The affluent society: Britain 1951- 64

  • Created by: amyclaire
  • Created on: 16-03-17 10:16

Conservative Governments

Labour won .8% more votes but Conservatives 321 compared to 295 seats, Winston Churchill became PM, tired old force, ailments, not a domestic politician, above party politics, changed parties several times, left jobs to Eden, Macmillan and Butler whilst oversees, post war consensus, Eden impatient for Churchill to step down

Eden PM 1955- increases majority from 17 to 60 seats, Butler Chancellor, Macmillan Foreign Secretary- all experience in foreign policy, lack of experience in domestic policy, too conciliatory with trade unions, Suez Crisis, lied about knowing of British/ French invasion, under fire from Labour, poor reputation, rebellion of 40 Tory MPs and Heath, Chief Whip

Macmillan- Butlers reputation damaged by tax cuts which had to be reversed after 1955 election as economy overheated, Mac safe choice, 5 years of full control and economic prosperity, 'Supermac', 1959- pushed majority up to 100 seats, post war economic boom, Labour party internal battles

Accepted attitudes of previous Labour government, state intervention and planning, NHS iconic status, mixed economy (involvement by state and privatisation), support for welfare state, full employment, working with trade unions and employers, 1951- Tories promise 300000 new houses a year, replace slums, continued tripartite system grammar, technical and secondary modern, Eden tries to introduce more technical schools, 1956 Clean Air Act preventing smog, Housing and Factory Acts- improve living and working conditions, Homicide Act 57

1 of 11

Internal Labour Divisions

Attlee leader until 55, split in party- less effective opposition, Bevan- architect of NHS, gained support from trade unionists and some MPs after resigning over charges, left wing, initially opposed nuclear weapons but 1957 opposed unilateral nuclear disarmament despite many left wingers joining the CND Gaitskell- Exchequer 50-51, introduced charges, right of party, leader in 1955 defeating Bevan

1956- Cousins leader of Transport and General Workers Union- fierce union opposition to Gaitskell over nuclear weapons

Gaitskell effective campaigner & confident leader, moderate policies, 1959 large defeat a shock, greater divisions apparent, 1959 party conference prior to election Gaitskell suggests abolishing Clause 4 committing party to nationalisation, clear opposition to this would be fierce, backed down, 1960 party conference passionate speech to reject CND, lost vote in 60 but overturned year later

After 1960 appeared more united, 1963 Gaitskell dies, Harold Wilson elected leader

2 of 11

Reasons for Conservative fall from power

'Events, dear boy, events'- 1961 application to join EEC, 1963 rejected, Macmillan lost political touch, July 1962 reshuffled cabinet, 'Night of Long Knives', Edwardian gentleman image, aristocratic, out of date, 

Spy scandals- Blake convicted of being Soviet double agent 1961, Vassal convicted of passing info to Soviet Union due to homosexuality 1962, Profumo Affair 1963, Secretary of State for War John Profumo, relationship with Christine Keeler, also sleeping with Soviet Spy, leaks of Cold War secrets, lied about actions, large newspaper headline, forced to resign

Mac serious operation 1963, resigned in October, divisive power struggle as no new leader had been prepared, Rab Butler and Lord Hailsham 2 most obvious candidates, fierce opposition, compromise candidate Lord Home, a peer, made party seem trapped in bygone age, gave up peerage, introduced elections for Conservative leadership, 1965

3 of 11

Economic Developments

Economic recovery post war, improvement, food rationing ends 1954 (eg meat and butter due to shortages to stop food prices increasing) end of austerity, higher living standards, growing population (5% higher population in 1961 to 1951), increase in overseas trade, high employment (1955 full employment less than 1% of workforce unemployed), expansion in electrical work, cars, service industries (1960 1 in 5 of population in service industry), rising wages, 1955 Butler 'give away' budget, £134 million tax cuts boosted election prospects, affluence & consumerism, import 29% more goods than in 1951, 

However inflation apparent- needed to maintain growth and employment but keep prices steady, trade unions unpersuaded to accept less wage increases eg coal industries, taxation high to control excessive spending and cover costs of public services, 'stop go economics', BoP trade deficit, low exports, 'run on the pound'- financial weakness, fall in value of currency to US dollar

Thorneycroft- monetarism, limit wage increases, cut money supply, McLeod- one nation Conservative, opposed as would lead to unemployment and cutbacks in housing, Thorneycroft proposed cuts in 1958, Macmillan overruled, he resigned along with Powell and Birch

Sterling regained value, economy expands, April 1959 budget provides £370 million tax cuts, more than give away budget, lead to comfortable re- election in October 1959, 1960- 1964 economy peak

4 of 11

Economic Developments

1961- worries about economy overheating forced pay pause to stop inflation, loan from IMF, falling behind European countries in trade, Macmillan reversed policy and applied for EEC membership, symbol of failure in economic modernisation, National Economic Development Council set up by Chancellor Lloyd, resposnisble for long term planning, National Incomes Comission, keep an eye on wages and prices 1962 (Neddy and Nicky) 

1963- EEC application rejected- setback, de Gaulle veto, Beeching Report reccommended cuts in rail network, public outrage, rural areas isolated, no more economic prosperity, Maudling (new Chancellor) 'go' phase, lowered bank rate to encourage spending, growth rose from 4 to 6% between 1963 and 1964, however imports remained 20% higher than exports despite exports growing by 10% (1961-1964) 

Cycle of stop go had not been broken, economy overheating, growth, leads to expensive imports and rising wage demands, slipping behind foreign competitors, 50s problems not solved 

5 of 11

Social Developments

War damage- regional & class loyalties, stereotypes, but still significant social change- Festival of Britain 1951 marked Britain's recovery from war and looked forward to new future celebrating culture & industry, post war 'baby boom', infrastructure needed modernising due to war damage, new towns were built eg Kirkby grew rapidly, slums cleared, shifts in population due to car ownership rose 25% between 57 and 59 creating greater demand for motorways which began to be built in 1958, increases in private savings and wages, farmers given state subsidies, although home ownership increased council housing and rented outnumbered this in 50s

Affluence and consumerism- consumer good ownership, TVs, washing machines, hire purchase (monthly installments to hire over length of time), advertising industry grew, 1957- 1959 TV ownership grew 32%, 50% watched TV in evening, more time and money for hobbies, 60000 holidayed each week in Butlins (foreign holidays still luxury) 

Class and the establishment- Ingrained respect for authority, class loyalty, 80% of middle class voted Conservative in 1951 election, shift in attitudes, Suez exposed lies, CND challenged authority 1958, less conformist to Establishment- polticial elite network, privileged males, connections, coverage of Profumo Affair, previous government tactics to stop publication of embarassing info no longer worked

6 of 11

Social Developments

'Satire boom', 1961 Private Eye witty disrespect for great and famous, 1962 'That was the week that was', lampooning public figures, people believed being held back by ruling elite, who blocked talent from outside Establishment, preferred Arts education, hid its own mistakes, Macmillan government included a duke and three earls, Home had been an Earl, lack of social mobility, needed meritocracy, modern leader, 'angry young men' writers attacked behaviour of establishment, play eg Look Back In Anger- controversial, showed contemporary Britain

Position of women- 1950s seen as housewives, 21 average age of marriage, only 1 in 5 women went out to work in 1951, family allowance paid to women so they didnt have to work, welfare state based on normal family and full employment for men, mortages and bank accounts in men's names, dependance on husbands, trade unions didnt support women working as would lower wages for equal pay, Equal Pay was granted for teachers (52) and civil servants (54)

Women's lives improved by labour saving devices, 57- 59 homes with washing machine roseby 54% and fridge by 58%, by end of 1960s second wave feminism beginning in US

7 of 11

Immigration and racial violence/ youth culture

1953 enthusiasm for Commonwealth ideal, New Commonwealth (countries which had recently gained independence, 'coloured') immigrants caused social tensions, by 1958 210000 Commonwealth immigrants in Britain, 75% male to support home families, from West Indies India & Pakistan, some tolerance but also racism, also outward migration to eg Australia, in 60s inward migration still less than outward, immigration economically desirable for filling low wage jobs, 1958 Nottingham white youths '****** hunts' after pub brawls, Notting Hill Riots, Oswald Mosley (leader of British fascism) used repatriation (returning someone to their place of origin)  to stand for 1959 election for Kensington North, 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act- controlled immigration, Labour Party opposed

'Teenagers' and youth culture- more time, no more National Service for boys after 1960 (conscripted for 2 years), baby boom swelled teenagers, money to buy records, culture, 1950s- teddy boys (long coats, challenge to older people,) worrying phenomenon, linked with crime, later 50s replaced by Rockers- leather, motorcycles, rock music- then the Mods- scooters, suits, sophisticated pop music, clashes between these 2 groups in 60s, Brighton rioting 2 days, moral panic, knife wielding hooligans- but violence largely exaggerated 

More daring portrayals of sex and violence eg Sapphire 1959, A Clockwork Orange 1962, A Taste of Honey 1958- relationship with black sailor, sexually explicit Lady Chatterley's Lover by DH Lawrence, high profile court case lost to ban book, backlash against permissive society, led by Mary Whitehouse

8 of 11

Foreign relations

Burdened with debt after war, in military shadow of US and USSR, 1947- faced bankruptcy, independence granted to India & Pakistan, 'retreat from Empire', 1950 Schuman Plan proposal for Coal and Steel Community that would integrate French and German heavy industry to bind together historic enemies, eliminate danger of future war, foundation for EEC, supported by UK and US as important for security, but UK not involved as didnt want leadership role in Europe, suspicious of free market principles (left), right wanted trade with Australia and Canada instead (traditional), assumed we were still world power, wanted to maintain US special relationship

1957 EEC launched, de Gaulle determined to protect partnership from 'les Anglo Saxons', 1959 UK took lead in European Free Trade Association (EFTA), moderately succesful, unable to match growth of EEC, 61 Macmillan applies to join EEC as would boost industrial production to export, increase industrial efficiency, stimulate growth, US supported as link to Europe, no longer imperial power (deconolonisation)- but negotiations complex due to position with Commonwealth and US, couldnt conform to Common Agricultural Policy, special exemptions had to be sought, hard bargaining, lead by Heath (chief negotiator) but at last minute de Gaulle vetoed application, other members shocked and disappointed, bad relations with France

9 of 11

Foreign Relations

Cold War early years, had been WW2 allies, UK founder member of NATO 1949, UK supported UN in Korea, worked with US to sustain West Berlin, informed about Cuban Missile Crisis, however special relationship under tension, Burgess and Maclean highly place officers in UK intelligence, defected to USSR in 1951, concerns about finding 'third man' who had tipped them off, the fact British spies had been leaking secrets to Moscow worries, less ready to share intelligence, UK still dependent on US power

Nuclear deterrant- Labour government had committed but US had stopped sharing secrets with UK so had to do so by itself, 1952 first tests of bomb (3rd country to develop but US and USSR already developing hydrogen bomb), 1958 CND formed, 8000 people protest in Aldermaston 1958, even greater march in 1959, many Labour left wingers agreed, 1959 US Mutual Defence Agreement, agreed again to share tech with UK, 1960 UK's own rocket project abandoned, replaced by US Polaris submarine weapons, no independence, scepticism

Korean War 1950-53- occupied by USSR in North and US in South, 2 seperate governments set up, forces from north invaded south, UN condemned, sent forces to combat, over 20 countries supplied troops, UK sent over 90000 soldiers (2nd biggest after US) ceasefire in 1953, 1000 UK troops died, Korea split between communist North and non communist South, showed Cold War being fought across world, UK willingness to continue to play role in world affairs but US still greater power

10 of 11

Foreign relations

Suez canal connected Mediterranean to Indian Ocean and beyond to Asia and Australia, route for oil shipments, 80% of Western Europe's oil imports passed through, Egypt independent under Nasser, worrying for UK strategically, US and UK were to invest in Aswan Dam pulled out in 56, Nasser nationalised Suez Canal Company to finance Aswan Dam, placed Egypt on Soviet side of Cold War, Eden influenced by belief UK imperial power and opposing appeasement, secret meeting in Paris, Israel forces would invade Egypt, UK and France would intervene to enforce peace (real effect to seize control of Suez Canal), concealed from US and Parliament, began on 29 October, storm of protest, Labour opposed, opinion split, US opposed, UK plunged into financial crisis, Eden fatally damaged, UK reputation as force for good questioned, highlighted inability to act without US, undermined belief in UK as world superpower

Winds of change & decolonisation Fighting against independence movements in Malaya, Kenya & Cyprus, believed a gradual transition could be managed, but sudden rush came, Mau Mau Rebellion 1952- Kenya, uprising against British colonial rule, difficult struggle to contain, in 1957 Ghana first of former colonies granted independence, Kenya in 1963, Macmillan marked change in policy with Winds of Change Speech, Cape Town South Africa, calling for decolonisation and recognition of independence, persuade countries to accept majority rule, policy succesful, process far less violence than other colonial powers, 1964- transition from Empire to Commonwealth significant achievement

11 of 11


No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all The affluent society: Britain 1951- 64 resources »