Assess the extent to which the Wilson government achieved its objectives by 1970.

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Joel Tasker 13RMDThe Making of Modern Britain, 1951200705/10/2014
Assess the extent to which the Wilson government
achieved its objectives by 1970.
In the 1964 election campaign Harold Wilson referred to the 13 years of Tory
government between 1951 and 1964 as "13 wasted years". He made certain promises and
commitments to the British public over topics such as technology and economy that would
see Britain restored to the top of the world `food chain'. Great Britain, once again. However,
could his 6 years in office be summed up just as dismissively as a further 6 wasted years?
Firstly, whereas the wasted years of Tory govern came down, ultimately, to wasted
opportunities in developing and reenergising the British economy postwar, Wilson's
government could be accused of being wasteful due to advancements undertaken. Primarily,
the race the British government "won" to build the first turbojetpowered supersonic
passenger airliner. Whilst many, including Wilson, may have seen this, or spun this, as
Britain returning to the forefront of technological advancement, it was a loselose situation.
Obviously, to lose out in the race would mean yet more damage done to British morale, and
further evidence of Britain's fall from grace. However, even "winning" the race was a very
hollow victory. Boeing, the American aerospace company, were Britain's main competition
to build the first ever supersonic airliner, but pulled out of the race when their economic
advisers realised it could never be an economic success. So whilst the Labour government did
not waste their time in government by not taking action, they wasted their time by taking
poorly informed decisions.
Secondly, reorganisation of economic policy was unsuccessful. Modernisation was
the name of the "economic game" for the Wilson government. Wilson inherited poor
productivity and poor growth rates when he came into government. He believed, as outlined
in the Labour manifesto, that "purposive planning" was key to a successful and prosperous
economy. The deficit in 1964 was £400 million, the worst since the Second World War.
Classic economic solutions to this issue would have been a choice between devaluation or
deflation. Perhaps due to the mantra of modernisation, Wilson rejected the possibility of
either approaches being adopted by his government. This led to the creation of a new
Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) led by George Brown, the deputy leader of the
Labour party for ten years from 19601970. There were two main flaws with the new DEA,
firstly was the overlap between the DEA and the Treasury and the Chancellor James
Callaghan. Secondly, it is perceived that George Brown was in fact detrimental to the DEA
he headed. George Brown was impulsive, lacking in consistency, and worst of all, a drunk.
Brown's National Plan did not have united governmental support, although it did have the
full backing of the unions. The DEA was effectively in direct competition with the orthodox
economists at the Treasury. Clearly the Modernisation view of Labour would not be wholly
accepted by the orthodox, even `old fashioned', economists of the Treasury.

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Joel Tasker 13RMDThe Making of Modern Britain, 1951200705/10/2014
After the 1966 election Brown was moved out of the DEA and it faded away. The
newly reinstated government brought in prices and incomes policy in an attempt to keep
inflation down. However, after relentless striking in 1966 and early 1967 the government had
to decide in November to opt for devaluation with the pound dropping 14% to $2.40 from
$2.80.…read more

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Joel Tasker 13RMDThe Making of Modern Britain, 1951200705/10/2014
Jenkins had been inclined to side with the experts in 1964, and was prodevaluation. He
adopted the "classic" deflationary method. He raised taxes, tightened up governmental
spending in every area, and gave top priority to improving the balance of payments (BOP)
which was in such a dire situation. In the short term these policies made Labour very
unpopular, yet by 1969 a surplus had been achieved on the BOP.…read more


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