollar gap and a run on Britain’s reserves to pay for imports
• Butler introduced import controls and cutting travel allowances to £50, the bank rate was raised, failed to force Macmillan with timber import cuts, attempted to float the pound opposed to fixing exchange rates but this was defeated as it was feared it would damage Commonwealth countries who maintained Sterling balances
• Turns out it was unnecessary, the terms of trade swung in Britain’s favour with a fall in commodity prices and a surge in US exports, British reserves rose, little room for manoeuvre in his 1952 budget by presenting it cleverly making slight changes and reducing some controls
• By 1953 currency reserves were in a healthier state ad Butler was able to do the popular thing and cut income and purchase tax, despite the cut the standard income tax rate remained at 45%, Butler’s reputation soared and he appeared a Tory leader candidate
• However, the economy would always overheat, and by 1955 there were signs that the boom was sucking in too many imports, wage demands fuelled inflation, and another BoP crisis loomed, Butler for electoral reasons cut income and purchase tax in May, harming his reputation for sound finance, in October he had to return with a budget which raised taxes ‘pots and pans’ budget, savaged by Gaitskell for this, Butler deprived of his department by Eden’s reshuffling to Leader of the House of Commons


Briefly outline ongoing political matters in the era

• When Churchill finally stood down in 1955 his replacement by Eden was a formality
• Eden’s post Suez resignation saw Butler, the favourite, defeated by Macmillan following soundings among Tory MPs by party managers
• The most dramatic political episode of 1951-64 period of Conservative rule was the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ 1962. Faced with the need to remove a failed Chancellor, Selwyn Lloyd, and freshen up the government following a string of by-election defeats (most spectacularly in 1962 in Orpington majority) Macmillan dismissed one third of his Cabinet. Out went Selwyn Lloyd – Chancellor, Kilmuir – Lord Chancellor, Eccles – Education, Watkinson – Defence, Maclay – Scotland, Hill – Housing and Mills – without portfolio. They were replaced by promising young Tories such as Reginald Maudling, Edward Boyle, Keith Joseph and Enoch Powell.
• Macmillan’s resignation on grounds of ill health in 1963 was followed by a bitter leadership struggle. The front runners appeared to be Butler (seen by some Conservatives as too dull) and Quintin Hogg (Seen by some as too showy and erratic). Soundings by party managers led to the appointment of Sir Alec Douglas Hume, no one’s favourite but the candidate who divided the party the least. The choice of Douglas Hume, more right wing than either Butler or Hogg was famously attacked by leading One Nation Troy Iain Macleod as a victory of the ‘magic circle’ of Old Etonians who dominated Tory affairs. A system of electing the leader by a ballot among Tory MPs was subsequently adopted.


Explain Tory economic, industrial and social policy

• Conservative strategy set out in its Industrial Charter 1947, drafter by Butler when head of the Conservative Research Department. Its adoption was ‘a decisive moment in the Conservative post-war history’ (Ian Gilmour). The Industrial Charter committed the party to:
o The maintenance of full employment, with the economy being managed by Keynesian methods
o The perpetuation of the welfare state
o No further nationalisation – but there was no pledge to transfer any industry already nationalised back to private ownership
• Conservative Chancellors of the Exchequer were R.A. Butler (1951-55), Harold Macmillan (1955-57), Peter Thorneycroft (1957-58), Derek Heathcoat-Amery (1958-61) and Reginald Maudling (1962-64). Only Thorneycroft was a devotee of free market as opposed to Keynesian approach, and the resigned – along with two junior Treasury Ministers, Nigel Birch and Enoch Powell – when unable to persuade Macmillan to make deep cuts in public spending in order to reduce inflation. Macmillan famously described the episode as ‘a little local difficulty’.
• The outcomes of Conservative economic management in 1951-64 were sustained economic growth, rises in real wages, full employment (it never rose above 500,000) and by later standards, low inflation.
• One of the main charges levelled against Conservative economic management at the time was that it lacked continuity, or as it was phrased in the 50s, involved ‘stop-go’. Periods when fears of inflation led to growth being slowed by tax and interest rate cuts ‘stop’, were followed by periods in which growth was stimulated by tax and interest rate cuts ‘go’. ‘Stop-go’ was to some extent shaped by political considerations: there were tax-cutting budgets before both the 1955 and 1959 elections. The sequence was: ‘stop’ 1951-53, ‘go’ 1953-55, ‘stop’ 1955-58, ‘go’ 1958-60, ‘stop’ 1960-63, and ‘go’ 1963-64.
• A second major charge levelled against Conservative economic management was that only belatedly did it begin seriously to address the issue of strengthening the UKs long-term competitiveness by:
o Establishing the National Economic Development Council in 1961 to involve unions and industry in discussions on improving economic performance
o Accepting the recommendations of the 1963 Robbins Committee for a major expansion of higher education
• The Conservative governments of 1951-64 left Labour’s mixed economy was left largely intact. Only two industries were denationalised – iron and steel (by the Iron and Steel Act 1953) and road haulage (Transport Act 1953). A new nationalised industry, however, was created when the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority as established in 1954 to build and operate nuclear power stations.
• It would be a mistake to think that there was little to choose between Conservative and Labour domestic policies in the period up to 1964. The Conservatives took seriously their 1951 election rhetoric of ‘setting the people free’ from austerity and bureaucratic control. This led not only to decisions in which Labour could easily endorse, such as the abolition of identity cards (1951) and of all forms of rationing (by 1954), but also to policies with a strong private enterprise emphasis, notably:
o The ending of the BBCs TV monopoly by the 1954 Television Act which established independent television
o The Rent Act of 1957, which removed government backed rent controls from 1 million private tenants and allowed private landlords to increase the rents of 4 million more tenants
o A preference for road over rail transport, demonstrated by acceptance of the 1963 Beeching Report, which led to the closure of one-third of British Rail’s track and stations, and by the start of motorway building 1958
o The Betting and Gambling Act 1960, which licensed off course betting and enabled the opening of ‘betting shops’
o The abolition of Resale Price Maintenance in 1964, ending the system through which manufacturers stipulated the price at which their goods were sold in shops, thus preventing price-cutting by supermarket chains.
• The Conservatives’ biggest single domestic policy success of the 50s came in housing, an area relatively neglected by Attlee’s government. Half a million houses were destroyed by air raids in 1939-45 and a further three million badly damaged (out of a total housing stock of 12 million). The Conservatives in 1951 made a bold promise to build 300,000 homes a year. Macmillan, as Housing minister, delivered – 327,000 houses were built in 1953, and 354,000 in 1954.


Examine Eden' premiership 1955-57

• Churchill finally resigned in 1955 but had doubts of Eden, experience was almost solely in foreign affairs, operation in 1953 had gone badly wrong and he remained in pain and subject to fevers, highly strung, superb at public performances but prone to private rages
• Despite Churchill’s doubts and Eden’s personal deficiencies his premiership started well, went for an early election three days after Butler’s popular budget, first of the modern elections as one in three had televisions thus broadcasts were vital
• Labour divisions between right of Morrison and Gaitskell, and left of Bevan, thus Tory victory with 49.7%, Labour’ fell to 46.4%, Conservatives now had a formidable 54 seat majority, future for Conservatives looked bright, but even before Suez Eden had problems:
o Could be a charming world statesman, unrivalled knowledge of other leaders and diplomacy
o Knew little of domestic issues, relied heavily on Butler in economics, finance and the social services
o Highly strung and fussy, fits of temper and pointless interference for reports
o Situation not helped by worsening economic situation after the election, Butler had to backtrack on his giveaway budget of April, hire purchase charges raised in July, in October taxes were raised, giveaway budget appeared a cheap election ploy
o Reshuffled Macmillan away from the Foreign Office, wanting a responsive subordinate, not a strong minded colleague
o By early 1956 a campaign amongst Tory backbenchers that Eden must go, Telegraph called for the ‘smack of government’


Examine British Foreign and Colonial policy of the era

In 1951-64, Britain’s loss of great power status became apparent. There were three key episodes:
1. The Suez Crisis
a. Britain assumed a dominant role in the middle East, access to middle eastern oil and Suez were vital
b. In July 1956 the US reneged on a promise to help finance a pet project of the Egyptian dictator, Nasser, because of his links with the Soviet bloc. Nasser backed radical Arab movements in the region which brought him into indirect conflict with France who were fighting to retain Algeria, Nasser nationalised the company which operated the Suez Canal. Britain outraged because:
i. Britain was a major shareholder in the company
ii. The Suez Canal was a major British trade route, and there were fears for its security
iii. Eden felt Nasser to be another Mussolini or Hitler and was determined to bring him down
c. France were prepared for military action but Britain desired strong moral reasons for its foreign actions, but the USA opposed military action as Eisenhower was campaigning as a peacemaker
d. When diplomacy failed, Britain made a secret deal with two of Nasser’s enemies – France (Nasser was backing Algerian nationalists in their struggle for independence from France) and Israel (Nasser the leading figure in Arab nationalism, pledged to destroy Israel)
e. The plan involved Israel attacking Egypt across the Sinai desert and Britain and France would intervene by force to ‘protect’ the canal zone, the hope was a humiliated Nasser would be toppled
f. When the plan went ahead (October 1956), the military part went smoothly but there was a run on the pound sterling
g. On 2 November the UN General Assembly demanded a ceasefire, Britain was backed only by Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, Britain was isolated in the world and domestic opinion polarised
h. Two junior ministers resigned in protest as a clear 53% majority of the public supported the government, Gaitskell was just as damning of Eden as he had been of Nasser
i. Fighting on land began on 5 November, large Egyptian losses but few British and French casualties, a success, but the pound was selling worldwide throughout the crisis and forced devaluation seemed likely, Bank of England attempted to prop up the pound with precious supplies of dollars
j. Macmillan as Chancellor was refused a loan to prop up the pound until Britain declared a ceasefire, Eden at this time was shattered health wise and took a holiday in Jamaica
k. Butler and Macmillan were left to mind the shop, a loan was coming but the price was a humiliating withdrawal, it was a fiasco, Nasser was strengthened, radical Arab sentiment boosted
l. The USA refused to prop up the pound unless Britain withdrew, which Britain (to the fury of the French and Israelis) promptly did
m. The Suez affair was a fiasco at a number of levels
i. It represented a hysterical over-reaction to what Nasser had done
ii. It involved the government lying – about ‘collusion’ – to parliament and people
iii. It involved deception of Britain’s closest ally, the USA, and imperilled the Anglo-American relationship
iv. Most importantly, it showed that Britain was no longer capable of acting independently as a great power
n. Not a major domestic setback for the Tories however, Labour seen as unpatriotic by working classes, Eden retired in January, Macmillan succeeded and skilfully restored party morale

2. Blue Streak decision 1960 and the Nassau Agreement 1962
a. 1957 Defence White Paper envisage concentration on an independent nuclear deterrent ad cutbacks in expensive conventional forces
b. A British ICBM, Blue Streak, was to be built to give the British deterrent global reach
c. In 1960 it was scrapped on the grounds of cost
d. In 1962 at Nassau, President Kennedy agreed to sell Britain US built Polaris missiles, but there were string attached and questions could legitimately be raised about how ‘independent’ the British deterrent was
e. The episode further demonstrated Britain’s dependence on the USA
3. De Gaulle’s EEC Veto 1963
a. When France, Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries first formed the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and then, under the 1957 Treaty of Rome, went on to form the European Common Market, Britain held aloof – thinking of itself still as a world power rather than as one which should commit its future to a regional association
b. Concerned, though, about trade with Western Europe, in 1960 Britain (along with the Scandinavian countries, Switzerland, Austria and Portugal) formed the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), mainly as a bargaining counter
c. With no bargain on the horizon, Britain in 1961 announced its intention to seek EEC membership
d. Two years of negotiations (by Edward Heath) followed, brought to an end in 1963 when French President De Gaulle vetoed British entry, mainly on the grounds that once in the EEC Britain would become a ‘Trojan horse’ for US influence
e. The veto was another humiliation – ‘a shattering blow’ (Ian Gilmour) to the government
• In contrast to these failures, colonial policy was managed far sightedly. Between 1957 and 1964 Britain granted independence to almost all of its empire in Africa and the Caribbean. This was largely the work of Macmillan and his Colonial Secretary, Ian Macleod. In addition, in 1960, Macmillan visiting South Africa, warned his hosts to recognise that a ‘wind of change’ was blowing through Africa and made clear Britain’s opposition to apartheid. This did not go down well in all quarters – right wing Conservative MPs formed the Monday Club, named after ‘black Monday’ on which Macmillan had made the ‘winds of change’ speech, to oppose the government’s Africa policies and to promote ‘true Conservatism’ in other areas.


Outline Macmillan's premiership

• 14 years after the end of the war, Macmillan’s cabinet was still extremely class ridden filled with old Etonians and his relatives, growing prosperity for working classes but not based on a dynamic work ethic
• Work force was heavily unionised and pockets of communist influence rested with them, deeply conservative in terms of protecting jobs and practises, little desire to cooperate with management to maximise productivity through innovation, management seen with suspicion as a different class, nation went along with this style, no appetite for drastic change
• Increasing consumerism, cars, televisions, embourgeoisification:
o 1951-64 private car ownership rose 2.5m to 8m
o By 1960, over 80% owned a radio, 70% a vacuum cleaner and 50% a washing machine = ‘never had it so good’


Evaluate the portrayal of 'Supermac'

• On the surface an unflappable Edwardian war hero, classical scholar and crack shot, contrived to hide a damaged individual who had lost much, his superb performances in the Commons were preceded by pangs of nerves as he forced himself into the role
• Image of an upper class aristocrat hid an genuinely radical intellectual committed to improving life for all, but his taste for grouse moors kept him in touch with traditional Tories
• Similarly, on the surface the Conservatives were 18th Century, all but two of the Cabinet had attended a major public school (6 Etonians), no women, wider government stuffed with Macmillan’s relatives through marriage
• Despite this the cabinet was centrist like Churchill’s, anxious to avoid TU conflict and devoted to full employment and acceptant of the welfare state – Marquis of Salisbury Bobbety resigned as the cabinet was too liberal imperial policy
• Butler was the arch liberal and most prominent member of the Cabinet and now Home Secretary, tending to run the government when Macmillan was abroad
• Middle and junior posts occupied by a generation of talented men, Heath was chief whip, Powell in the Treasury, Macleod Minister of Labour then Colonial Secretary pushing for decolonisation
• Macmillan set the tone and captured the public’s imagination, reassuring everyone that despite Suez, all was well within Britain, still a great power enjoying prosperity, Bedford Speech – ‘Never had it so good’
• Macmillan equated with prosperity, his problem of rising prices was fortunately ignored, only later blamed for the tarnished 1963 economy, left wing’s Vicky’s portrayal of Supermac backfired
• He developed an easy mastery of the Commons, opposition leader Gaitskell too academic, failing to focus on embarrassing questions at PMQs


Explain Macmillan's adjustment to reality

• Macmillan viewed Suez as Dunkirk, a defeat to be learned from, emphasising greatness he led the country away from Empire and Great Power Status, African colonies given independence, sped up by Macleod
• Attempt to cut defence spending, Sandys appointed Minister of Defence to run down the services, to rely on nuclear deterrent, had Macmillan’s support but a bitter battle
• More serious conflict for Macmillan when he defended government expenditure, and his opponents, including Thorneycroft pressed for deflationary cuts, 1957 a fresh BoP crisis brewed
• This time there was a Treasury team willing to question the managed economy, Powell the key figure behind the Chancellor, convinced the money supply should be restricted to reduce inflation
• 1948-56 incomes had risen 75% but output only 28% - rapid inflation, restricting the money supply would impose discipline on wage demands by causing unemployment, the hated evil for Macmillan
• Like Dalton before him, he preferred the ‘slight flush of inflation to the deathly pallor of deflation’, Treasury demanded a halt to increasing government spending and certain cuts e.g. family allowances
• Macmillan and other Cabinet members resisted and the entire Treasury team resigned, Macmillan skilfully portrayed Thorneycroft as unrealistic and inconsistent, suggesting his resignation was over a 1% increase of national expenditure
• Macmillan appointed a more congenial Chancellor in Heathcoat-Amory, unseduced by monetarism but at the first opportunity would put his foot on the financial accelerator
• 1958 modest tax reliefs, but 1959 with Britain basking in economic recovery and increased reserves, Amory delivered a give-away budget pleasing Macmillan
o Income tax came down to below 40p to the £, purchase tax cut
o An election winning budget


Examine Butler's Home Office

• Butler left to his own devices by the PM, liberal instincts, title his memoirs ‘The Art of the Possible’
• Pushed through a series of important acts, inherited a Homicide bill limiting capital punishment to specific instances, e.g. of a police officer
• Suspected sympathiser with abolition, but would be unpopular with party faithful
• Had to act on the Wolfenden Report relating to sexual practises, e.g. prostitution and homosexuality, tighter regulation on street soliciting and decriminalising homosexuality, this liberal move proved unpopular with Tory backbenchers
• Street Offices Act reduced street soliciting imposing tougher penalties on prostitution, Police said penalties on their clients were impossible to enforce thus left uninclined, Butler attacked by feminists, relative of Victorian social reformer Josephine Butler who had done much to improve the rights of prostitutes
• Pushed through a Charities Act, modernising the administration of charity law
• Controversially the Commonwealth Immigration Act, controlling the numbers of commonwealth citizens entering Britain, denounced by Gaitskell as racist
o Butler pointed out in his memoirs Labour in fact tightened restrictions with their own 1965 Act
• 1959 Butler had produced a White Paper on future Home Office policy called ‘Penal Practice in a Changing Society’ on which subsequent improvements were based


Explain the General Election 1959

• Labour had made themselves more electable, Gaitskell won a convincing victory to replace Atlee, beat Bevan 157 votes to 70 with Morrison a poor third
• Party rallied around its leader, even if the left were suspicious of his desire to jettison some traditional socialist policies
• Bevanites, notably Crossman and Wilson made peace with Gaitskell, Wilson became Shadow Chancellor and enjoyed an effective career in the Commons duelling with Macmillan before his succession of Eden, biggest catch was Bevan himself who became joined the Shadow Foreign Office
• Hopes that with a younger, vigorous leader and less divided party Labour might defeat the Tories, but they underestimated Macmillan’s talents as a performer
• By now, a massive expansion in television ownership from over 4m in 1955, to over 10m in 1960, Macmillan initially made a poor start with broadcasts which were stilted and unconvincing, but lessons were learned quickly and effectively
• Many other reasons for Conservative Success: rising prosperity, enhanced by the giveaway budget; Macmillan’s portrayal as a world statesmen who restored Britain’s place in the world
• US relations had been restored and Macmillan’s personal friendship with Eisenhower dating back to WW2 helped
• Gaitskell himself contributed to Labour’s defeat promising too much i.e. increased government spending and tax cut, Tories won an increased majority
o Conservatives gained 49.6% to Labour’s 44.5%. an achievement for the 65yr old PM


Examine Economic management 1959-63

• Many ways a repeat of 1955 as far as Conservative economic management, pre-election giveaway budget in 1959 followed by panic as he economy overheated, in 1959 exports rose by 4% but imports 10%
• Union appeasement, with 5% pay increase to railway workers, Amory wanted to deflate and argued for a tough 1960 budget, as Thorneycroft had done in 1958, Macmillan wouldn’t listen, only accepting a stand still budget
• Amory obliged, but resigned quietly in June to be replace by the faithful Selwyn Lloyd, Macmillan’s third Chancellor in three years


Examine Lloyd's Chancellorship

• Appointed as Macmillan wanted a chief of staff and intended to run the Exchequer basically by himself – proved an unhappy experience for both
• Pound continued under pressure with the threat of devaluation, wages rose much faster than productivity, even Macmillan forced to agree an emergency package in 1961
• Purchase taxes were raised and bank rate went to 7%, ‘pay pause’ in the public sector
• Hoped that the private sector would follow in moderating their demands but this didn’t happen, non-militant members of the public sector such as teachers, nurses and civil servants fell behind in their standard of living and resented the government
• Macmillan and Lloyd came up with what was to be the standard answer to 60s and 70s economic woe, indicative planning, 1962 the National Economic Development Council ‘Neddy’ was set up, composed of six unionists, six industrialists, two independents and three cabinet ministers, meetings held and reports made – largely useless
• Pay freezes and tax increases produced discontent, an NEDDY was hardly capable of dealing with this, opinion polls showed the Conservatives far behind Labour and a Liberal surge, winning Orpington
• Lloyd didn’t help with his 1962 budget, a public relations disaster taxing sweets, soft drinks and ice cream – ‘taxing children’s’ pocket money’
• Macmillan decided a Cabinet reshuffle was necessary, the chief victim Lloyd, Butler contributed to ‘the night of the long knives’, broke Macmillan’s unflappable image and the Gallup Poll reported only 36% of the electorate expressed approval of his performance
• Butler appeared to have leaked news of these events, forcing Macmillan to dismiss Lloyd in a hastier manner
• Macmillan could not manage Atlee’s terse approach in a draining hour long interview in July, the PM feared a revolt led by Lloyd and proceeded to sack a third of his cabinet, Lord Kilmuir the Lord Chancellor complained that he would have given his cook more notice
• Macmillan appeared ruthless and panic-stricken, Jeremey Thorpe Liberal MP – ‘greater love hath no man that he lay down his friends for his life’
• Macmillan’s new team however was more talented than the one just butchered, Sir Edward Boyle, a Liberal intellectual, replaced David Eccles at education and Sir Keith Joseph took housing
• Star appointment was Reginald Maudling as Chancellor, extremely bright, like the PM – an instinctive expansionist believing in growing the economy though lower taxes and easy credit


Examine Maudling's Chancellorship

• Autumn of 1962 Maudling began trying to kick start the economy, purchase tax was cut from 45 to 25%, bank rate was also cut to encourage borrowing, more followed in his first budget April 1963 with tax cuts of £260m
• He was gambling on a dramatic dash for growth, there was though a strong chance that history would repeat itself and a strong ‘go’ would be followed by a ‘stop’
• April 1963 with tax cuts of £260m
• He was gambling on a dramatic dash for growth, there was though a strong chance that history would repeat itself and a strong ‘go’ would be followed by a ‘stop’


Assess Conservative success in the era

• On one level Tory economic management had been greatly successful: no return to the mass unemployment of the inter-war years, welfare state had been maintained and living standards had risen evenly
• Between 1959 and 1964 the real wages of workers rose 19%, almost every household had a television by 1964, self-ownership of houses had reached 44%, Conservatives were on their way to creating a property owning democracy
• Vacuum cleaners fond in 75% of homes, washing machines replaced mangles and the fridge brought about a food revolution, arrival of the consumer society
• But Britain was falling behind her competitors and becoming the ‘sick man’ of Europe
o Britain’s share of world trade fell from 25% in 1950 to 15%
o France now began to pull ahead of Britain in economic development, Germany and Japan now surged ahead
o To the right this was a consequence of the burden of the welfare state and over powerful TUs, to the left, it arose from complacent, incompetent management, the class structure and bloated defence commitments
o Britain the 3rd Great Power of 1945 was now 6th in economic muscle


Explain British attempts to join the EEC

• Macmillan recognised this as well as Maudling’s belief in expansion, he saw the answer to be in joining Europe, hoping dynamic access to 150m British consumers would revitalise British industry
• The PM skilfully persuaded his Cabinet colleagues and the bulk of a suspicious Tory Party to back his application to join the EEC
• Heath was selected to head the British negotiation team, British hopes to safeguard her special relationship with the commonwealth and the very different nature of British agriculture compared to European posed problems
• EEC based around French agriculture and German industry, did not always fit Britain’s needs:
o Britain had embraced a policy of cheap food in the 19th century at the expense of agriculture for the cities
o Europe was built around expensive food to the benefit of French producers
• Heath worked hard and well, earning the respect of European negotiators, but De Gaulle, fearing that Britain would be a Trojan horse for US interests in the EEC and a dislike for allied actions in WW2, vetoed British entry, Macmillan’s recovery strategy was in ruins


Briefly outline the cause for Tory decline and fall

• 1963 was a nightmare for the Tory party, starting with De Gaulle’s veto, Macmillan was already in trouble with the impression of the ‘night of the long knives’, even before this he was becoming the subject of satire
• Peter Cook savaged him in a spoof political broadcast, presenting an aging incompetent, no longer the respected statesman, ‘Beyond the Fringe’


Explain the Profumo Affair

• Late 1962, a scandal involving John Vassall, a homosexual civil servant in the Admiralty relaying secrets to the Russian, massive outcry in the press and from the opposition and the minister in charge resigned, image of sexual scandal and incompetence created
• Scandal centred on John Profumo, War Minister’s casual affair with call girl Christine Keeler, who had previously been in a relationship with a spy, Captain Ivanov of the Russian embassy, no threat to national security but Profumo denied it blatantly to the Commons in March
• Macmillan handled the crisis poorly, admitting in the Commons to being out of touch with young people, although he seemed to have recovered some appetite for political leadership in Autumn and signs of Maudling’s stimulus working, October brought fresh tragedy just before the party conference
o He needed a prostrate operation, and believing it to be more serious than it was resigned – a mistake
• A shambolic scramble for the Tory leadership ensued, Butler the front runner but Macmillan felt he lacked the cavalier excitement needed, he preferred Quintin Hogg, Viscount Hailsham Hogg, was clever and had a capacity for grand gestures, but lacked the measured calculation that Butler had in abundance
• Hailsham threw in his hat at the party conference renouncing peerage, gave the impression of an over eager unbalanced man, should have been Butler’s to take but he lacked the ruthlessness to seize it
• Macmillan persuaded his foreign secretary, Alec Douglas Home to offer himself, he did reluctantly, 60, utterly decent, and unsuitable to the needs of the Tory party in 1963
• Wilson feared that it would be Macleod or Maudling, Wilson couldn’t believe his luck with Home announcement, in reality Wilson’s
• Butler didn’t scupper Home by refusing to serve under him and lost the chance of being PM, Home not so keen on the job either


Examine Harold Wilson's Labour opposition

• Wilson, a clever grammar school boy had a dream opponent, he exploited the situation well to wrong foot the Tories and unite Labour by avoiding all the issues that divided Labour, he responded with modernisation and the ‘scientific revolution’
• Wilson dominated the next 12 months, embodied merit (only 47) and cheeky irrepressible confidence, constantly running ahead of his own party and Home in opinion polls
• Home clung on hoping the tide would turn as Maudling’s stimulus promoted economic boom
• Ending of ‘resale price maintenance’ brought long term consumer benefits by reducing price controls benefiting small shopkeepers, unfortunately many shopkeepers were alienated just before the election
• Nevertheless, the Tories crept close to Labour in the polls and in 1964 Labour squeezed home with a majority of only 4, the Tories lost 60 seats but were only 0.1% behind Labour’s popular vote
• A surge in Liberal votes damaged the Tories even further though it produced only 9 Liberal MPs, Home had done remarkably well


Explain why the Conservatives were so successful electorally in the 1950s

• The extent of success was unprecedented – not only did the Conservatives win three successive elections (1951, 54, 59) but increased their majority on each occasion (went from 321 seats in 1951, to 344 in 1955 and 365 in 1959)
• NB these successes were achieved despite the Suez fiasco in 1956 and ‘stop-go’
• Consumer affluence was almost certainly the main factor. The government naturally took the credit for affluence (‘You’ve never had it so good’), though other factors – rapidly expanding world economy, the impact of Labour’s 1949 devaluation
• Also significant were the tax-cutting budgets which preceded the 1955 and 1959 elections. There was a further tax-cutting budget before the 1964 election which didn’t quite do the trick
• Conservative rhetoric about ‘setting the people free’ and creating a ‘property owning democracy’ struck a chord with the middle class electorate in particular after the rigours of late 1940s austerity
• In Macmillan, or ‘Super Mac’ as he was dubbed by the cartoonish Vicky in 1959, the Conservatives possessed the most adroit and appealing politician of the era
• Labour became increasingly unelectable in the 50s – partly because its post war titans (Attlee, Bevin, Morrison, Cripps) had all departed the scene by the mid-50s, but mainly because of its increasingly bitter Left-Right division. Bevan’s 1951 resignation over Gaitskell’s 1951 Budget was a key moment. Thereafter the ‘Keep Left’ group of the late 1940s evolved into the Bevanites or Tribune Group (Labour Left’s Tribune newspaper) of the 50s. Before the 50s the Labour left had little support among the trade unions, but in the 50s some of them swung to the Left, notably the biggest, the Transport and General Workers Union led by Frank Cousins. On the Right were the Gaitskellites, Jenkins and Crosland prominent among them, who formed the Campaign for Democratic Socialism (1960) to campaign for the abandonment of Clause 4 of Labour’s constitution. The emergence of issues such as unilateral nuclear disarmament – the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament or CND founded 1957 – ad Europe exacerbated Labour’s divisions: the Left was unilateralist, the Right not; the Left anti-Europe; the Right pro-Europe.


Was this a period of 'Never had it so good' or 'Thirteen wasted years'

• The period saw sustained economic growth, substantial increases in real wages and increasing availability of consumer goods such as cars and washing machines. The 1964 Conservative manifesto claimed that ‘in thirteen years of Conservative government the living standards of the British people have improved more than in the whole of the previous half century’. Judged by such indicators as real wages and availability of consumer goods this was true.
• ‘Stop-go’ was a blemish on the tory record, but by the standards of the 1980s and 1990s the ‘stops’ were mild affairs.
• Though the British economy grew in the 50s, it did not do so anything like as fast as the economies of competitor countries – UK’s average growth rate in 50s was 2.6% compared to France’s 4.5% and Germany’s 7%. Britain’s share of world trade in manufactured goods fell from 25% in 1951 to 16% in 1964. This gave rise to ‘declinist’ literature, notably Michael Shanks’ best-selling The Stagnant Society 1960.
• Though wages rose in real terms, they didn’t rise anything like as fast as the value of stocks and shares: the working class’ overall share of national income didn’t increase in the 1950s.
• Alongside increasing private affluence there was a degree of public sector squalor: there was little investment in new hospitals in the 1950s or in school buildings, which were often seriously dilapidated; there were shortages of nurses and teachers; and provision for OAPs was inadequate.
• Britain’s persistent balance of payments problems were indicative of British industry’s underlying competitiveness problems. These problems (trade union power; poor management; the existence of a disproportionate number of small firms relying on sheltered domestic markets; a defective educational system; and, some say, an anti-entrepreneurial bias among Britain’s traditional ruling class and its middle class intellectuals were not seriously addressed in 1951-64.
• This last criticism was not only advanced by Labour at the time (‘thirteen wasted years’ was a Labour election slogan in 1964) but has more recently been echoed by Conservative historians of Thatcherite persuasion. Andrew Roberts, for example, has accused the Conservatives of the 50s of setting their sights no higher than managing imperial and commercial decline. However, to have streamlined and modernised the economy in the ways argued for by critics would have involved a degree of dirigisme (state control and direction) almost unthinkable for most 1950s Conservatives.


Examine Labour in opposition 1951-56

• Despite mistakes in the nations finances, the Conservatives enjoyed advantage over divided Labour in public perception, Labour was a coalition of ex liberals, middle class intellectuals and unionists, rebellion of the Bevanites in 1951 outraged Morrison
• Atlee, Morrison and Gaitskell controlled the party though the TU block vote, but increasingly the Bevanites won place on the National Executive Committee (NEC), pressing for more nationalisation and neutral foreign policy, many such as Michael Foot became activists for nuclear disarmament, Labour had an image of division and weakness


Examine the Labour party 1959-64

• Defeat in 1959 brought soul searching within Labour, two great issues were to divided her in the next two years and relieve the government of the burden of an effective opposition
• Gaitskell and the right felt it had lost because it was weighed down with outdated commitments such as clause 4 ‘common ownership’, had little effect but symptomatic of Labour’s outdatedness
• To the left, it was a badge of Labour’s left wing aspirations and sacrosanct, many in the middle such as Wilson thought it was pointless to divide the party on something so insignificant
• Unfortunately for Gaitskell the party power balance had shifted to the left with Frank Cousins arriving as leader of the TGWU, Gaitskell had to accept defeat in the 1960 conference on his attempt to drop clause 4, but didn’t accept defeat on unilateral disarmament
• Since the mid-50s there had been growing to renounce nuclear weapons, its supporters were middle class intelligencia, CND was established in 1957/58 and its marches to Aldermaston the British nuclear research centre, became part of the left wing calendar, but the CND’s flaw was its belief in exaggerated British influence:
o No evidence that Chairman Mao or De Gaulle would follow renouncing nuclear weapons
o Bevan – ‘an emotional spasm’, he had helped to defeat a non-nuclear policy in 1957 but by 1960 was dead
o CND supporters were able to get the 1960 Labour conference to support unilateral nuclear disarmament despite an opposing public majority, Gaitskell refused to accept the policy
• Gaitskell made a famous speech defending his beliefs which swung many, but the pre-determined block vote of some unions ensured his defeat, it was temporary but he was able to beat off a challenge from Wilson and by 1961 had assembled the votes to reverse unilateralism
• With a reunited party and strengthened leadership, Labour opened a serious lead over the Tories in 1962, many commentators saw Gaitskell as the next PM, but he fell ill and died unexpectedly in January 1963
• His successor was the widely distrusted Wilson, his opponent the brilliant but unstable George Brown, a contest between a crook and a drunk
• Wilson was likely to be successful at harrying an elderly Macmillan whose economic strategy appeared in ruins