Britain 1951-64

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Why did Churchill win the 1951 Election?

  • Reorganisation of Party - Lord Woolton
  • Kept popular Labour policies (Welfare State etc)
  • Labour weaknesses: divided on who should succeed Attlee, illnesses of Cripps and Bevin, tired from being in office since 1940
  • Peculiarities of FPTP
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What were the Tories main policies?

  • Kept Welfare State
  • Kept Nationalised industries
  • Gaitskell's policies - 'Stop-Go Economics'
  • Successful housing policy led by Macmillan - built the promised 300,000 per year
  • Education - continued Tripartite System, brought in by Labour but originating in R.A. Butler's1944 Education Act
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Why did Eden win the 1955 Election?

  • Improving economic situation
  • Tax cuts prior to Election
  • Eden a popular figure to replace the ill and aging Churchill
  • Labour party weaknesses: right/left split, new leader (Gaitskell)
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Why did Eden resign - Suez 1956?

  • Colonol Nasser of Egypt fell out with UK over his friendship with the Soviet
  • As a result he nationalised the Suez Canal company which owned the canal
  • The company was owned by British and French shareholders
  • Britain and France secretly teamed up with Israel so that Israel would attack Egypt and Brtain and France would put troops in to 'stabilise' the situation! (Get the canal back!)
  • Attack went well but international opinion (USA), condemned the action
  • The US pulled the plug on its financial support to UK and Britain had no option but to pull out of Egypt in an embarrassing disgrace
  • Early the next year - Eden resigned due to ill health
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After Eden

  • Macmillan was not elected to replace Eden
  • A small group of leading Conservatives were interviewed by 2 Conservative grandees. 
  • Most of them indicated they preferred Macmillan over Butler and he became the next PM


  • War hero and classical scholar. However in private he was shy and lonely
  • Radical desire to improve life for all
  • Policies were centrist and consensual, anxious to avoid confrontation with the unions, and committed to full employment and welfare state
  • Led the country away from Empire and great power status
  • Got the better of Gaitskell (who had beaten Bevan to replace Attlee in 1955) in the HOC
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How did Macmillan manage the economy?

  • Generally keep the people happy: Low interest rates so people could borrow and spend. The Unions' wage demands were generally met to avoid disputes. Tax cuts were also used to ensure popularity at election time
  • Consumer spending rose significantly with households owning a massive increase in consumer goods (tvs)
  • The short term result was a massive success at the 1959 General Election
  • Long term: inflation and no real effort to deal with Britains underlying economic problems
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Why did Macmillan win the 1959 Election?

  • Economic propsperity
  • Consumer affluence - Almost every house had a TV by 1964. Self ownership had risen to 44%.
  • Pre-election tax cut - Heathcoat-Amory's giveaway budget, bringing income tax down to below 40%
  • Macmillan's election broadcasts improved in the run-up to the election and increased his majority
  • Labour still split and leaders not very popular
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The Chancellors under Macmillan

  • Thorneycroft -> Heathcoat-Amory -> Selwyn Lloyd -> Maudling


  • Pressed for serious deflationary cuts which would prevent inflation. Him and Enoch Powell (Junior Minister) were talking about controlling the money supply, which would cause unemployment and Macmillan would not allow it. Thorneycroft and his whole team resigned. 


  • Minded to expand rather than deflate the economy. In 1959, he delivered a giveaway budget, bringing income tax down to below 40%. During these years, there had been a massive expansion in television ownership (a sign of rising prosperity).
  • After the election, the economy began to overheat due to the previous giveaway budget. IT sucked in imports and threatened a balance of payments. Heathcoat-Amory wanted to deflate the economy but Macmillan refused.
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The Chancellors under Macmillan (Continued)

Selwyn Lloyd:

  • Summer of 1961, Lloyd was forced to bring in an emergency deflationary package including a 'pay pause' in the public sector. Macmillan decided on a 'shake-up' of his cabinet in July 1962 because Tory popularity was decreasing, removing a third of them including Lloyd (Night of the Long Knives).


  • Tried to kick-start the economy with stimulus policies, cutting the bank rate and tax rates in 1963. A strong 'go' signal. The economy was improving under Maudling's inflationary policies in 1963 but just before the election he brought about a 'Resale Price Maintenance' (keeping prices high in larger shops to help small shopkeepers) which alienated many small shopkeepers and met a bad reaction in the press. 
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Why did the Tories lose the 1964 Election?

  • Economic difficulties
  • Rejection from Europe - Macmillan believed that the answer to economic problems would also be to join the EEC. French President De Gaulle vetoed the application in early 1963, Mac was furious
  • Scandal 1962 - the Vassall affair (a homosexual civil servant giving secrets to the Russians)
  • Scandal 1963 - the Profumo affair (profumo became seen as an adulterous liar and made the whole Tory party look bad)
  • Night of the Long Knives
  • Douglas-Home - Mac resigned in October 1963 because he was ill and believed he was not going to make it. Leadership ended with Douglas-Home, who was unsuited to leading the government. He had even admitted to couting on matchsticks when doing sums. Wilson simply took Home apart in the HOCs, it was Wilsons perfect opposition. 
  • Labour united under Wilson
  • Time for a change?
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