Assess the reasons why Labour lost the election of 1951

Intro

Labour actually gained 130 000 more votes overall (from 1950)

In key seats the votes swung to the Conservatives

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Labour weakness

Weakened morale following their reduced majority in the 1950 election (especially compared to the landslide victory of the 1945 election) - majority was only 5 seats

The party was associated with Austerity as it was forced to cut back on imported goods to encourage exportrs and to maintain high taxation and rationing to ensure that as many goods as possible were exported

The Labour governments faced problems at home and abroad - the Korean war (1950) meant that defence spending had risen, putting pressure on the money avaliable for spending at home

Defence spending had lead to cuts in the NHS and the introduction of charges for glasses, prescriptions and dental care - led to divisions within the party

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Conservative strengths

Better organisation and finance and campaigned more strongly than in 1945

The party was united behind opposition to Labour nationalising iron and steel, unlike Labour which was divided

Their promise to build 300 000 homes a year was popular, as Labour had not managed to deal with a post-war housing shortage

The Conservative campaign promised freedom from rationing and regulations while keeping the key elements that had been popular since 1945 - the welfare state and full employment policies

Churchill was still a much admired figure and in 1951 he did not make controversial speeches like those that helped lose the 1945 election

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The electoral system

The electoral system failed to work in Labour's favour - Labour won more individual votes but fewer seats than the Conservatives - the decline in popularity of the Liberal party was crucial in this

Liberal party - 2.6 million votes in 1945 to only 750 000 in 1951

Most former Liberals turned to the Conservatives, as Labour too was associated with the growth of state control of industry, which traditional Liberals disliked

In addition, the changes in the boundaries of parliamentary constituencies made in 1948 tended to favour the Conservatives - Labour kept its support in densly populated areas but the Conservatives did better in suburban seats

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International factors

In 1945 there had been considerable sympathy for socialsm, and admiratoin for the planning and state control of the USSR

By 1951 the Cold War had lead the USSR to be seen as the enemy, and the controls and regulations under Labour mrant that the ideals of socialism and a powerful state were less popular

Led many to vote Conservative

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