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The Labour Government 1945-1951: Toward a new Jerusalem?

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andrew mountford

on 22 September 2012

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Transcript of The Labour Government 1945-1951: Toward a new Jerusalem?

The Labour Government 1945-1951
Toward a New Jerusalem? Key Chronology 1945 May - End of the War in Europe and end of the wartime coalition
1945 July - General election
1945 July 26 - Attlee forms first majority Labour government
1945 December - loan with US agreed
1946 - Trades Disputes Act repealed, Bread rationing announced, National Insurance Act, National Health Services Act
1947 - Severe cold, Cabinet plot to remove Attlee fails
1948 - Railways nationalised, Marshall Aid, NHS inaugurated
1949 - Gas nationalised
1950 - General election: Labour 315, Conservatives 298
1951 - Iron and Steel nationalised, general election Key Characters Clement Attlee PM - 1945 to 1951
Many called him a 'stop-gap' leader of the Labour Party - quiet and uncharismatic many underestimated him
Churchill called him "a modest man with much to be modest about"
Had a privileged upbringing and graduated from Oxford, was far from being a radical revolutionary
He survived two plots to remove him from leadership and is cited by many as Britain's greatest post-war PM Aneurin "Nye" Bevan Son of a Welsh miner and mined himself aged 13
Rose rapidly as a trade union official
Inspiring speaker and became a noted left-wing member of the party
Minister of Health, formed the NHS Herbert Stanley Morrison Home Secretary during the wartime coalition
More moderate (or right-wing than Bevan or Cripps)
Organised a plot to replaced Attlee and force a leadership election which he was expected to win
Appointed Deputy PM and Leader of the House of Commons during the post-war Labour government Sir Stafford Cripps From a wealthy legal family he became a successful barrister
Devout Christian and socialist
Personally austere as a vegetarian and teetotaler
Chancellor of the Exchequer for the period of maximum Labour austerity from 1947 onwards Ernest Bevin Rose as secretary of Transport and General Workers Union
Minister of Labour during the wartime coalition he became Foreign Secretary during Attlee's government
Unsympathetic about Britain's Empire he oversaw Britain's exit from India
As an anti-communist he was a keen supporter of forming NATO
Staunch supporter of "little Clem" (Attlee) he was to the right of the party and disliked Bevan The 1945 Election: Labour's unexpected victory  Churchill popular as War Leader
 - but memories of the Interwar Years and right-wing politics not as popular
Labour credited with participation in the War Cabinet
Labour had a strong Vision for Postwar Britain built on:
 - The Beveridge Report (1942)
 - Cradle-to-Grave Welfare Provision
 Labour won a landslide victory
 146 seat majority in the Common Labour's 'Socialist' Vision: Building a 'New Jerusalem' - Construct a 'welfare state' from cradle to grave to help those in need
- Reform capitalism with a 'mixed economy' of private and nationalised companies
- Encourage Trade Unionism
- Retreat from Empire
- Create a redistributive tax system Economic Realities of Postwar Britain A Nation Bankrupt by war
- The end of US Lend-Lease
- Overseas Commitments
- Get American loan but have to pay interest and allow freely convertible currency
Convertibility Crisis (1947)
- 'Austerity Britain' rationing is 'worse than during the war'
Devaluation of Sterling (1949)
- $4.03 to $2.80 Labour's Achievements The Welfare State Proper
- NHS (1946)
- National Insurance Act (1946)
The Provision of Housing (Council Houses)
Nationalisation of Industry
- The 'Commanding Heights' (1946 - coal + Bank of England; 1948 - railways; 1949 - Iron and Steel)
Keynesianism and Full Employment Envy of the world: First NHS patient treated The Wider World The End of 'New Jerusalem' The rejection of rationing and government controls
1950 Election - Labour holds on (just)
Labour - Exhausted and Dying (Literally)
Out of ideas, they had completed what they set out to do?
Korean explodes
Staying out of Europe
The 1951 Election - Winston's Back Assessing the Attlee Government 2004 Daily Telegraph Poll of Academics found that Attlee was judged to be the best PM Britain has had since WWII
His government has been rated highly because of the lasting legacy of the government's achievements on the welfare state and Empire which were achieved despite Britain's economic weakness
They undoubtedly got Britain through a tough time which was followed by prosperity
Peter Hennessy in his 'Never Again: Britain 1945-51' (1994) is a notable defender of the Attlee government

However, there are critics of Attlee's government... The Left-Wing Critique For left-wing critics, the immediate post-war years were marked by a betrayal of socialist idealism and by wasted opportunities. Instead of using public backing as evident in 1945 to introduce wholesale socialist change, Labour instead opted for cautious reformism.
In Jim Fyrth's recent collection of fifteen essays the left-wing case for the prosecution receives its most extended treatment yet. The tone for the volume is set by John Saville's introduction, which claims that the Attlee government 'disillusioned its own militants' by achieving only modest reform, so providing a 'springboard for the rich to take off into the profiteers' paradise of the 1950s'. The Right-Wing Critique Correlli Barnett has criticised the Attlee government for introducing too much socialism.
He denounces the folly of giving priority to welfare reform over economic regeneration, with the result that Britain missed a unique chance to remake itself industrially while her rivals were crippled by defeat and occupation.
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