'Butskellism existed only as a figment of the imagination of political journalists''. Assess the validity of this view with reference to the years 1951-64.



  • In 1954 The Economist invented the word 'Butskellism' because the policies and attitudes of the current Conservative Chancellor of the Excequer R.A Butler (51-55) were so similar to those of his Labour predecessor, Hugh Gaitskell (45-510. 
  • While they had difference, Butler and Gaitskell shared similar approaches e..g Economic control and government direction. 
  • For 30 years, after WW2, there was a widespread agreement among the political leaders about their policies and style of government. This is known as the 'post-war consensus'. 
  • David Dutton ''Shared commitment to improving the lot of the ordinary citizen''
  • Hugh Gaitskell 1956: explained though there were still some differences between the two parties but there were far smaller than before 1939; 'to a large extent the Conservatives had taken over policies of the post-war Labour government'. 


  • Both Chancellors followed Keynesian economic policies. John Maynard Keynes argued the government would be able to solve the nations problems through economic management, using technique of 'demand management' e.g. achieving and maintaining the goal of full unemployment and economic growth. 
  • Keynes advocated that the government should be running important sectors of the economy: A mixed economy through nationalising specific industries. 
  • The wartime spirit of national unity also reinforced the notion that the government could and should run important sectors of the economy. 
  • Gaitskell nationalised industries such as coal, railways, Bank of England, Gas and Road Haulage and mostly continued nationalisation of industries.
  • The Conservatives returned steel to private ownership and road haulage was partially denationalised.
  • However, gas, coal, railway, electricity industries all remained firmly in public ownership.
  • A major difference between Gaitskell and Butler was austerity. Under Gaitskell austerity was strict with Stafford Cripps e.g the continuation of rationing wheras under Butler austerity was loosened, ending rationing. 


  • Both Chancellors followed the Beveridge report of 1942: solving idleness, disease, ignorance and want from 'cradle to grave'. 
  • Under Gaitskell the NHS was created in 1948. The Conservative government maintained and expanded the welfare system by increasing government spending on social services and the NHS. 
  • The


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