Reasons for Conservative Dominance 1951-64

Abbie Shaw
Mind Map by Abbie Shaw, updated more than 1 year ago
Abbie Shaw
Created by Abbie Shaw about 4 years ago


AS - Level History Mind Map on Reasons for Conservative Dominance 1951-64, created by Abbie Shaw on 17/03/2016.

Resource summary

Reasons for Conservative Dominance 1951-64
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. 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, clever politicians
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 Eden.
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. 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. 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 power supplies.
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. 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 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. 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 ownership. 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 Prime Minister.
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 success again. 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. 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 economy.
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. 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. 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 disarmament argument. 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. 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 legacy.
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. 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 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. 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.
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