1a: A Changing Political Landscape


Decline of the Liberal Party

  • Decline of the Liberal Party from 1920s with Labour taking on mantle of social reform
  • Scandal - sale of peerages (100) and knighthoods (1500) exposed in 1922 Honours List. Men with criminal convictions given awards. This was for funding the Liberal Party
  • 1915 Conservative-Liberal Coalition - DLG abandoned principles of the Liberal Party
  • Liberals opposed growth in power of state during war such as conscription. DLG campaigned against other Liberals
  • Carlton Club 1922 meeting - Conservatives voted to end coalition leaving Liberals split
  • 1922 election - DLG's Liberals had 53 MPs but Herbert Asquith had 62 MPs
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The Labour Party (First Administration)

  • 1918 Represenation of the People Act - 7million to 21million voters which grew the Labour Party which evolved from Trades Union Congress in 1900
  • 1924 Government led by Ramsay MacDonald. Alarming to Conservatives and compared to Soviet Russia by The Times. In power for 9 months but a minority government so limited legislation due to Liberals.
  • The Housing Act 1924 - amount of money to LA's for housing increased
  • Motion of no confidence - Attorney General Sir Patrick Hastings dropped charges of incitment to mutiny on The Workers Weekly. MacDonald accused of being Soviet sympathesier and forced to hold election
  • Election boycotted by Daily Mail in 1924 with a forged letter from Gregori Zinoviev to British Communist Party & attempted to presuade people to vote Conservative
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The Labour Party (Second Administration)

  • Stanley Baldwin 1924-1929 Conservative's attempted to be alternative to socialism 
  • Labour under MacDonald returns to power in 1929 with ambitious social reform such as The 1930 Housing Act clearing 3/4 of all slums and The 1930 Coal Mines Act ensuring better pay
  • Split over question of welfare cuts in 1931 and government fell on 24 August 1931
  • This was largely due to 1929 Wall Street Crash and rumours that 1931 budget would be unbalanced. A 10% cut in unemployment benefit was forced
  • This formed the National Government under instruction of the King by MacDonald and Snowden with 470 Conservative MPs and 46 Labour MPs
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Extremist Ideas

  • Communism and Facism failed to get a true hold over Britain 
  • British Union of Facists had 50,000 members 
  • Communist Party of Britain had 9000 members but organised National Unemployed Workers Movement
  • The Fabian Society's Sidney and Beatrice Webb visted Soviet Union believing it to be a economic success
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Anti-war Movement in Britain

  • Keen to avoid war with Germany - organisations such as The Peace Ballot and The Peace Pledge Union
  • Britain rearmed from 1934 onwards with RAF having 40 squadrons and reorganisation of Army
  • The Disarmament Conference 1932-34 - Germany left expressing rights to rearm to same level as Britain 
  • Labour divided on issues of peace and security 
  • 1936 occupation of Rhineland by Hitler - Harold Nicholson argued that action in Germany would create a general strike
  • 1937 - Neville Chamberlain becomes prime minister but resigns in May 1940 after a failed expedition to Norway 
  • Winston Churchill became prime minister in 1940 and was a unified figure of the war
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Labour 1945-51

  • Labour won the 1945 election with slogan 'Let us Face the Future' under Clement Atlee with 47% of the vote
  • Introduced social reform 
  • 1950 Korean War led to increase in military spending. Prescription charges had to be introduced which led to the resignation of Aneurin Bevan
  • 1951 - inablity to end rationing made Labour unpopular (Bread and fuel rationed)
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Conservative Dominance

  • Winston Churchill returned to office at 76 years old but had lost his drive. Resigned in 1955 and replaced by Anthony Eden
  • Low unemployment under Conservatives with just 200,000 out of work
  • Suez Crisis - forced Eden from office. Suez Canal had been used for trading in Eygpt with India. Indian independence in 1947 meant canal was now used for shipping oil. Gamal Adbul Nasser stated canal should be eygptian. Occupied canal in July 1956 but Eden was suspicious due to close relationsip with Soviet Union. France and Israel invited Eden to invade with them on 5 November 1956. Eisenhower was not informed and threatend to devalue the pound leading to the resignation of Eden.
  • Harold Macmillan took over in 1957-1963 and was very popular. Enoch Powell, Birch and Thorneycroft all resigned in 1959 due to large spending and were convinved inflation was a huge threat
  • 1962 - Macmillan sacks Etonian ministers as seen as out of touch due to Conservative image problem
  • Resigned in October 1963 and replaced with Sir Alex Douglas- Home with title of Earl who was even wrse 
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Labour 1964-1970

  • Harold Wilson elected promising a classless Labour
  • Promised huge social reform but discovered a £800million budget defecit left by Reginald Maulding
  • Promised pensions and new homes with only other option now to devalue the pound
  • 1967 - forced to devalue it anyway
  • Liberalisation of Britain with new laws on homosexuality, abortion and the death penalty. 
  • Achievements include The Open University 
  • Declined in popularity due to large numbers of strike days
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Heath's Conservatives

  • Edward Heath elected in 1970 wishing to move away from consenus and remove the state from people's lives encouraging enterprise
  • Biggest problem = relationship with Trade Unions
  • 1974 - 2 miners strikes and a 3 day week
  • Feb 1974 General Election 'Who runs Britain?' 
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Labour 1974-1979

  • Wilson returned with minority government of 301 seats but second election in October 1974 gained a majority of 3 seats
  • He aimed to repeal the Union unrest with Industrial Relations Act - push back to corporatism of mid-1960s. Government would offer subsidies in return for unions to stop demanding huge wage increases but this did nothing to deal with cause of strikes (inflation)
  • Split into 3 factions including centre right of Wilson, Callaghan and Dennis, the soft left by Michael Foot and Tony Benn who wished for a seige economy
  • Benn proposed leaving the ECC and to be more indpendent
  • 1976 - James Callaghan took over and was popular but a winter of strikes caused Thatcher to win the 1979 election
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