There are particular British general elections in the 20th century whose results appear so unexpected and reflective that the elections appear as major spinning cycles in the governmental record and certainly in the life of the nation. Such was the general election of 1945, when the Labour Party won a vast triumph and carried to an end a long period of Conservative rule. With Churchill’s rank as a “war hero” in the World War II, many forecast a Conservative victory. Nevertheless, the war had set in sign deep social variations within Britain, and had ultimately led to a prevalent general aspiration for social reform.
The 1945 election was the first general election to be held in Britain since November 1935. It was held on 5 July 1945, with the outcome proclaimed three weeks later on 26 July 1945 to allow the votes of those attending overseas to be calculated.
With 47.7% of the vote, Labour safeguarded an incredible 393 seats in the House of Commons. The Conservatives, with 39.7%, won just 210 seats. The Liberal party, which had ruled the country less than quarter of a century earlier, was reduced to 9% of the vote, and just 12 seats. The new Prime Minister was Churchill’s second-in-command in the wartime coalition, Clement Attlee.
Clement Attlee as leader of the Labour Party focused heavily on a programme without any precedent and possibly no following government would exceed. This programme would include a “welfare state” of free education, health care and social services, and a broad programme of nationalisation, all closely associated to Attlee and Bevin’s ideologies. Although the Labour Government demanded to implement a national welfare procedure, a lack of strong fiscal capability limited the elections accessible, and therefore affected the degree to which Britain could reach a world policy without limiting the country’s global position. The issue was how to supply the new political agenda without losing the majority of Britain possessions overseas, so the government would start the decolonisation process also.
Attlee coordinated a vastly prosperous domestic policy with social goals in cognizance.It is one of the uncommon governments in contemporary British history that can really say that it reached all the major objectives it set out to achieve. In 1948, Attlee’s health secretary Aneurin Bevan established the National Health Service, in spite of great antagonism from the medical establishment. This was a publicly funded healthcare system, which offered treatment free of charge for all at the point of use. For the first stage, poor families were capable to receive publicly funded healthcare without “means testing”: where poor families had to evidence their entitlement before getting free healthcare.
Since then, the British public have come to see the NHS and its free health care as an important human right and a foundation to their democracy, and subsequent administrations have been reasonably unenthusiastic to change or reform this standard program. Yet, finance issues, as well as social changes and technical advances, are changing the way the NHS implements. The NHS was planned to be a malleable and receptive service.
The birth of the National Health Service in July 1948 remnants Labour’s highest memorial. It was accomplished only after two years of unpleasant confrontation by the medical establishment, with professionals intimidating strike action and the British Medical Association driving out unhappy forewarnings about bureaucracy and cost.
The Education Act of 1944 shaped Britain’s first free, common and universal education system for scholars up to the age of 18. It was supported by the principle that ‘the nature of a child’s education should be based on his capacity and promise and not by the circumstances of his parent’. Even if this law was approved before Attlee´s premiership, the objectives were applied under his direction. The school leaving age was elevated to 15 in 1947 also.
The Act made a Minister of government in charge for a national education structure for the first time. It shaped the model of Primary, Secondary and Further education. It also made secondary education an obligation, not only a power of the local education ability. The Act set out a nationwide code of guidelines specifying principles of accommodation, class sizes and so on that must be assured to every child, and made all schools other than Grammar schools free to attend. University scholarships were presented to confirm that no one who was qualified should be underprivileged of a university education for financial motives, while a huge school construction platform was prepared.
The Attlee government is appropriately seen as one of the great reformist governments of the 20th century. The administration set about applying William Beveridge’s plans for the formation of a ‘cradle to grave’ welfare state, and set in place a completely new scheme of social security.
The war devastated Britain’s investments, but had also imparted a desire for an improved future. This found partisan appearance in the consequence of the 1945 general election, where the Labour party won its first ever parliamentary majority in a landslide triumph.
Clement Atlee began a broad structure of social security in 1948 with the National Insurance Act, in which persons in work paid a flat rate of national insurance. In profit, they (and the wives of male funders) were qualified for flat-rate pensions, sickness benefit, unemployment benefit, and funeral benefit. The Industrial Injuries Act and the National Assistance Act (ending the old Poor Law); set additional accomplishments in this trend.
Attlee’s welfare state reproduced this determination. All taxpayers funded the social insurance, and everybody in the nation was protected by it. Levels of assistances were consistent. The retirement pension was exposed to all and could now be requested at the age of sixty-five rather than seventy. Various other pieces of legislature delivered for child benefit and provision for people with no other basis of income. In 1949, unemployment, sickness and maternity benefits were discharged from tax. Under a system of family allowances, parents would obtain a weekly payment upon the birth of their second child (and this would rise with any following children).
The cumulative influence of the Attlee’s Government’s health and welfare policies was such that all the indices of health (such as statistics of school medical or dental officers, or of medical officers of health) presented signs of development, with continual enhancements in endurance rates for infants and increased life expectancy for the elderly. The success of the Attlee Government’s welfare legislation in reducing poverty was such that, in the general election of 1950, according to Kevin Jefferys, “Labour propaganda could make much of the claim that social security had eradicated the most abject destitution of the 1930s”. War pensions and allowances (for both world wars) were amplified by an Act of 1946 which gave the injured man with a payment for his wife and children if he wedded after he had been injured, thereby eliminating a complaint of more than twenty years standing.
In the most continuing legacies of the Attlee years is the welfare state. The Labour government applied many of the ideas explained in the Beveridge report, a 1942 official study acclaiming a welfare state to protect people from ‘the cradle to the grave’. It became a nationwide phenomenon, a proposal for the creation of the ‘New Jerusalem’: an affluent yet democratic humanity.
What converted identified as social housing was considered by Liberal peer William Beveridge in 1942 and carried to life by Clement Attlee’s Labour government in 1945. The hundreds of thousands of homes built in the subsequent decades formed a support to the welfare state, proposing a safety net that raised poor people out of squalid, congested slums countrywide. A large house-building programme was accepted out with the purpose of providing millions of people with high-quality homes. A housing bill approved in 1946 augmented Treasury supports for the building of local authority accommodation in England and Wales. Four out of five houses created under Labour were council possessions built to added generous stipulations than before the Second World War, and subventions kept down council rents. The new rows of social homes regularly acted as a catalyst to a better life – ‘council tenant made good’ tales are commonplace, yet true.
Overall, these guidelines delivered public-sector housing with its largest ever boost up until that point, while low-wage earners predominantly advanced from these developments. Although the Attlee direction failed to encounter its goals, primarily due to economic restraints, over a million new homes were built between 1945 and 1951 (a significant accomplishment under the conditions) which guaranteed that decent, reasonable housing was accessible to many low-income families for the first time ever.
The Atlee government nationalised a host of basic industries and utilities to create a public ownership of goods and services. Coal, the railways, the telephone network, electricity, gas, the steel industry, all become publicly owned and the former owners were recompensed. By 1951, Attlee’s government had carried about 20% of the economy into public ownership. Other restructurings encompassed the creation of a National Parks system.
The managerial principle in nationalisation was that industry would be operated just like a private business using public companies and not directly by government branches. The old management persisted in place. The old owners received treasury bonds covering the full market value of their assets. It brought important material benefits to workers, including higher wages, reduced working hours, and much safer working circumstances. The notoriously dangerous mining industry was given some much needed reforms, counting a ban on boys under 16 being allowed to go underground. The role of labour was unaffected; collective negotiating remained the basis of mediation with management and the right to strike was unaffected. The explanation at the time was the necessity for upgrading and competence, objectives that interested to the middle class.
Agriculture received a top piece of legislation with the 1947 Agriculture Act. On the one hand, it pursued to produce a maintainable business in agriculture, but on the other, to safeguard that those who operated in the industry were able to do so in good circumstances. I was created the Agricultural Wages Board in 1948, which not only threatened wage levels, but also guaranteed that workers were provided with accommodation. Thus, in the postwar era, a Labour government required to create a reasonable society in rural areas. Attlee’s government made it conceivable for farm workers to borrow up to 90% of the cost of construction their own houses, and expected a subsidy of £15 a year for 40 years towards that cost.
From 1945, Britain practiced an economic decline emphasized by the conclusion of World War II. The United Kingdom’s economic growth had been weakening since the 1870’s, but the economic cost of preserving Britain’s resistance against Hitler’s Germany amounted, agreeing to one estimate, to a quarter of Britain’s national wealth. By 1945, Britain had a vast quantity of labour tied up in the role of occupying Europe, the Far East and the Mediterranean; moreover, some four million personnel had been involved in munitions production. Despite being on the side of the winners, in the progression of nearly six years of military conflict, Britain had gone from being the ‘world’s greatest creditor’ to being the ‘world’s greatest debtor’. When the United States annulled its lend lease agenda in 1945, Great Britain was required to request an American loan that, if not given would, agreeing to John Maynard Keynes, mean a large scale withdrawal on [Britain’s] part from worldwide responsibilities. A loss of standing and global guidance was not something that the political establishments were willing to accept. Even so, Britain’s national economy and the conduct of foreign policy remained inherently associated with ‘rising demands’ battling against ‘insufficient resources.’
Between 1946 and 1951, the UK enjoyed full employment and the economy grew at least 3% each year. The UK economy outperformed the rest of Europe and living standards augmented by 10% a year.
There are teachings for today in what Clement Attlee accomplished for Britain and his priorities. He guaranteed that Britain after WWII was certainly “fit for heroes.” That Britain was a land where people could construct constant families by devising appropriate jobs and pensions, good housing, decent healthcare for all and be watched after and helped back onto their feet in times of need. Clement Attlee can rightly be judged on his performances and the instance he gave of a nation at ease with itself.
These great accomplishments are even more significant when measured in context. On 21 August 1945, at the end of the Second World War, the US sharply cut Britain’s supply lines. Lend-Lease, which had given Britain vital provisions in return for military bases, was finished at a stroke, and John Maynard Keynes unforgettably said that Britain faced a “financial Dunkirk”. But Attlee’s government was able to exchange a loan from the US in November 1945, when a line of credit of $3.75bn was made available. Britain also expected around $3bn dollars in Marshall Aid between April 1948 and December 1951. Yet this outside help should not diminish from the great credit the Attlee government merits for its administration of the enormous task of demobilisation.
But it was not all excellent. Attlee’s Britain was hit by severe economic storms. A balance of payments crisis in 1947 underdeveloped the economy and while the glitches were largely a product of the war – as well as a tarnished winter in 1947 – it is conceivable that a precipitate creation of the universal welfare state reserved a return to prosperity. The government was not effective in housing, which was the concern of Aneurin Bevan. The government had a mark to build 400,000 new houses a year to substitute those, which had been destroyed in the war, but lacks of resources and manpower meant that less than half this number were constructed.
This was the true Age of Austerity, with the government imposing even tighter rationing than throughout the war. Families were restricted to just 4oz of bacon a week, 2oz of butter, and a shilling’s worth of meat.
As a quantity of the dire nature of the economic situation, bread restricting was introduced in July 1946, something which had never occurred during the worst days of the war itself. The next day, Labour lost 10,000 votes in a by-election in Bexley where Edward Heath was the Conservative candidate. Nevertheless, the loan allowed the government to continue with its social programme. The government preserved most of the wartime controls over the economy, including control over the distribution of materials and manpower, and unemployment rarely rose above 500,000, or 3% of the total workforce.
Nevertheless, the most significant problem continued the economy; the war effort had left Britain virtually bankrupt. During the period of conversion to a peacetime economy, the preserving of strategic military pledges created an inequity of trade, and the dollar gap. This was mitigated by an American loan discussed by John Maynard Keynes and the devaluation of the pound in 1949, by Stafford Cripps. With retrospection, the economic recovery was moderately rapid, yet rationing and coal lacks would continue in the postwar years. Despite a succeeding corruption scandal, Attlee continued personally prevalent with the constituency.
Everyday life was dull and colourless. The Attlee years remained blighted by insufficient and insufficient housing. Living standards were a major issue because rationing was prolonged during the post-war era, and in 1946 bread was rationed for the first time. Housewives struggled to feed their families; prices rose; calorie intake for most people was under pre-war levels; and there were valuable few consumer goods on the shelves. This grey survival quickly fissured the unity of wartime. Britain was a country deeply uncertain of itself. As such while the era of Attlee exercises a significant hold over the national memory, it is correspondingly important to emphasise that Britain at this time was not a predominantly attractive place to live. Memory does play artifices, after all.
In foreign affairs, Attlee’s cabinet was worried with four issues: Postwar Europe, the onset of the cold war, the formation of the United Nations, and decolonization. The first two were narrowly related, and Ernest Bevin supported Attlee in these matters. Attlee appeared the later stages of the Potsdam Conference in the company of Truman and Stalin.
Moreover, in the appearance of foreign policy, Attlee persisted unafraid to suggest new ideas that overlooked the status quo. Although he was as equally opposite to the “Red Terror” as every other conventional politician, he notably one planned that “if the money wasted on arms could be used to help the less developed nations, that would probably be a greater blow against the Communist danger than anything else.”
In an early good resolve sign much disapproved later, the Attlee government permitted the Soviets access, under the terms of a 1946 UK-USSR Trade Agreement, to numerous Rolls-Royce Nene jet devices. The Soviets, who at the time were well behind the West in jet equipment, reverse-engineered the Nene, and mounted their own version in the MiG-15 interceptor, used to military strength against U.S.-UK forces in the subsequent Korean War, as well as in numerous later MiG models.
By November 1948, the Marshall Plan backing from Washington had facilitated to close the gap between imports and exports and to balance Britain’s dollar account. Attlee could claim that Britain was making a considerable contribution to the renewal of the European economy under the inter-European outlays scheme. He was a prominent supporter of closer ties to Europe.
After Stalin took radical control of most of Eastern Europe and initiated to subvert other supervisions in the Balkans, Attlee’s and Bevin’s worst fears of Soviet purposes were borne out, and they developed involved in the creation of the fruitful NATO resistance association to protect Western Europe against any Soviet hostility. Attlee also guided Britain’s successful expansion of a nuclear weapon, although the first effective test did not occur until 1952, after he left office.
In terms of general security, Attlee understood that the financial crisis limited his choices. Britain could no lengthier support the Greeks in their civil war against Communists, so Attlee influenced the Americans to take over this role, whist Truman did when he proclaimed the Truman Plan in 1947. However he could and did build a strong armed by transitory the National Service Act of 1947 which for the first time in British history called for amity conscription to operate the army. In 1947, Attlee, against strong antagonism, obvious to construct an atomic bomb, driving Britain to its own dissuasion and a showier voice in world matters.
Attlee’s cabinet was accountable for the major and highest act of decolonisation in the British Empire—India. The divider of India rapidly created Pakistan, which then combined East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. The freedom of Burma and Ceylon was also discussed around this time. Some of the new nations became British Dominions, the origin of the contemporary Commonwealth of Nations.
Britain expected that a self-governing India would endure part of the imperial defence.Within months of the end of the war, it was patently understandable that Britain lacked the means to defeat a rehabilitated mass campaign by the Congress. Its bureaucrats were tired and troops were deficient.
In Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and the Gulf, the British were resolute to hang on to their agreements and bases, counting the vast Suez canal zone. They required help from Australia and wanted for Indian support against Soviet encouragement in Asia.
Elsewhere Britain’s imperial power continued complete. The Union flag still hovered over enormous areas of Africa, whole islands in the Caribbean and Pacific and countries of Asia like Singapore and Hong Kong.
It is appealing to contemplate of the Attlee ages as an anti-climax. After the appeal of victory, the concord was a colorless dissatisfaction. After all the enthusiastic potentials of a new dawn, British life continued to a large degree depressing. At periods, food limitations were even tighter than throughout the war and bread was restricted for the first time. Class hostilities flourished; social and economic disparities remained tangible.
Labour was hurt when middle class housewives began to establish in contradiction of its policies. The “tripartite” system of power division among government, business and unions left the customer in the emotionless, and they progressively disliked it. The British Housewives’ League (BHL) was real in talking for consumers, thus facilitated shift the expressions of the discussion, and set up the Labour party overthrow in 1951. BHL women objected continuing limiting during 1946-47. Their exclusivity as a political group was in production home life into a thought to combat what they supposed as Labour imposition and the Conservatives who conciliated it.
In 1950, after five arduous years, it was unavoidable that the great electoral tide of 1945 would be twisted. But in the general election of that year the Labour vote immersed less than 2%, and it was only the notions of the first past the post system that saw the Conservatives gain 88 seats.
In this general election of February 1950, Attlee’s parliamentary majority was reduced to six, and his administration was further debilitated in April 1951 by the resignations of Bevan and Harold Wilson over the institution of health-service charges. In the autumn of 1951, Attlee decided to ask for a suspension of Parliament, which occasioned in a narrow Conservative victory and Attlee’s resignation from the prime ministership. Labour lost power in 1951 as the Conservatives won and Churchill resumed to power. As the consequences came in, it became clear that Winston Churchill had won his first general election. However, the majority was not as huge as many of his factions had expected. The Tories polled 48% of the vote and won 321 seats to Labour’s 295 seats. The Conservatives appreciated a swing from Labour of just over 1%. Despite polling nearly 14 million votes, the record number of votes detailed by any British political party in any election to that time, Labour lost. Attlee remained on as leader until the next defeat in 1955. Churchill made him an Earl and he was energetic in the House of Lords until his death.
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