1 The first-past-the-post electoral
system meant that the party with
the most seats won the election.
1.1 In the 1951 election, Labour won the election by 0.8%
(they had 49.8% of the vote) but the Conservatives
won 321 seats as compared to Labour's 295 seats.
1.1.1 The system didn't have as much influence in the 1955 election - the
Conservatives had more than a million more votes than Labour but they
would have won anyway as they gained 23 more seats and Labour lost 18.
126.96.36.199 The same happened in 1959. The Conservatives had 49.4% of
the vote and won 20 more seats whilst Labour lost 19.
2 Lord Woolton's cabinet reshuffle and
war time hero Churchill's return
brought back voters who would
otherwise vote for other parties. The
new cabinet had 300 new strong,
2.1 Labour and their supporters
underestimated Churchill's power
because of his age. Churchill was ill
and fragile but under him he had
the likes of Butler, Macmillan and
2.1.1 Eden acted as key part of Churchill's
cabinet during the war where he
was Foreign Secretary and acted as
Prime Minister many times when
Churchill was absent.
188.8.131.52 R. A. Butler was a prominent figure also in the war, he
was the architect of the 1944 Education Act and plated a
key role in the reorganisation of the party and its
policies. he was chancellor from 1951 to 1955 and seen as
a possible leader of the party both times when Eden
failed and Macmillan resigned.
184.108.40.206.1 Harold Macmillan was Churchill's military liaison officer during
the war and became the housing minister during Churchill's
second term. He became an established politician amongst the
public when he kept his promise of building 300,000 new
houses per year. He acted as Foregin Secretary under Eden and
was appointed Prime Minister after Eden's fall.
3 The entry into the 1950 Korean War angered the left side of
the Labour Party. They argued that the party should be
independent in foreign affairs and act with the UN and this
event showed that Britain was becoming too pro-American
(following into a Cold War, having the Marshall Aid
agreement). The right argued back saying that without
America, Britain and Europe could not be sustained.
3.1 Attlee's government was warn down. There were heavy
economic and financial difficulties coupled with serious
divisions between the right and left sides of the party
over the introduction of prescription costs and nuclear
weapons.. Economic problems included wartime debts,
balance of property crisis, declining ex;ports, dollar gap,
defence expenditure and heavy demands on fuel and
3.1.1 There were industrial concerns under the
Labour government before 1951. Trade unions
resented Labour policies and were angry at
their slow response to workers demands.
220.127.116.11 The Bevanite Rebellion of 1951 was forced by financial
difficulties to make savings in public expenditure.
Attlee imposed charges on dental treatment, spectacles
and prescriptions. Bevan led a number of ministers
into resigning from the Cabinet
18.104.22.168.1 Labour divisions stimulated the Conservatives into action and
sharpened their attacks. The party was reorganised under Lord
Woolton, and younger MPs such as Butler began to bring new
ideas and confidence to the party, especially after the 1950
election. The nationalisation issue gave them a cause round that
they could rally and on which they could attack Labour.
4 There was significant demographic change in the 13 years the Conservatives were in power. Birth
rates out stripped death rates due to the medical improvements seen under the Welfare State.
There was inward migration - in the 1950s there were 676,000 immigrants and 1.32 million left
Britain.In the 1960s, Britain received 1.25 million people and lost 1.92 million. There were significant
differences between towns and countrysides - the countryside was still dominated by agriculture
and rural areas were threatened by urbanisation. Most people lived in strong small communities
but this was changed by mass car ownership and social mobility.; people began to move away
from their communities. This was good for the economy.
4.1 Britain's infrastructure was badly run down and the
need for housing was desperate. Macmillan promised
300,000 new houses a year and the local governments
spent millions on clearing pre-war slums and building
new towns such as Harlow, Kirby and Corby.
4.1.1 The age of affluence and consumerism greatly impacted British
lives and how they viewed the government. Consumer goods
such as televisions, washing machines and refrigerators could be
bought on hire purchase - people who previously couldn't afford
these things now could. Between 1957 and 1959, the number of
households that owned a TV rose by 32% and by 1960 there were
ten million TVs in use. An estimated 50% of the population
watched TV at night.
22.214.171.124 Rationing was officially eradicated in 1954, by 1961, ten
years after the Conservatives regained power, men's weekly
wages had risen from £8.30 to £15.35. There were massive
increases in personal savings,, booms in car and home
126.96.36.199.1 In the late 1950s, affluence and prosperity where still thriving (at times). There were reductions on
tax, and income tax fell five times from 57-64 - resulted in tax cuts of £370 million. The sterling
regained its value against the dollar, 5 million people were employed in service industries, building
societies provided 326,125 new mortgages, consumer spending was up from £16 million in 1959 to
£16.75 million by 1960 and purchase tax had dropped to 25% in 1960 (from 100% in 1951)
5 The Suez Crisis of 1956 greatly weakened the Conservative Party at the
responsibility of Anthony Eden. The incident resulted in people thinking
that the party was irresponsible and weak. The United States opposed
the invasion of Suez and therefore the special relationship conflicted.
Britain were too weak to financially support themselves and plunged into
a serious financial crisis.
5.1 HOWEVER, Macmillan realised that it was essential to
pull out of Suez, despite it meaning failure and
humiliation to Britain,. With Eden's reputation
damaged, he resigned and Macmillan took over as
5.1.1 Labour did not take advantage of this
Conservative blunder, therefore Macmillan had full
power to do whatever he could to allow the party
188.8.131.52 Unity was restored in the party under Macmillan. He was
already dubbed Supermac from his success as housing minister
and continued his legacy. Economic prosperity continued to gain
approval from voters and continuing propsperity kept them
happy. Duirng this time, Labour were suffering under the
leadership of Gaitskell.
184.108.40.206.1 Macmillan seemed to have the
media in the palm of his hand and
had a flair for public speaking, He
was known for his theatrical style,
elegance and calmness.
6 It is important to note that the Conservatives started to fall
in the early 1960s. As much as Macmillan tried to continue
affluence and prosperity, financial problems plagued the
6.1 Britain were slipping behind the USA, Japan and Germany.
The economy grew by 40%, but France's was at 50%, West
Germany's at 250% and Japan's was at 400%.
6.1.1 Stop-go economics was in process, economic growth led to overheating
- there were expensive imports and rising wage demands. Pay pause
was introduced to hold down wage inflation and Britain had to ask for
a loan from the IMF. There was a balance of payments problem in 1962
which resulted in Macmillan setting up the NEDC.
220.127.116.11 The Night of the Long Knives was in 1963 - Macmillan dismissed
7 cabinet members and constructed a reshuffle. There were rising
inflations and there was a tax concessions policy.
7 There were many ongoing Labour divisions throughout the
1950s which stopped them from being a strong opposition
and taking power aside from the Bevanites vs Gaitskellites infighting.
7.1 The biggest mistake Labour could've made was failing to exploit
opportunities such as the Suez Crisis. If Labour had acted upon this
opportunity to further weaken the Conservatives, then they may have gained
back voters. This was not the case however, the Conservatives recovered
from Suez even though Eden and the party itself had been publicly criticised
by Labour and the media, and Labour was therefore left with few opposition
targets to hit and Gaitskell struggled to maintain party unity.
7.1.1 There were concerns from voters over the ideology of Labour. The party's
stance on things such as the relationship with Europe and nuclear weapons
made voters question them.
18.104.22.168 Gaitskell's stance on nuclear weapons was challenged fiercely by trade union leader
Frank Cousins. In the 1959 Blackpool and Scarborough Conferences that were held
before the election to battle over the direction of the party, Gaitskell promised to "fight
and fight again to save the party we love" but was defeated over the nuclear
22.214.171.124.1 In addition to the nuclear weapons argument, Gaitskell also put forward the idea of abolishing Clause IV, the
constitution of the party which committed them to nationalisation. He was forced to back down for fear of
left wing Labour members and trade union backlash and potential splits.
126.96.36.199.1.1 Labour did actually enter the 1959 optimistic, but after the defeat there
were more splits. There was growing opposition to party leadership from
trade unions and many Labour left wingers joined in with CND
campaigns for Unilateral Disarmament.
8 The Conservatives agreed to carry on Labour policies in a post-war consensus. This
greatly impacted the change in seats and voters. The Conservative majority was
slender in Parliament and they did not feel strong enough to dismantle Attlee's
8.1 The Conservatives became convinced of the need
for a 'big government' and recognised the
importance of trade unions - they wanted a
cooperative relationship with them.
8.1.1 The NHS had become a national icon and the Conservatives had
accepted that they had to carry on the legacy of it if they wanted to
win over the public.
188.8.131.52 There was to be a mixed economy under the Conservatives - they left
most of Labour's nationalisations alone, but famously denationalised
the steel industry and road transport. It was said that they were
dealing with the evils of poverty for the good of the people as opposed
to seeking consensus with Labour
184.108.40.206.1 Experience of war meant that people were far more ready to accept the need for
state intervention and planning - attitudes towards industry, trade unions and
social policies were to become very different as compared to pre-war.
220.127.116.11.1.1 Just as Labour had moved to the right by accepting capitalism and
the mixed economy, the Conservatives moved to the left by
accepting Keynesian economics and managing the economy.