This was part of the Liberal Split between Asquit and Lloyd-George. Asquith was a classic liberal and Lloyd-George was a new liberal. They disagreed over certain points like conscription during the war. After the war, Britain needed a new government so there was to be a General Election. Bonar-Law and the Conservatives knew that they could not win on their own so needed to form a coalition with Lloyd-George because of his popularity with the public as 'the man who won the war'. In order for the coalition to be voted in, Lloyd-George and Bonar-Law disributed coupon's that meant that a coupon conservative could not challenge a coupon liberal and vice versa. This meant a sweeping victory for the coalition in the 1918 general election and Lloyd-George was knows as the 'prime-minister without a party.'
Homes fit for Heroes
A policy by Lloyd-George aimed at building many new, good standard homes after WW1.
Red Clydeside and Bloody Friday
Red Clydeside was a 40 hour working week strike in Glasgow in January 1919. The red flag was raised from the town hall. 70,000 workers striked and a few days later on 'bloody Friday' a riot began in George Square. The government sent in 12,000 troops armed with machine guns. They responded like this due to the simalarities with the left-wing coup and Bolshevik revolution in Russia. The strikes were over the cost of living.
The Sankey commission was made by the government to investigate and make recommendations on the mining issues. It recommended that miners should have wage rises and a shorter working ay of seven rather than eight hours. When the mines were removed from government control in 1921, the price of coa was halved and the industry began operating at a loss. The strike failed because transort workers cancelled supoort for the miners. Strikes were less common after 1921 because miners could not rely on their 'allies' and industrial relations improved.
Lloyd-George was accused of selling knighthhods and peerages. It was said that in order to establish a personal political fund he was virtually selling honours. It was obvious what he was doing because after donations of handsome funds, none respactable people were being granted with honours.
In 1922, the treaty of Sevres with Turkey broke down alliances between Greece and Turkey. France and Italy withdrew troops from Greece leaving Britain to fight off Turkey on their own. The Daily Mail wrote 'Get out of Chanak' but Lloyd-George was determined to stay. This angered Conservatives because they previosuly supoorted the Turks. Lloyd-George seemed to be causing war at a war-weariness time in Britain.
The Irish Question had both positive and negative impacts on Lloyd-George. The Irish Question had defeated many prime ministers, Lloyd-George faced the problem head on and at least gave it an answer. However, due to the Anglo-Irish treaty Ireland erupted into Civil War in 1922 and the violence spread to Britain. This drained conservative support and was a major cause of his downfall.
Spending cuts were introduced in the early 1920s which undercut Lloyd-George's promises of a 'land fir for heroes'.
The idea of 'fusion politics' failed with Lloyd-George not successfully being prime minister with the Conservatives.
At the Carlton Club in October 1922, Conservative MPs voted 187 to 87 to abandon the coalition. Lloyd-George immediately resigned.
After Lloyd-George's resignation in October 1922, the King called on Bonar Law to form a government. He fell ill so Stanley Baldwin became Prime Minister in May 1923. He wanted to bring in protectionism to hold onto British jobs so called a general election. They didn't win and it was a hung parliament, the Conservatives were split so the Kind called on MacDonald to take charge of the first Labour government.
This was a letter from a leading communist calling for Britain to join a revolution. The letter was the final straw for Labour as a government. It was strongly linked to Labour but later found out to be a forgery.
Fall of Labour (1924)
In September 1924, Labours attorney general decided to withdraw a prosecution against J.R Campbell, the editor of the left-wing 'Worker's Weekly', for urging troops not to fire on their fellow workers. The Conservatives claimed that this was politically motivated and Labour was interfering with the court of justice. Asquith called for an enquiry and MacDonald insisted that the government would resign if MP's voted in favour of an enquiry. They did vote in favour so MacDonald resigned. Labour proved that they could be trusted as a government and increased unemployment benefit and pensions. However they made the wrong decision in giving Russia a £30 million loan.
In May 1926, the trade unions congress (TUC) called for a General Strike.This was to support the miners who were in dispute with the mine owners who wanted them to work for longer hours for less money. Approximately 3 million workers responded; dockers, railwaymen, bus drivers, steel workers, printers and utility workers came out on strike. The fundamental issue was the return to private ownership, in 1921 owners cut wages to combat falling prices. The retrun to the Gold Standard in 1925 made British exports more expensive. Baldwin's government ordered the Samuel Commission. However it did not favour nationalisation and supported wage cuts. The TUC called off the strike after 9 days and the government 'won' because they were well prepared.
Baldwin ordered the Samuel Reporton 31st July 1925. It judged that wages should be agreed on a national basis and that the working day should not be lengthened. However it argued that wage cuts were necessary in the short term, around 10% would be sufficient.
Mosley Memorandum (1930)
This included increased pension and allowances to induce earlier retirement from industry and to enlarge purchasing power, protection of the home market by tarrifs, import restrictions and bulk purchase agreements with foreign, and especially Empire producers, the development of British agriculture, nationalisation of industry under control, and much greater use of credit to finance development through the public control of banking; Even though he had a lot of party support it was initially rejected because of party loyalty. Called for removal of the gold standard.
Keynesians advocated government borrowing in order to spend its way out of the crisis by financing public works to create jobs and protecting pensions, wages and benefits.
May Report (1931)
The May Report predicted a budget defecit of £120 million. It proposed cuts in public sector pay and a 20% cut in unemployment benefit. This brought a furious reaction from the Labour party who would rather introduce higher taxiation of the rich than balance the budget with spending cuts. In August 1931, Henderson and the cabinet agreed to £56 million of cuts but this was still £22 million less than Snowdon proposed. MacDonald begged them to raise their cuts by a further £20 million. The cabinet was split 11 in favour of the cuts and 9 against. So the cabinet agreed that the government would resign.
On 24th August MacDonald travelled to the palace to resign. He was suprised to find Herbert Samuel (leader of the liberals) and Stanley Baldwin (leader of the Conservatives) were already in the room with the King. The King made a lengthy speech about a time of national crisis and argued that the country needed a strong united government. MacDonald was swayed by the King and agreed to be the prime minister of a national government because it was in the nation's best interests. By the end of the next month, MacDonald stepped down as Labour leader and Arthur Henderson took over.
Simonites and Samuelites
This was another Liberal split after the formation of the national government over the issue of the protectionism. Simonites, led by Simon were national Liberals and Samuelites, led by Samuel were official liberals.
Dawn of Affluence
A period of affluence in the 1930s, mainly in Southern parts of Britain. Over one million houses were provided with low rent by local authorities. A further 2.5 milliion houses were provided for private sale. Mass production saw a rise in consumer goods. By 1938 there were nearly 9 milion radios and sales of cars rose massively. Family sizes were getting smaler, the average woman would know have 2.2 children as opposed to 4.6 in the 1880s.
The 1930s were also a time of mass unemployment and poverty across Britian, particularly in the industrial northern towns and cities. This was due to the decline of staple industries. Unemployment doubled between 1929 and 1931 from 1.4 million to 3.9 million. Jarrow had an unemployment rate of 67.8% compared to the national average of 16.6%. Hunger marches were arranged from Jarrow (north-east) to London nearly 300 miles away. This was in October 1936 and involved 200 unemployed men that wanted to publicise the desparate conditions of a 'town that died'. Very demoralising for the unemployed. The means test caused an outcry. Any form of family income was taken into consideration.
Special Areas Act
This was introduced in 1935 and was aimed at creating jobs in new areas for the unemployed and paying for people to relocate.
The Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) were small in numbers but appealed to the working class. The crisis in the 1930s increased its apppeal, linked to several Trade Union members. The Daily Worker newspaper had a circulation of 80,000, however they never posed a serious revolution despite conservative propaganda, there were few communist mp's and meembers peaked at 18,000. The British Union of Fascists (BUF), established by Sir Oswald Mosley in 1932 and initially modelled on Italian Fascism, at first seemed a threat but never took off despite having 50,000 members by 1934. Mosley won the backing of the owner of the Daily Mail, Lord Rothermore. His support for the racial policies of Hitler and their reputation of thuggery alienated many people.
Abdication Crisis (1936)
King Edward VIII was forced to abdicate because he wanted to marry an American woman, Wallis Simpson who was divorced. This could not happen as it was against the Church of England's religion and the King was the head of the church. Baldwin advised King Edward VIII not to marry her but he chose to abdicate instead.
Towards the end of the 1930s the depression in Britain eased and unemployment levels declined due to the rise in staple industries in preparation for the war.
Baldwin had good fortune in becoming prime minister initially. He was fortunate in the timing of Bonar-Law's retirement and many leading opponenets had 'image problems'. His greatest asset was a capacity to sense the public mood and to express it. He had a homely, down-to-earth style. He grasped speaking on the radio. Churchill paid tribute to him as 'the greatest party manager the Conservatives ever had'.
Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasement failed. He underestimated Hitler and had been fooled by his declarations of peace. However it was a popular policy with the British public because many people wanted to avoid another war after WW1.
Britain at War
In 1940, it was clear that Neville Chamberlain was not strong enough to lead Britain in a war. He had lost the confidence of the House of Commons. Chamberlain was forced to resign and the King appointed Churchill as Prime Minister, accepting Chamberlain's advice that he was a stronger candidate than Lord Halifax for the post. The 'phoney war' was now over and the war had become serious. The war had many social effects on Britain due to evacuation, rationing and the role of women. It was felt that the war effected both the rich and poor in the same ways so broke down typical class barriers. 'Spirit of the blitz.' Agriculture and industry were intensified with many women helping. Unemployment dropped dramatically from 1.3 million in 1939 to 0.1 million in 1943. 43% of Britain's adult population were employed directly in the war effort. There were many strikes and shortages of skilled workers. The Emergency Hospital Scheme provided free treatment for bomb victimes and free milk was provided to children and mothers.
The emergency powers act in 1939, (DORA) gave the government unlimted authority over British citizens. It led to increased government control of the economy and was the basis for waging total war.
This was commissioned in 1941 and published in 1942. It highlighted the need for Britain to kill the '5 giants'; want, idleness, ignorance, squalor and disease. He stated that we needed to make sure that the people of Britain did not suffer from any of these. The plan would provide a safety net from cradle to grave. It stated that a national health service would be set up, family child allowances would be paid to all parents and there would be full employment.
The phrase full employment first intorduced in the Beveridge Report is an acknowledgement of low unemployment levels (defined as around 3% unemployed).
Post-War General Election (1945)
The Labour party rejected Churchill's offer to continue the coaltion government following Germany's surrender in May 1945. Elections were scheduled for July and Labour won by a landslide, taking 48% of the vote and an overall majority for the first time in their history. The Conservatives were quite complacent and expected a comfortable victory with Churchill as 'the man who won the war'. Clement Attlee became Prime Minister, he had been on the war cabinet with other Labour members, Ernist Bevan and Hugh Dalton. The Conservatives were blamed for the unemployment and social deprivation in the 1930s, there was a greater belief in socail equality after the war and the lack of Conservative backing of the Beveridge Report encouraged people to vote for Labour because they didn't want a return to the 1930s. Labour leaders Attlee, bevan and Morrison played a key role in the war coalition and proved that they could be trusted. In Churchill's 'Gestapo Speech' he said that Labour would need some sort of secret police which was offensive to Labour and the public. Labours manifesto 'let us face the future' focused their campaign on domestic issues. Also 20% of the electorate were first time voters and there had been no election for 10 years.
Crisis of 1947
The most severe winter of the century caused fuel shortages, power cuts and a slow-down in industrial output. Unemployment increased and exports fell. Because of this austerity, Labour had to show that they were responsible with the economy so spent less which doesn't impress the public.
Balance of Payments Crisis (1947)
Britain had a $3.75 billion loan from the USA and in return, pounds had to be made convertable to dollars. After the harsh winter of 1947, due to low exports Britain could no longer export and make US dollars. When Britain bought goods from the US, it used US dollars gained from trade, because the exports had collapsed, Britain had to start using the loan to pay for goods. This nearly made Britain bankrupt because the loan from America was not meant to be used for this. The crisis ended when the chancellor of the exchequer, Stafford Cripps, introduced a period of even greater austerity and the British people had to accept even stricter rationing, a wage freeze, higher taxiation and continued shortages. Cripps was helped by the Marshall Aid in 1948 and by the end of the year the balance of payments defecit was wiped out.
Economic Crisis (1949-1951)
In 1949, Britain's balance of payments again fell into defecit. This resulted in the devaluation of the pound against the dollar. Although this action was taken reluctantly, it made British exports to America cheaper (e.g. cars) and the balance of payments was in surplus again in 1950. However, it again fell into defecit in 1951.
Creation of the Welfare State
Attlee's goernment between 1945-1951 introduced the welfare state to Britain. The National Insurance Act (1946) made national insurance universal and comprehensive, this was follwed by the National Assistance Act (1948) which provided payments for those whose benefits had run out and those who could not care for themselves (e.g. the homeless), The Industrial Injuries act (1946( provided benefits for injuries sustained at work. The Housing Act (1946), Britain faced a housing crisis at the end of the war, Labour built 1.5 million houses, 80% of which were council houses. The New Towns Act (1946) represented Labour's longer-term vision for housing, fourteen new towns were planned (e.g. the first was Stevenage, followed by Crawley). Education Act (1944) provided free and compulsory education for all up to the age of 15, the 11 plus was introduced for grammar schools to help academically able working class students to go on to university education. The National Health Service Act (NHS) was introduced in 1946 and brought main hospitals under state control. Some doctors wanted to stay private so Labour had to compromise but by the end of 1948, 90% of doctors had joined the NHS. The NHS was very costly to run and prescription charges had to be brought in in 1951. Labour failed to meet its own targets for house building.
Gaitskell's Budget (1951)
Hugh Gaitskell was made chancellor of the exchequer in 1950 which made Bevan bitter because he saw himself as the more suitable candidate because of his political experience. Gaitskell was an austerity chancellor. HIs budget introduced prescription charges on dentures and glasses which only saved £13 million out of the £4 billion needed. He increased income tax and ourchase tax. He also reduced tax on company profits from 50% to 30%, angering the working class. This was largely to pay for the increased expenditure with the war with Korea. Bevan strongly opposed Gaitskell's budget because his dream of a completely free health service had been compromised.
Bevanites were supporters of the Minister of Health, Bevan. They criticised the prescription charges and the rearamament programme. Bevan and his supporters felt that Attlee's government had developed too close an association with the Cold War policies of the United States. These divisions lost Labour some of its electoral strength and weakend them in opposition.
General Election (1951)
Just before the election in 1951, Labour decided on a festival of Britain in May 1951. It was a festival in London aimed to dispel the gloom of post war austerity and raise British morale. The cost of the festival was over £8 million which was heavily criticised by newspapers and the Conservatives as a waste of money during a time of austerity and rationing. The timing of the election was not good for Labour because they had not yet financially recovered. They were damaged by internal party divisions between Bevan and Gaitskell. Many voters had grown tired of rationing and higher taxiation. The revivial of the Conservatives didn't help as they exploited Labour's setbacks. They made a commitment to preserving the NHS and they pledged to build 300,000 houses every year.
Churchill Government (1951-56)
Winston Churchill was 77 when he became Prime Minister for the second time so he was more of a figurehead and didn't need to do much. His government was broadly successful and did not break away from the post-war consensus. They accepted the welfare state and the need for a massive housing programme. They also nationalised a large section of the economy. They were heavily committed to keeping Britain's military defence programme (which included the costly Korean War (1950-53). They also developed a nuclear weapons programme. They were even more conciliatory with the trade unions than the Labour government. Despite the great noises in the lection campaign about nationalisation there was no great progress and iron and steel were largely denationalised. They exceeded their target with housing in 1952 and built just under 320,000 houses which surpassed a target not met by the Attlee government. There was an increase in private sale but 80% were still council houses.
Anthony Eden was a very young and popular (especially for his looks) when he came to power in 1955, winning the Conservatives a 58 seat majority. He was a humane conservative, committed to supporting welfare and consensus. He was a workaholic and had a habit of interfering with all spects of government. He cam under criticism for having a major reshuffle of his cabinet after 6 months. Britain used the Suez Canal in Egypt to transport goods quicker. Colonel Nasser, president of the Egyptian Republic had been promised US and British loans to build the Aswan dam on the upper nile but he was very angry when USA withdrew their loan due to Soviet involvement so nationalised the Suez Canal forcing Britain to pay large amounts of money every time they used it. Eden came under heavy criticism for they way he handled the crisis. After talks with Britain and France, they persuaded Israel to invade Egypt and agreed that they would follow behind. However Britain withdrew after the possibility of Soviet involvement and the threat of attack on British people. This was condemned by the UN, the USA and the British public. This was a failure of political will and proved that Britain could not act alone. Anthony Eden resigned as Prime Minister in January 1957 after the embarrassment of the Suez Crisis leaving Harold MacMillan to become Prime Minister.
The MacMillan Era (1957-64)
MacMillan was a hugely popular Prime Minister and was known by 'Super Mac'. His government was accused of elitism because he was from a wealthy and upper class family and his cabinet contained 6 etonians. Economic conditions were improving steadily. In July 1957, he made a famous speech saying 'most of our people never had it so good'.It was a time of increased car ownership, more and better household goods and greater leisure opportunities. By 1964, they had built 1.7 million houses, although 60% were private and the rent act of 1957 abolished rent controls and put 6 million properties on the market. They created a 'property-owning democracy'. Their aim was to avoid the extremes of inflation and deflation. Living standards rose and wages rose ahead of prices. Times got slightly tougher in the 1960s and unemployment steadily rose to 880,000 in 1963. There were a series of balance of payments crises. In March 1962, National Economic Development Council (NEDDY) was set up but it was largely useless. There were huge social changes in Britain throughout the 1950s and 1960s. There was growing personal affluence and some people began to attack the establishment through the arts. The war had weakened class divisions and wealth was spread to a much broader section. A book named 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' had a big effect on British society due to its explicit sex scenes and use of swear words. it had a large influence on female sexual identitiy. In 1948, the British Nationality Act paved the way for mass immigration giving all residents of the former British colonies British status. Their was a lot of hostility and racism in the poorer areas. In the 1960s there were large developments in British youth subculture.
MacMillan's Europe Policy
He acknowledged that Britain's future lay with Europe in the EEC. However the French president, General Charles de Gaulle, said no to Britain's application. His greatest achievement on the national scene came a few months later in August 1963, when he was heavily involved with negotiating the Nuclear Test Ban.
The Night of the Long Knives
Another balance of payments crisis in 1962 prompted MacMillan into a radical reshuffle of his cabinet, the so called 'night of the long-knives'. One third of the government was sacked including the chancellor, Selwyn Lloyd. It is generally considered that this reshuffle was mishandled and did serious damage to both MacMillan and the Conservative party.
The Profumo Affair of 1963 was a sex scandal involving sex, lies and spies. it caused the resignation of Defence Secretary, John Profumo. He was having an affair with an escort who was also involved with a Soviet spy called Sergei Ivanov. There was criticism of MacMillan for being out of touch with society.
The decline of MacMillan
MacMillan was becoming an increasing liability and someone who was losing his grip. For a time in the summer of 1963 he was the least popular Prime Minister since Neville Chamberlain in 1940 and only 23% of voters believed he should carry on. In October 1963, he was taken ill and thought he was dying so he retired. A man who was unknown to the British public, Alec Douglas-Home became leader of the Conservative party and susequently Prime Minister.
General Election (1964)
Douglas-Home put off a general election for as long as possible but by law it had to be held within the next year. Home never really stood a chance, despite his honesty and sincerity, he came across to the British public as too aristocratic and tweedy, he was also a poor performer on TV. He was frequently heckled when touring the country. On the other hand, his opponent, Labour leader Harold Wilson was very popular with the public, he was very skillful and quick witted. Wilson put forward his view that science and socialims went together and described Labour as a dynamic party. He also attacked the Conservatives for 'wasted opportunities'. Wilson's campaign paid off and there was a 3.5% swing in favour of Labour, he only had a lead of 4 but was enough to make him Prime Minister.
Labour in Opposition
In 1951 there was internal fighting and they continued with austerity. Between 1952-1954 there was a major division in the party, the Bevanites believed that they should be much more radical. In 1955 Bevan directly attacked Clement Attlee's leadership and Gaitskell became leader of the party. Between 1955-1958 there was more normality as Bevan accpeted Gaitskell's leadership and was elected deputy party leader. After the general election of 1959 there was a period of self doubt and pessimism. They appeared to be unattractive and out of date. By 1962 Gaitskell's popularity within his own party and the country soared as MacMillan's plummeted. However Gaitskell died in January 1963, aged only 56 and many regarded him as the best leader of the Labour party never to become Prime Minister.