1951 General Election

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Why Labour won in 1945

  • Labour's manifesto made their intentions clear
  • Prepared for social reform following Bevridge Report
  • Conservatives associated with "Hungry 30s" and depression
  • Conservatives also had a weak campaign and no real policy --> focused on war effort
  • Churchill's claims of a Labour Gestapo-style police state lost Conservative support
  • Conservative's misjudged public --> thought they would want Churchill as a peacetime leader --> many were unsure he would be a good peacetime leader
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1945-51 Social Reforms

  • Education reforms: didn't go far enough and wasn't what Bevridge recommendations asked for
  • Health: introduction of prescription charges due to rearmament/Koren War but also because NHS wasn't paying for itself and becoming increasingly more expensive
  • Housing: didn't go far enough --> prefabs only temporary and housing wasn't replaced quickly enough. Werent't enough houses built
  • Unemployment benefit: increased but then cut back. Small stepping stone on National Insurance and National Assistance Acts
  • Family Allowance: was popular in 1945
  • Pension Increases: popular due to lack of increases since 1920

People wanted change in 1945, but by 1951 were unsure that Labour would keep them in place

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1945-51 Economy

  • Nationalisation: had mixed appeal - saved coal and transport industries from certain collapse, however iron and steel were thriving industries and people were uspet with their nationalisation.
  • Devaluation of the pound: popular - increased exports and helped economy - especially when Labour struggled to balance payments.
  • Rearmament: caused problems with social reform --> expenditure switched to rearmament --> created internal divisions
  • Wage freezes: unpopular, as were wealth taxes with the middle classes
  • Balance of payments problem: unpopular --> led to American loan, and the use of wage freezes and rationing to stabilise economy. Cuts in expenditure also caused upset and internal divisions.
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Labour Internal Divisions 1951

  • Cripps attempted to oust Attlee and replace him with Bevan in 1947, but then became chancellor
  • Expenditure cuts upset left-wing members. These cuts effected the NHS and other parts of the welfare state
  • Bevin's resignation in 1951 due to April budget's introduction of prescription charges --> followed by Harold Wilson and John Freeman
  • Attlee's failure to reconcile differences within Labour due to re-emerging balance crisis --> calls election in October 1951
  • Conservatives attempted to reorganise and modernise in 1951 under Lord Woolton as chairman
  • Tory campaign launched by Woolton to increase grassroots support and raise funds. --> Money used to revamp Central Office and regional associations
  • Maxwell-Fyfe introduced plan to restrict individual contributions --> influenced possible selection of parliamentary candidates --> Conservatives seen as more democratic
  • Reorganisation gathered momentum --> Conservatives ready for office
  • Butler published Industrial Charter 1947 --> showed Tory commitment to welfare state
  • Liberal supporters without a candidate more inclined to vote Tory
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