Labour out of power essay

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Why did the labour party spend so long in opposition?
Labour minister Atlee was swept to power promptly after the Second World War. Labour
introduced a stronger welfare system with the flagship policy of the NHS at the helm of the new
mentality of improving life for the masses. Voters saw Labour as the only party fit for dealing with
domestic policy such as the urgent need for housing and the healthcare system. The Tories held the
unpopular association of depression and austerity. However, due to a combination of circumstances,
the election held in 1951 was won by the Tories, a domination of thirteen years to come. The
question of why the Labour party spent so long in opposition can be explained by a combination of
factors, however it is clear from the outset that the main reason for such a lengthy period out of
office was the overall weakness of the Labour party. This conclusion can be drawn by the shrewd
logic that political parties are always more likely to lose an election due to their failures in
government, than the political arguments and mentalities of the opposition. However, favourable
economic circumstances for the Conservatives during a period of growth in the 50 prevailed, which
saw the electoral cycle stayed firmly in sync with the economic cycle, this having its role to play in
the Tory monopoly, as affluent voters means typically no votes for change. Social factors such as the
Tories meeting their infrastructural pledges saw Labour was kept on the right side of Cabinet, and
the ability of politicians such as Macmillan to revolutionise methods of electioneering.
The ultimate reason why a party during any period of history stays firmly out of power is due to the
fact that the policies opposition parties place against the government in power are not strong enough
to win over the voters. Favourable economic circumstances plays a massive role in politics, as a
government's policies are seen as succeeding to maintain full or high employment, low inflation rates
and high wages. However, rows within parties are often more lively and more intensive than disputes
between parties which applied to the Labour party in their period of absence from `Number 10'.
The truth was that the Labour party, despite its creative years in office between 1945 and 1951,
was disunited and fragmented in the 1950s. This was even despite having Hugh Gaitskell as the
party leader, who was most notably respected for his sharp analytical mind and perfect voice for
public speaking. His oratory was seen most impressively when with controlled fury he forensically
shredded and destroyed Eden's attempt to justify the British occupation of the Suez. However, his
death in January 1963 meant he never saw office. The party was fragmented and could not decide
on what types of aims it was pursuing. Many saw the introduction of the welfare state as simply a
step in the march for a socialist society, the left of the party arguing for a greater commitment to state
control and direction of the economy and society. The most notorious example of divided Labour
over party policy was over Clause IV of the Labour constitution. This stated: `the common
membership of the means of production, distribution and exchange.' Such socialist views towards
nationalisation of industry were carried to heart by the Bevanites, yet opposed inwardly by Gaitskell
who tried to have this portion of the constitution amended. After losing the 1959 general
election Labour Party leader Hugh Gaitskell came to believe that public opposition
to nationalisation had led to the party's poor performance and announced that he proposed to
amend Clause IV. The left fought back and managed to defeat any change. Overall, this inability for
the Labour party to even decide on the fundamental principles of their own constitution gave the

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Conservatives all the ammunition they needed for sowing rumours of Communist intentions of the
Party, a thought disgusting many in the period of the Cold War.
Further thought should be given to the weaknesses of the Labour Party as strong internal disputes
were highly responsible for Labour's period of absence from power. The `Bevanites' were a strand
of the party led by Aneurin Bevan, which represented the radical thoughts of large trade unions
which spoke for the working class.…read more

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The Conservatives in this period between 195163 saw wages rise by an average of
72% while prices rose a mere 45%. Consumer goods purchases rose and the average working
week dropped from 48 hours to 42 hours. All these economic factors were key in the reelection of
the Tories, and Labour's absence from office.
Other important political factors were crucial in the Conservatives stand in office.…read more


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