A level history revision Britain 1951-97


Conservative domination 1951-1964,      by Will Palmer

Why did the Conservatives win the 1951 election?

Labour Weakness

·         Associated with hard unpopular policies of austerity, rationing and high taxation

·         Korean war was unpopular and meant that cuts had to be made and further national debt

·         Divisions of what to do with the NHS- payment for opticians undermined policy

·         Divisions of left and right of the party

Conservative strength

·         Promised to build 300,000 houses a year

·         Churchill still a popular spearhead

·         Fully committed to the welfare state and promised not to reverse labour achievements

·         Influx of young politicians such as Reginald Moulding

Electoral system

·         Labour need 47,283 votes to a seat while the Conservatives only needed 42,733

·         Decline of liberal party meant voters more likely to vote conservative

·         First-past-the-post system

Why were the conservatives able to dominate for so long?


·         Industrial growth was inevitable after almost stagnation directly after the war. Arguably the Conservatives were lucky with the times

·         After the Korean war, Britain had the money and resources to spend on goods rather than defence policies

·         However Britain was still industrialised and was still spending 10% of its GDP on defence

·         Wages and living standards considered more important

Wages and living Standards

·         Wages rose faster than prices- 1951=£8.30, 1964-£18.35. As a result, people had more spending money

·         Chancellors were able to cut income tax before both the 1955 and 1959 elections, which increased the amount of money people had to spend and therefore have that “feel good” factor

·         As a result TV ownership increased from 4%-9%


·         The conservatives kept mostly kept to their promise building 354,000 houses in 1954 and building 1.7 million in office

·         As a result the amount of people on waiting lists dropped significantly

·         The number of people who then owned their own property increased from 25%to 44% in 1964

Economic policy

·         Increased burrowing allowed government expenditure, particularly on health to rise

·         The welfare state saw increased spending throughout the period. The amount of GDP spent on it rose from 16.1% in 1951 tp 19.3% in 1964

·         Under Macmillan’s leadership, he allowed the balance of inflation and deflation in conjunction with interest rates. If wages rose too quickly, taxes would increase etc.

Social policies

·         6000 new schools and unis built

·         1957, homicide act to abolish the death penalty

Churchill, 1951-1955

·         Butler had to frequently step in due to Churchill’s poor health

·         Arguably just a figurehead, nothing more

Eden 1955-1956

·         Suez crisis damaged his credibility among foreign policy

Macmillan 1956-1963

·         Ruled in time of growing prosperity-  “never had it so good”

·         Very popular in the public eye as he appeared in TV shows

·         By…